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/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/army_of_one_303118.jpgBack in the day when I managed teams of BASIS and Security resources the challenge was always trying to convince the higher ups that more people were needed to man the pumps. Here are some musings on this challenge which may be relevant to more than just BASIS and Security.

My main challenge always was, that BASIS resources are generally more expensive than ABAP resources  and often budgeting is based on a comparative analysis of those two  roles. Even hiring a contract basis resource I typically saw ratios of 150% or more for BASIS resources. SAP Security were a little cheaper but they were still more expensive by at least 15 – 20%.  There can be little doubt though that if you haven’t got BASIS and Security resources on tap, you can have challenges, far more than you have when you are down a couple of ABAPers.
 
Statistically speaking, a given BASIS resource is only available 90% of the time given that he/she must take a vacation sometime during the year. People get sick too, and though some people want to be as indispensible as they can be; who really wants sick people at work anyway? Then consider training. They probably attend TECHED or some industry conferences and perhaps skills training or mandatory weork training and that knocks another couple of weeks out of availability. Very soon you discover that that full-time resource is really only around 75% of the time. If you have a high velocity of project work and you don’t commit dedicated resources to projects then you are down a little more availability.

If you’re using permanent staffed BASIS resources then they are likely not hourly paid personnel and the reality is that expecting them  to work more than 50 hours per week will likely land you in a situation  where they will walk, irrespective of what you are paying them; in some countries you are regulated in just how many hours that person can walk without make up compensation too.

My experience in the US at least, is that you will  need to talk to your personnel department but some sort of ‘comp’ time  off usually helps to appease these guys but the harsh reality is that they  will NOT be working a 40 hour week and when you hire someone into such a position that should be made quite clear. Having  flexible work practices helps with keeping BASIS and Security personnel on board. This is especially true if the commute is a grunt and they don’t physically have to be on the premises. Many BASIS and Security folks I have spoke to in the field actually speak of elevated efficiency in their work practices if they have things to do and are not ‘trapped’ in office cubic-hell. if people don’t have  to physically be in the office all the time and can work remotely that  is usually a great advantage especially for off-hours work. Prescribing on site work for releases, major upgrades etc is not that big a deal I shouldn’t think especially if you have heart-burn about the quality of their domestic DSL or cable connection at home for remote work.

My experience, is that depending on the complexity of your technology stack you should  consider dedicated resources with specific competency for ERP, CRM, APO, BI/BW.  While many BASIS and Security resources have many strings to their bows in terms of cross application experience, there really is advantages over specialising even in this technical area. Skills in Archiving, TDMS, XI/PI and integration with other technologies all bring nuances that make it hard to find resources that have knowledge of all these area.

Additionally, if you have java components in addition to your ABAP stack  then you may want to consider Java specific competency. Root cause analysis as any BASIS resource will tell you, is somewhat different to old school RCA in just the ABAP stack. Your choice is  to either find multidisciplinarians for all technical areas (this may be  a challenge) or you get people with some degree of specialization and this  applies to both BASIS and Security.

If you have a geographically dispersed operation spanning multiple time  zones (especially across the globe)  and these are all SAP dependent then if there are support related requests,  what is the SLA (Service Level Agreement) that you have established with the rest of IT and the business, for  responding to and addressing those requests? If you have particularly aggressive  SLA’s then you will need to ensure that you have coverage for all those  timezones and in the realm of security in particular, a 4 hour onboarding SLA may not be easily met if your security team is based in India and you have no resources in North America to turn the issue around. So an SLA review may be in order in combination with staffinhg coverage plan.

If you have a number of projects in play, consider the level of effort required to  services those projects from a BASIS and Security perspective. My experience is that you should have at least a minimum of 25% of each of these  resources for the duration of the project but this factor can move  higher, closer to go live and at planning and preparation stages.  If you have high staffing turnover in the project then the requirement in the Security space may be higher. By all means make use of contract resources for this stage, because you can roll the cost into the project but also consider that you need time for documentation and knowledge transfer and often your operational BASIS and Security teams will want to be part of the planning process at the very least because they don’t want to inherit something deformed that was conceived by the project. My thoughts are that secondments out of the operations team are a better approach but this depends on how big your team is as a whole. Give consideration to your processes and controls for service and support requests in this area also. Get your project teams to behave like regular users in terms of getting security requests fulfilled in particular.

If you have a dedicated DBA who at least has some familiarity with the  underlying database supporting SAP and how BASIS admins ‘manage’ the  database in the BASIS layer, then that will help to some extent with  any escalations. THe reasons this can be helpful is because you don’t need to throw all BASIS resources at a  problem that is database related and this is particularly true when you are doing upgrades or archiving and/or backup related activities. The same applies to   System Administrators (especially Unix). Part of your effort has to also  be one of active education of the rest of your IT organization on what  SAP is all about, who relies on it and how certain issues and topics are  handled and again here, leveraging your BASIS and Security teams to educate other areas of IT and the business itself can have a tremendous benefit.

Finally, consider how sophisticated your system  administration, alerting and monitoring is. You may have Solution  Manager in place, but how instrumented is it? Do you have some  enterprise monitoring in place, is it console enabled and dashboarded and how sophisticated is the alerting and  threshold maintenance for errors and warnings? Also consider how you  have classified your issues here and what actions need to be taken in  what time frames relative to your SLA and extended support organization  competency. Leveraging your enterprise job scheduling solutions together with Solution Manager and whatever you use for incident management can assist in reducing mean-time to repair and responsiveness of your teams to issues.  In this vein also consider the relative maturity of your helpdesk, escalations and change  management in general.

Password resets for example, should be handled by  the helpdesk. User role assignment should be semi automated with tools  like Virsa and wherever possible you should be automating the  on-boarding and decommissioning of users.

If you can push at least some  activities off to application management or sustainment for first and second level  incident triage rather than to your BASIS and Security teams then this alleviates  some of the pressure also and reduces your need for additional  headcount.

My last thoughts on this topic are, consider some of the SAP services that you can leverage out of SAP Consulting and Active Global Support as well as third party consulting houses.  The RUN SAP methodology doesn’t prescribe staffing ratios but the service can help you in identifying things that you aren’t doing but should be and these then become opportunities to open the door to further dialog with those who own the purse strings. Don’t forget to also engage in discourse with your peers in the industry. While they may not be exactly the same kinds of business as your own, they will give you a sense of how they are staffing to address the demands of their sector.

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8 Comments

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  1. Tom Cenens
    Hello Clinton

    Interesting blog, I enjoyed reading it. The basis team should be big enough if one wants to prevent them from spending too much time on putting out fires. Instead improvements and innovation should take place.

    I’m a technical consultant so I can definitely relate to some of the things you wrote in this blog. I love flexible work hours and due to the line of work we do, flexibility is sometimes a must.

    I have worked for customers who gave me extremely flexible work hours, for example we want you to finish this before thursday evening, how you manage your time is up to you (working from home or the office, from 2am to 10am or whatever). I love working in that fashion.

    Speed problems of home connections can easily be solved by placing one or a few laptops at the office to which you can connect using remote desktop. That way the office line can be used to download support packages and upload them to the respective server for example without any loss of time due to restricted home DSL or cable speed.

    We all now that the BASIS area expanded tremendeously the last ten years creating the need for a lot of knowledge on different area’s like Java troubleshooting or the gray zone of Business Warehouse which has the tin line of what is BASIS and what is for a BW expert.

    An issue I wanted to address is the fact that a lot of persons still think the SCN is really SDN and that it’s not needed for system administrators to spend time on SCN. Therefore I called out to the SCN team to provide the system administrators with their own space http://bit.ly/g8nMBH. On twitter you can use hashtag #sapadmin to mark “BASIS” or what I find a better description “system administration” content. I also created an idea on which community members can vote on idea place: https://ideas.sap.com/ideas/2968.

    Knowledge sharing is very important as well as education for BASIS people as the area becomes wider and wider, the neccesity to keep learning also grows. I do believe we are heading towards the information age where you can find anything online but we are not there just yet. Our own space on SCN could help lay the foundation to have more system administrators share their knowledge.

    I would love to see a blog that describes why BASIS is important and how you can get added value out of making sure your BASIS team is large enough. Of course I can write it but it would have more impact if a non BASIS person would write it.

    Kind regards

    Tom

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    1. Clinton Jones Post author
      Thanks for the comments Tom. I shall try to consider the ‘raison d’être’ so to speak for a future blog, I think it has great relevance especially in these days of penny pinching for staffing in IT groups and where people don’t really understand why they need one in addition to a DBA and a systems admin.

      While writing about the remote connectivity issues I did consider mentioning the remote desk top and terminal services approach but at the same time thought it didn’t really need to be explicitly called out.

      It is surprising that some people still don’t really ‘believe’ that everything can be done remotely, despite ongoing demonstrations that it can be so.

      The IDEA place is a great forum for idea generation and I mentioned it in a prior blog so thanks for bringing it up again!

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  2. Augusto Cristicini
    I have seen many Basis Postings say PI, JAVA or BOBJ experience needed.  I recently worked in environments where I was hired to do what I do best ECC and BI/BW, but I have had to work in PI, JAVA and BOBJ plus many other areas of the BIG Basis midleware area, in which I had no experience.  I did well enough and now have those on my resume. 

    The moral of my message here is employers should focus on the fundamental skills that Basis bring to the table and allow them to convert those into specialized areas and not look for a specialized basis person that may take over a year to find and then they leave eventually anyway.  We all came from school at one time so remember that we are learners not knowers first.

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    1. Clinton Jones Post author
      Augusto, I think you bring a great point to bear here; namely the muddying of the waters so to speak in terms of which skills are most critical for daily operations or a given project. I think the challenge for smaller businesses that have the BIG BASIS is that they don’t want to have three, four, five or six BASIS admins or can’t see their way clear to hiring so many. The challenge is that as your technology stack expands and your need for technical competency expands. This same challenge is presented in teh ABAP camp where many ABAPers are expected to be competent in areas beyond ABAP, say JAVA. I think though, it is easier for an ABAP developer to say I am an ABAP developer as opposed to a BASIS admin who says, I am a BASIS admin. People invariably say, what is a BASIS admin anyway?
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  3. Hussain Sehorewala
    The problem with Basis part is that if there are Gaps in skills, Basis is expected to fill it.

    This is the reason Basis are expected to know all the modules and become master of all.
    And along with that new technology releases makes things worst.

    You blog do not address this part but this is the reason why Project managers depend on Basis guys so much.
    There are the fire fighters of SAP.

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    1. Juan Reyes
      I like your comment, I always say that a good Basis is not the one that claims to know everything but the one that has a broad base and the ability to research.

      I have been around for a while and in more than one of my Admin positions a Basis fella was expected not only to spec and install the landscape but to rack the servers, cable them, install the OS, etc.. so you are much more than just a SAP Technical Arquitect.

      I have to say I enjoy all those things, going back to the subject I think Basis need to be big enough to maintain a proactive approach rather than a reactive one, that doesn’t necesarily means big but resourceful.

      Regards
      Juan

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      1. Clinton Jones Post author
        well said. My experience is a resource that leverages tools, experiences, relationships, technical knowledge and common sense to best effect to find the solution to the problem.

        Not all BASIS resources are made equal despite certifications/training and resume content.

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