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So I see this question “SAP Solution Manager … I get it. So What?” coming up over and over again, just in a different context. The context is usually that people have heard this term over and over again. I’d say the term is well-marketed already, but I just wish if the product was well-marketed. I feel the conversations with managers and leadership is challenging when talking about Solution Manager because its tough to decide where to begin.

I scratch my head and usually I begin with defining what Solution Manager is and that it has a lot of capabilities and tools … and I get interrupted or shot down with a question, “… so What?“. Then I pull myself together and on another occasion I start bottom-up telling how there are various tools and capabilities that we should utilize in implementation, during operations and to innovate. And then I mention, to ease off some anxiety (because now I scared the leadership that I am selling a lot of tools – makes them think dollars), I say, hey well, all of this is FREE (other way of saying “you already paid for it!”) and its in SAP Solution Manager. Just then the questions comes – “… so What? And how do I use all this?”. I can already sense that the person posing this question is into the exact same confusion that I get into when I go to a multi-cuisine buffet where I do not know where do I start and in what order do I eat.

Well, so I’m thinking there must be a more better way of explaining Solution Manager and much more to figure how do I put it to use. That’s when I figure SAP provides a methodology which I’m sure you must have heard of called RunSAP. Well, now that is almost a history and SAP wants us to use Run SAP Like a Factory (a.k.a. RSLF). There is also a concept in play called as Application Life-cycle Management (a.k.a. ALM) which is a little more broader than just Solution Manager. I am not going to be able to explain these terms or buzzwords because mine will be just another different variation of 10’s of other versions you must have already heard and seen from different people. Also that is not the main topic of this blog.

With that, let me come to the main topic. The reason I wanted to write this blog is to share my experience and understanding about SAP Solution Manager. I’d like to call out that you might be able to start anywhere and go somewhere and still be able to successfully leverage Solution Manager – and that is absolutely possible.

Let’s begin by defining SAP Solution Manager

SAP Solution Manager is an Application Life-cycle Management Solution that comprises of Tools and Content to Build, Operate and Optimize SAP Solutions (and non-SAP to a small extent).

I want to share this picture (basically a mindmap) of how Solution Manager provides various capabilities. Please note that I haven’t yet called out the tools in this picture.

SolmanCapabilties.png

Starting from top right traverse in anticlockwise direction. Does it give you a sense of development or an idea of evolution? Well, you begin a project – not necessarily an implementation, it could be an upgrade or a project to add additional functionality. Starting over again … you begin a project – by capturing requirements, do an As-Is and To-Be analyses. Then you eventually configure the system, test it and finally deploy the code. Now you begin running your project in production (so technically the project is closed). At this point (you would’ve reached the bottom left of this picture) you need monitoring for your technical systems. You will also have a need to monitor your business processes. As part of support you will also be required to maintain your systems to the latest releases and support packages. You do that. Finally you begin with a new requirement. And the cycle continues.

The point in the above being Solution Manager provides various capabilities that can be used no matter at what point you are in the life-cycle of your Solution. This is also pretty much the reason why I said earlier that you could start using Solution Manager anywhere, for example, you can start with technical monitoring or change management although you haven’t documented your solution in Solution Manager. However some capabilities are interdependent. For example, Business Process Monitoring requires that you have a Solution that represents your business, usually in the form of a hierarchy (a.k.a. Business Process Hierarchy or BPH). A BPH comprises of Business Scenario (e.g. “Order to Cash”) to the Business Process (e.g. “Create Sales Order”) to Activity / Step (e.g. “Use SAP transaction code VA01”).

What are the different tools in Solution Manager and how do they tie to these capabilities?

I think it would be just enough to present this picture below which is an expanded form of the mindmap shown above.

SolmanCapabiltiesTools.png

You can use this information to determine which tool you want to review or evaluate and use depending upon the state of the life-cycle. Now, most of these tools are independent, meaning they could be quick to configure and put to use without a lot of other tools being configured first. However there are dependencies that you should be aware of.

What are the dependencies?

To cut to the chase, simply anything that needs to be represented in terms of business process, Solution Documentation is a necessity. I will provide a couple of examples to make the point. Please note that these are not all the dependencies.

SolutionManagerE2E.png

Let’s look at test management in perspective of Solution Manager (I say that because test management can also be done independently). Having the knowledge of the Business Processes and tying the test scripts to a certain business process would allow you to determine very quickly the test cases you will need to execute when a business processes changes. By the way the tool used for this would be Business Process Change Analyzer (BPCA).

Another example is where you might want to determine the level of custom development in your business areas, you could run a tool called as Clearing Analysis (CA) which is a part of the Custom Development Management Cockpit (CDMC) and run it against your Solution Manager Project or a Solution.

A final example. Pretend that you have you have your documentation in Solution Manager already. No need to pretend if you already have that, in fact kudos! However if you are unsure it is updated or at least want to verify that whatever runs in Production is being documented, you can execute analysis via the tool called as Solution Documentation Assistant (SDA) which is a part of the Reverse Business Process Documentation (RBPD) capability within Solution Documentation. This is the easiest way to get back on track on your documentation.

A little word on the Solution Documentation

This topic actually is worth its own blog or an article, but for now I must mention something about documentation or Solution Documentation to be precise. Usually we image a document in the form of a word, visio or powerpoint file. Solution Documentation is a little different. It is about documenting the transaction codes and custom developments (a.k.a. WRICEF) in a structured format. This information is actually entered in the structured format into the BPH. Now Solution Documentation also provides an option to upload unstructured documents or link them to your documentation repository if you use one, but that doesn’t add a lot of value if you want to use the examples I mentioned above.

Finally, to conclude

Solution Manager is the best Free tool available to SAP customers (please check your contracts) that supports managing the life-cycle of your Solution(s). You can get into the cycle from any point and continue with its adoption. It is also the toughest topic to get focus and attention, but an important one.

It would be interesting to hear your success story, if you have one and personally I would be interested in knowing how you got your organizations attention to adopt Solution Manager.

Updates:

Dec 10, 2012: Title of the blog changed to “End-to-End SAP Solution Manager” from “SAP Solution Manager … I get it. So What?”. I thought the only first part of the blog concurred with the title. That was actually how I started putting it down, but later realized I could do a more high-level overview for end-to-end capabilities of Solution Manager in Application Life-cycle. (Caution: Do not confuse with End-to-End Root Cause Analysis!)

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