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Author's profile photo Juergen Jakowski

How can I identify the top transactions in my environment?

I’m sure that many of you have seen the curve in the SAP UX Strategy that illustrates the usage of screens and transactions at our customer base. It starts pretty high with transactions that are widely used in SAP’s customer base and ends with a “long tail” of hundreds of thousands of screens and their transactions used by customers throughout the world.


When you see this picture for the first time, you could be forgiven for thinking that the long tail is not especially important. Depending on the usage profile of your company however, it is anything but.


Of course, SAP does not collect this data to just draw a curve, but to have a lever to prioritize their work and thus improve the user experience for the customer. I can only recommend that you do the same. You need to know your environment and, by implication, you need to be familiar with the usage profile in your company too.



Let’s start with “Why do I need to know what my users are doing?”


I hope you already know that understanding your users, their behavior and their environment is key for you to succeed in providing them with a better user experience. Additionally, knowing the most important transactions helps you to understand where to start. If you are still grappling with the question “why” however,  maybe you could take a look at my blog The eight rules for a good UX improvement project. Alternatively, you could also look into the customer UX strategy topic in the SAP EA Explorer.

What can I do, once I have created my own curve?


Of course, what we are interested in is not the curve itself but the data behind it. This can be an entry point for embarking on a broader analysis of where your users are. We have recently uploaded two new videos that will hopefully provide you with a few ideas about how to combine your customer specific transaction data with other aspects: How can I identify a good starting point for my UX improvements? Part I and Part II

The fastest way to get the data we are searching for


I hope you are convinced now that gathering this kind of data makes a lot of sense.


But how can you get it? There are various ways of gathering the information you need. Some of them are pretty old and technical, but have the advantage of being available in your systems and ready to use. Others might require additional software or additional configuration in your environment. In return however, you’ll get very comprehensive data far beyond a simple list of transactions being used.


NOTE: All advantages and disadvantages that I will mention below are collected with the focus on getting the specific data we are searching for. It’s not about rating these tools in general.

Transaction ST03N (Workload Monitor)

Do you know good old transaction ST03N? It’s a very handy tool for analyzing the workload in your systems and identifying the root cause of performance issues. In our case, we only want to use ST03N to find out the number of dialog steps caused by a specific transaction.


Unfortunately, dialog steps are not the best data point for measuring how often transactions are being called. Transaction A might cause many dialog steps while being used for example, while transaction B causes only a few dialog steps. Even if transaction B is called more often, your top list might start with transaction A.


Quick guide to the transaction


Obviously, ST03N is a very powerful tool with a large number of functionalities. As a matter of fact, getting to the informationwe are searching for requires several steps and/or clicks. Let me roughly describe how to find the data.


  1. Start transaction ST03N and make sure you are in expert mode.
  2. In the upper left pane, search for “workload” and select total (or any individual server)
  3. Double-click on the day, week or month that you want to analyze the data for
  4. You will notice that a new pane appears at the bottom left. Here you need to double-click on “standard”
  5. As the results show up on the right, you need to set the aggregation (above the results) to “application”
  6. You can now select one of the application areas displayed (for example SD)
  7. In the new results, you might need to set the aggregation to “transaction”.
  8. Finally, sort the column “# Steps” to get a sorted list of all transactions in SD


For your convenience, my colleague Marcus Biemueller has created a very informative video about how to identify top transactions using ST03N.


Advantages and disadvantages

+ Comprehensive technical analysis of what’s going on in your system(s) beyond a pure top transactions list.

+ Is already in your ABAP system, so that you can quickly generate a first top transaction list.

+ There is nothing to be activated beforehand. You just need authorization for this transaction.

–  Dialog steps are not necessarily the best indicator to create a top transaction list.


Transaction SM20 (Security Audit Log)


SM20 is another pretty classic transaction. It was (and in some places still is) typically used to track security-relevant activities in the system. Of course, we are not interested in all the data and alerts that it might show us. What we are interested in is a tiny side feature that generates a list of the top transactions almost perfectly.


I should stress however that the security log needs to be activated in your system. If it’s activated already, and you have authorization for the transaction, you could give it a try right now. If not, get in touch with your system and/or security administrator. They should be able to activate it for you.


Quick guide to the transaction


  1. Start transaction SM20
  2. Specify timeframe and click “Read AuditLog”
  3. When you receive the results, just go back to the previous screen.
  4. The start screen now indicates that a number of log entries are available
  5. Mark one or multiple of the servers in the left menu and click on the “statistics” tab
  6. Check “transactions” and click “show statistics” at the very top of the screen. (hint: In my test case I noticed that “show statistics” appeared only when I clicked through all other tabs before. So you could give this a try if “show statistics” doesn’t appear)

Advantages and disadvantages

+ Is already in your ABAP system, so that you can quickly generate a first top transaction list.

+ Creates an attractive list that provides exactly what we are searching for.

–  Requires the Security Log to be activated in your system

Alternatives for gathering the information


There are a certain number of other tools available. If these are not already in use at your company, note that a number of pre-conditions have to be met, and configurations performed, before you can use them. As I want to provide a comprehensive overview however, I would still like to mention these.


UPL (Usage and Procedure Logging)

As a fairly new tool, the UPL is available in any ABAP-based system and can log all called and executed ABAP units like programs, function modules down to classes, methods and subroutines. It can also be used to evaluate usage of Smartform, Adobe print form and SAPscripts. All with no performance impact on the measured system.


As such, this tool is pretty interesting for custom code management and for us too, as it can report how often specific programs and/or transactions are called. You even can use the SAP Solution Manager system and numerous analytic options provided by its BW.


The UPL How-To-Guide (S-user required) seems to be the best starting point for further investigation.


Process Observer

Another option for acquiring the data we are searching could be the Process Observer. This tool adopts a different approach to the other ones I have mentioned. It looks into the processes based on your SAP Business Suite environment, while the other tools look into purely technical activities in the systems. It also needs to be mentioned that its purpose is to optimizing process performance and correctness rather than listing top applications. If you have more of a business background however and want to perform your analysis beyond pure lists of applications and UX, I strongly believe that you should check this out. The best starting point to learn more about it seems to be the blog created by Bernd Schmitt

I hope you enjoyed this blog, and that I have managed to persuade you check your systems and start compiling your own comprehensive list of information right away!  And please don’t forget to add the additional attributes to your top list as described in the videos How can I identify a good starting point for my UX improvements? Part I and Part II. I’m confident that this will set you on your way to creating a highly valuable set of data for your company.


You have questions or additional recommendations to share? Just post them in the comments section.

All the best,

JJ (Twitter: @JJcomment)

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      Author's profile photo Abhijit Barui
      Abhijit Barui

      Hello Juergen,

      Could please help in detail how UPL can be used to find top transaction ?

      My UPL is already active but dont know how to find ?



      Author's profile photo Varun Biswas
      Varun Biswas

      Is it me or the aggregation of application and then again aggregation by code is not working well te way it is aid here.

      1. As the results show up on the right, you need to set the aggregation (above the results) to “application”

      2. You can now select one of the application areas displayed (for example SD)

      3. In the new results, you might need to set the aggregation to “transaction”.

      4. Finally, sort the column “# Steps” to get a sorted list of all transactions in SD


      I get the aggregation by application by I am not able to do step 3.