In a typical Technical Support model, there are specific roles to handle different aspects of Solution Support, from incident & problem management to implementing change requests, and as such the Head of the Support Function is required to work with them to keep the whole system running according to the business needs.
Application Support – The Job and its activities
The role is challenging and can be managed properly ONLY IF the incumbent understands what is important, and what not, of the activities performed on a day-to-day basis within such unit of an IT organization. Here I’ve shared few observations of how some Managers handle the function, rightly and wrongly, and have provided some suggestions on improving the gaps to make their and others lives easier.
Error-Free System and Usage
No IT System comes completely error-free and even if we assume some do, the incorrect usage may cause errors. When an end-user, mistakenly, follows a wrong procedure to complete a certain task, the system may not throw an error right at that step but may react at another stage.
Facing an issue in a live system isn’t an issue, it’s a norm
1. Support Scenarios
When it happens, usually it’s another person who faces the issue in completing his/her task. S/he then reports the issue and someone in IT classifies the issue to a certain category and it’s then assigned to a support personnel who attends and resolve it by finding & communicating its root-cause.
Logging > Classification > Assignment > Resolution > Closure
The above is a normal scenario. There are few other scenarios, including
- Facing a system bug where the program logic isn’t working as expected, and therefore it has to be fixed, and
- Dealing with a change in business process where a solution behavior is required to be changed from its original version.
2. Support Services
Generally the above-stated scenarios are handled by the Application Specialists and Developers who are experts in their respective areas and know very well how to investigate an issue, within a process or the system, and to provide right and timely solution. However, at times they receive huge number of support requests, in different forms, which are difficult to manage together. It is when the Support Manager comes into picture; s/he has to help team in prioritizing, planning, and completing its work.
Business Continuity and Application Support
While the concerns of the Application Support Managers are genuine, considering the pressure s/he has from his/her counterparts in different business functions, trying to understand the issue and not why it’s not getting resolved is wrong approach which some managers follow.
Anyone having the role has to react, and that’s also not to over-react, to situations where any abnormalities are noticed. The role is there to facilitate the team, by collaborating its efforts in a right direction, so the required results could be delivered to business it serves.
The team providing technical support is usually occupied, in a small setup, in
- Answering to support calls and assisting end-users in overcoming the urgent issues,
- Analyzing the root-causes of problems and fixing them in their free time, and also
- Working on implementing new functionalities, enhancing the existing ones etc.
The Manager, on the other hand, manages the whole team
- Directly in case of a small organization, and
- Indirectly through the Team Leads if the support organization is huge.
Here’s an example scenario with which above explanation could be understood better.
A business has various SAP Solutions running to support its Sales, Procurement, Finance and HR processes. Within the organization’s IT division the Application Support Unit, having a Manager and a Team of SAP Consultants, assists different functions of the business with required support. While each of the Consultants extend their expertise to the business, the Manager has to ensure all of the SAP Solutions are working in line with the business needs. Here’s what s/he could do to help his/her teams, better, by
- Attending only the breaches of SLAs, in case of Incident Management, and not involving in each and every issue reported by business,
- Standing with, and not against, the team in case of Problem Management, and supporting them with his/her authority or reach,
- Assessing the availabilities and capabilities of team and planning & organizing effort for better Change Request Management.
ALM, Environment and Tool
While there are many tools available to manage application lifecycle, the native SAP Support Tool i.e. Solution Manager, is the best choice for Managers, in SAP Support Environment, to use with which they can assess the situation and manage the Solution Portfolio better. If you are (or expecting to be) on such role, I’ll recommend you to
- Know the other roles which can support you within organization, such as Integration Manager.
- Attend the overview course on Solution Manager 7.2 at openSAP, which describes how it can help you.
If you have been on or have been supporting such role, what experience did you have?