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Author's profile photo Sophia Stolze

How does SAP support work for hybrid platforms in the digital age?

The interview with Andreas Heckmann was conducted by Helge Sanden, Editor in Chief of IT-Onlinemagazin, at the DSAG Annual User Group Conference in Germany in October 2018.
It is such an interesting read, that I wanted to share this in English as well. Enjoy reading.

How does SAP support work for hybrid platforms in the digital age?

With its “Next-Generation Support”, SAP promises its customers self-service components, real-time digital interaction with support, a high-quality digital customer experience – for example, through built-in support by SAP   and the use of innovations such as AI and machine learning. The goal: to answer inquiries in real time whenever possible, as a prerequisite for real-time business models.

I asked Andreas Heckmann, Head of SAP Support, what support services SAP customers will need in the future, how SAP intends to support digital end-to-end processes in hybrid systems, what the differences are between ECC  and SAP S/4HANA  support requests, and what impact innovations (machine learning, AI, predictive analytics, and so on) are having on SAP support.

(Helge Sanden, Andreas Heckmann, from left to right)

Mr. Heckmann, businesses, processes, and IT landscapes are changing – radically at times. What support services can customers expect in the future?

Customers want fast, qualified assistance with technical problems, ideally before a problem even occurs – proactive help, not reactive. Next-Generation Support already includes intelligent support services that customers can choose according to their specific preferences. We give our customers a choice as to how they get the answers to their technical questions. It’s important to us that our customers have good all-round experiences in their interactions with SAP support, from start to finish. As consumers of digital offerings, our customers’ employees – like all of us – are used to attractive, easy-to-use applications. We take this into account in the interactions with our customers as well. We grant access to our knowledge pool through self-services on a variety of channels, including social media like Twitter and messenger services like WhatsApp. Today’s business-critical processes are increasingly taking place in real time. As a consequence, we decided to explore new ground: that’s why we also offer support in real time, in direct interaction between customers and our support experts, via chat or phone call. Customers can already receive answers to classic incidents directly on their mobile phones, in real time as short texts. Customers who have questions prefer to get help directly in the application they are using. That’s why we are incorporating built-in support directly in our products. In addition, artificial intelligence has the potential to shorten response times for technical questions even further. We’re already working on scenarios for using machine learning algorithms in support. The starting point for all our innovations is always our customers’ needs and their feedback. We also involve customers in the development and pilot phases.

You promise to get closer to customers through things like direct chat and scheduled appointments with experts. What’s the particular attraction of that?

With Expert Chat and Schedule an Expert, we offer two live support channels that get customers in touch directly with an SAP support expert – the same person who would process a conventional incident involving the same question. With Expert Chat, two-thirds of customers can get an answer directly in a chat session that lasts just 30 minutes on average. If the issue cannot be resolved immediately in the chat session, SAP creates a ticket for the customer automatically, which is then processed. We also offer a kind of “doctor’s appointment” for our customer inquiries: as the name implies, Schedule an Expert makes it possible to schedule an appointment with an SAP support expert and discuss the questions directly on the phone. We recently began offering this option for the further processing of existing tickets as well.

The major benefit for our customers is that they can get answers to their questions directly and quickly, in a dialog with the SAP experts, with all the follow-up questions that are needed, avoiding the otherwise inevitable “ticket ping pong”.

Feedback from our customers who use our live support channels has been entirely positive. The external recognition and awards we’ve received also help to spread the word.

How extensively are they being used right now?

We just successfully completed our 200,000th chat in this year in the week before last. Each week, we communicate with our customers in over 5,000 chat sessions. We assume that these numbers will increase further, because many of our customers haven’t discovered our real-time support channels yet. The awards we’ve won are also a good way for our customers to get a neutral assessment. We are proud that ASP, the Association of Support Professionals, has recognized us with their Top 10 Support Web Site Award.

Our Schedule an Expert service is only just starting. We expect that customers will make increasing use of this service.

A particular advantage for all our customers is that the Next-Generation Support services don’t cost anything extra – they’re automatically part of the support agreement.

What impact do technological innovations (such as machine learning, AI, and predictive analytics) have on SAP support services?

The possibilities that these new technologies offer us and our customers are still in their infancy. We expect that a lot will happen in this area in the coming years.

Our built-in support already indicates the direction we’re taking. This support is integrated in the product through SAP CoPilot. Conversational AI makes it possible for customers to converse with the system. In the background, the digital support assistant uses the system context and other data to provide fast answers for customers’ technical questions. In the future, some questions won’t even have to be asked any more, because the digital assistant in the application will give the customer all the support and information they need to avoid potential problems.

We began offering built-in support for SAP S4/HANA Cloud applications after this year’s SAPPHIRE NOW and continue to expand its functional scope.

We’ve already identified a wide range of scenarios where artificial intelligence can add real value. We’re already using incident-solution matching, a machine learning-supported search for solutions, internally at SAP and will make it available to customers soon.

To what extent can you support digital end-to-end processes that might involve hybrid landscapes with cloud and on-premise components, as well as SAP and non-SAP systems?

SAP support covers  all types of deployment, whether on-premise , cloud, or hybrid. Don’t forget, our customers’ needs are changing constantly – particularly where the end-to-end support experience is involved. We spotted this early on and reinvented SAP support in response. As I said, our Next-Generation Support gives our customers increased access to our knowledge pool through self-services. Customers can ask us their questions in real time when they need to, in direct interaction with our support experts. In addition, we’re also working on integrating support in our solutions. And using artificial intelligence and machine learning to shorten the time from question to answer.

We also support our customers with application lifecycle management. SAP Solution Manager is available to our customers with an on-premise focus. We’re currently developing an additional option for our cloud-based customers: SAP Cloud ALM.

This cloud-based offering from SAP for application lifecycle management will enable customers to coordinate their requirements of their cloud solutions.

SAP Cloud ALM will initially launch with the implementation portal for SAP S/4HANA Cloud. Its release is planned in the fourth quarter of 2018, with the next release of SAP S/4HANA Cloud. In addition to   support for SAP S/4HANA Cloud, SAP plans to enhance SAP Cloud ALM with a road map for the full application lifecycles of all SAP Cloud products that will become available through 2021.

The implementation portal for SAP S/4HANA Cloud supports customers in defining their implementation scope, with fit-to-stand workshops, with the configuration of SAP S/4HANA Cloud, and with tracking the progress of their projects.

SAP Cloud ALM is intended as a complement to SAP Solution Manager, the leading ALM solution from SAP for on-premise applications. When SAP Cloud ALM is launched, customers will be able to choose the best SAP ALM solution for their individual needs, to help ensure  rapid implementation and optimized operation of their SAP solutions.

SAP Cloud ALM is available to all SAP Enterprise Support customers under the terms of their existing agreements.

Many SAP customers haven’t taken the step to SAP S/4HANA yet. What (support-related) experiences have user companies had during and after the upgrade to SAP S/4HANA?

Many renowned customers have already upgraded. It’s one of the most successful applications in the history of SAP. It supports customers in their transformation into intelligent enterprises. We support our customers with preparation, execution, and operations.

SAP Solution Manager is a key factor for agile implementations of SAP S/4HANA. SAP Solution Manager is the channel that provides SAP Activate Best Practice Content to all customers. Focused Build for SAP Solution Manager supports agile implementation. Starting in 2020, Focused Build and Focused Insights will be available to all customers within the framework of their maintenance agreements – without any additional licensing costs.

We’ve prepared our support infrastructure and employees early on – for both on-premise and cloud, with dedicated global teams. These solutions use our  channels particularly frequently.

Can you provide best practices from a support perspective, things that customers have to watch out for to help ensure a smooth transition?

SAP offers a wide variety of tools and services for this. The switch to SAP S/4HANA gives our customers the opportunity for additional differentiation, optimization, and innovation. Examples include SAP S/4HANA Adoption Starter, Business Scenario Recommendations, SAP Transformation Navigator, the SAP S/4HANA Readiness Check, and extensive benchmarking with the SAP Innovation & Optimization Pathfinder. Our SAP Enterprise Support gives our customers proactive assistance from experts and a structured procedure with the SAP Enterprise Support value maps.

The SAP Mission Control Center helps our customers with complex issues involving the integration of our new solutions, such as SAP S/4HANA. It gathers experiences from early adopters and customer implementations that build complex hybrid solutions with large data volumes. We use this project experience to enhance our maintenance offerings, for example, with meet-the-expert sessions at the SAP Enterprise Support Academy. We also publish best practices for analyses and quick solutions to technical problems in SAP Knowledge Base Articles.

What will SAP support be like in the year 2025?

We already use AI and machine learning-based support tools, such as the automatic translation of SAP Notes and SAP Knowledge Base Articles. Built-in support and the digital support assistant will increasingly become firm fixtures for our users.

Customers want seamless support, regardless of device, location, or channel. The intelligent convergence of all channels, including mobile devices and social media, will give customers a wide variety of options for getting support. Our vision is omnichannel access to our support organization, which also involves developing new tools and pioneering solutions in co-innovation with our customers. Support will become more proactive and identify critical situations early on – you could say that support will go to the customers instead of the other way around. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will continue to improve and simplify the customers’ support experience: the answers will get faster and better. Intelligent ALM tools will perform services completely automatically. We will stay on the ball  – our customers can continue to expect lots of innovation from SAP support in the future.

In a nutshell: what topic do you think will dominate the SAP community in the coming 12 months?

I think the most dominating   from a customer perspective will be the best way  to take the step toward becoming an intelligent enterprise with SAP S/4HANA.


Click here for German version.

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