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Author's profile photo Hendrik Achenbach

Preventive Support for Better Protection: SAP Mission Control Center 2020 and Beyond

In the year 2020, SAP Mission Control Center has undergone a significant transformation. What used to be an organization with a very strong on-site presence at many SAP hubs around the world is now fully based on remote work. But the new SAP Mission Control Center is not just a virtual replica of its physical counterpart. A renewed focus on the business-critical necessity of preventive support, combined with an updated portfolio of protective support offerings, are key characteristics of its 2020+ transformation. This transformation further strengthens an organization that stands ready to serve customers anytime and everywhere, on premise and in the cloud.

Getting Ready for Going Remote

Sometimes, one can only see the importance of a certain point in time in hindsight. Take March 6, 2020, 6:52 pm CET, for instance: It seems fair to say that few of the approximately 400 employees of SAP Mission Control Center were able to see the importance and impact of an e-mail they received at that point. It was sent by Vivian Lüchau-de la Roche, Global Head of SAP Mission Control Center, which detailed an “Emergency Plan for Remote Work”. At the time, it seemed very unlikely that this global plan would ever really be needed as COVID-19 was still unfamiliar to many of us. However, only a week later, the plan was activated by Lüchau-de la Roche and has been in place ever since, requiring our staff to perform their work from the safety of their homes.

Protect. Prevent. Accelerate: Safeguarding Customers from Home

Why was it so important for SAP Mission Control Center to be prepared for going fully remote on a global scale? In a recent piece on SAP News Center, Susan Galer showed very clearly that our customers’ ability to derive value from their increasingly sophisticated, hybrid SAP landscapes relies on a powerful organization that not only steps in whenever standard support processes do not suffice, but also offers a broad range of preventive support offerings that are intended to safeguard customer activities and projects and avoid critical situations in the first place. Hence, the portfolio of support offerings we use to serve customers is divided into two categories, Protect and Prevent. The support offerings in both categories work as accelerators in many ways – be it the expedited mitigation of a business down situation or the safeguarding of a go-live date. Hence our value proposition reads: Protect. Prevent. Accelerate.

The availability of an organization such as SAP Mission Control Center must not depend on physical work locations. However, it cannot be denied that the work that we do has always drawn a lot of benefit from the physical co-location of employees at the individual SAP hubs. The number of alignments made and decisions taken over a quick cup of coffee or even during a chance encounter in the hall has never been determined, but it must be high. When activated, our Emergency Plan was very clear on two things: The health and well-being of staff was the main priority while at the same time we needed to find ways to deliver on our value proposition – from home. Without taking the effects of the organization going fully remote too lightly, it can be said that both goals have been reached. The information systems, dashboards, and tools used by our staff work equally well on the huge 65-inch screens at the SAP Mission Control Center premises or on any laptop, computer, or mobile device. And while virtual coffee meetings over Microsoft Teams or Zoom are not quite the same as meeting colleagues face-to-face, our team members found creative ways to meet online, socialize from a distance, and be content with the situation as long as the coffee was real.

Being Smarter than The Trend by Preventing More

In the best-case scenario, customers would neither need a support organization nor an organization like SAP Mission Control Center. However, while self-healing software systems powered by artificial intelligence are a possibility that may be well within our grasp, it is a safe bet to say that both support and SAP Mission Control Center will be staying around for a good while. But there is one important catch here: As SAP customers continue to drive the cloud transformation of their businesses and thus increase both the power and the complexity of their hybrid system landscapes, the number of support requests may grow further. This is a trend SAP Mission Control Center intends to counter with a renewed and enhanced preventive support portfolio. In this context, several new support offerings that can be consumed by the customer engagement teams were launched in 2020.

Protecting Harder

SAP Mission Control Center is sometimes referred to as the ‘last line of defense’ as far as critical customer situations are concerned. The renewed focus on preventive support does not diminish the importance of the related support offerings and such a perception is especially accurate when it comes to our Business Down Support team, who are available 24×7 every day of the year. The team gets involved whenever a critical issue stops a customer from running their core business processes. It has recently been reshaped to further improve the judging process (which means faster time to action) and empower the De-Escalation Architects to fully own a customer situation and drive its mitigation.

With the current state of technology, amazing as its benefit may be, there is never 100 % uptime. Cloud incidents such as degradations or disruptions are a possibility and a reality that must be respected – by being prepared. The newest addition to our family, the Cloud Health & Reliability program, is all about detecting, correcting, and preventing cloud incidents by employing a sophisticated monitoring system. The data that this system collects identifies possible situations and aligns technical monitoring with the actual customer experience. This allows the dedicated teams to identify the reasons for any incidents on a detailed level and fully understand the situation. Only with that understanding can the SAP cloud provide the resilience our customers deserve.

Going the Extra Mile

Our support offerings go a long way towards preventing issues with any SAP solution. However, this is not where preventive support stops at SAP Mission Control Center. It is firmly believed by the team that every delivery of any support offering, regardless whether it belongs to the Protect or the Prevent category, provides an opportunity for learning and improvement. This is where two additional support offerings play a key role that are not actively requested by or delivered to dedicated customers. They are executed in the background for continuous improvement: Cross Issue Management and Knowledge-Centered Service.

Cross Issue Management (XIM) is based on the notion that not all error situations and software system issues are unique. It may well be that a technical solution or workaround that helps one customer to resolve a business down situation can be used to protect other customers from running into the same problem. This, however, requires a detailed analysis and internal governance model. It must be based on an approach that perceives the knowledge about such solutions as a key asset.

This is where Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS) comes in, a proven methodology that aims to analyze every problem solved and extract information that can be documented, shared, and reused. Experts at SAP Mission Control Center contribute to this process by creating technical Knowledge Base Articles (KBAs) that are widely used in our customer base.

The process of extracting and reusing solutions in customer support can be compared to long-distance running: the more you do it, the better and faster you get. Translated to what we do at SAP Mission Control Center, this means: we need to continue to bring all our support offerings closer together and integrate them with each other for increased sharing and reuse. This will be a key enabler of a culture of enhanced preventive support.

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