While much is written about implementation services, system maintenance and servicing are discussed far less frequently. It is true that the moment of implementation is crucial for any organization. It is often associated with the appearance of new processes in the company or with almost complete redesign of those previously in place.
However, after this revolution is carried out, it is necessary to come back to everyday life. When the spotlights are out and the work of implementation specialists is finished, the people who ensure the daily operation of the system enter the scene – SAP BASIS administrators. It is the responsibility of this team to take care of the maintenance of the environment, security, and uninterrupted operation of SAP ERP.
System availability – the most important indicator of team effectiveness
The SAP BASIS administration team is focused on system support, i.e. maintaining systems in a condition that ensures their efficiency and readiness for use, known as “high availability”. In this case, system availability is the most important indicator of efficiency, so the administrators strive to ensure that the systems are available around the clock. Ideally, the team does not extinguish fires, but rather prevents them from starting in the first place. Monitoring specialists, who work with the administrators, identify any potentially dangerous situations. We know from experience that it is easier to prevent than to repair.
An example of a fire may be a situation in which production systems stop working and the entire business of a client is halted. Production, manufacturing, or service delivery are discontinued. These are the scenarios that system administrators try to keep from taking place. The SAP BASIS team prevents dangerous situations by ensuring that supply and service chains are not exposed to disruptions.
When a fire does occur, SAP BASIS specialists have a whole set of repair and protection tools at their disposal. Take, for example, the heart of any ERP system, i.e. the database, most often today: SAP HANA. In order to make sure it is not damaged during a failure, we reach for SAP HANA High Availability Disaster Recovery. This solution enables the storage of data on a server (as backup on a server in another location) even when machines fail. SAP HADR is one of the weapons used by Hicron specialists to protect our client’s systems.
SLA, or what are we agreeing to?
In order to assess the effectiveness of works, the administrative department uses the criteria included in the ITIL method (Information Technology Infrastructure Library, i.e. a set of publications containing best practices in IT service management), following the indicators contained in the SLA (Service Level Agreement), i.e. an agreement concerning the guaranteed level of service provision. This agreement concerns the maintenance and systematic improvement of the level of service quality agreed between the client and the service provider. Such an agreement is concluded between the IT service provider and the recipient. It describes the IT service provided, the documented target level of service provision, and the specific obligations of the IT service provider and recipient.
The SAP BASIS team, thanks to proactive system monitoring, reacts automatically to any appearing signals. Reports on any suspicious events may also be issued by the client.
Coronavirus-proof SAP BASIS services
In the case of maintenance departments, the closure of offices caused by the coronavirus pandemic does not matter much, as SAP system administration services are provided remotely by design. Looking at the internal results of my team – its performance and efficiency have not changed. There is no difference in the daily execution of duties. Monitoring and support services can be provided from any place in the world that has Internet access.
However, at the beginning of the lock-down, there was a decrease in traffic in the SAP systems of some clients. This was the case in the those parts of the systems which were subject to development, which was stopped at the initial stage of this unprecedented situation. Still, they had to be available. Teams of BASIS administrators worked regardless of the epidemiological situation. Even if there were some radical steps taken on the client’s side, for example, their factory was closed, preparations for its re-opening began shortly afterward – at such moments maintenance specialists had to be extremely vigilant and ready to work.
Service Desk employees – as important as SAP BASIS Administrators
Team efficiency is not measured when everything is working properly, but in those moments when a failure leads to full mobilization. How does the BASIS team maintain system availability in crisis situations? The answer is proper division of duties and preliminary evaluation of incoming requests – i.e. tasks that are performed by members of the Service Desk team on a daily basis.
The Service Desk, i.e. the first line of contact with problems reported by clients, performs the lion’s share of the work related to SAP environment maintenance. Although these persons are not software developers, using manual instructions they are able to effectively respond to most common problems. Thanks to the creation of libraries of such frequent incidents, many of them are resolved at the Service Desk stage, so qualified ABAP developers can only receive selected problems that actually require more advanced skills. The Service Desk relieves more experienced employees in repetitive, but still extremely important work, which leads to higher performance indicators.
As part of BASIS, the Service Desk must operate on a rotational basis. Even though services are provided from 6:00 to 20:00, continuous duty is necessary for environment monitoring and system maintenance. Of course, it all depends on the provisions of the agreement, but system support in the 24/7 model is becoming more and more common. Throughout the week the team takes care of and minimizes any risk of failure to keep the system safe during the weekend. However, in the event of any problems, “on-call” duty is slowly becoming a standard. This means that if a client notices a problem, they can report it even on Sunday night and the support team will react. Most often these are errors independent of the administrators. This could be, for example, accidental cable disconnection in a server room. Unfortunately, this means night duty at full speed.
Automation is one of the fastest growing trends in business. This is why SAP BASIS support teams rely on modern tools. There are solutions available that enable automatic system monitoring, error identification, and notification of the appropriate persons. The tools also generate daily reports ready to be sent to clients. In such cases the team of BASIS administrators also receives a consistent report, which is available in one place, so there is no need to click through the entire collection of reports.
Process automation also helps to write and maintain fixed procedures and schemes. This allows for the improvement of work not only within a team, but also in terms of faster and efficient cooperation between teams. As a result, the persons working at the front of SAP system maintenance are able to immediately decide where to assign a given problem and how to manage the work related to its resolution. Well thought-out schemes that work correctly in such situations constitute one of the foundations of the BASIS team’s success.
SAP BASIS in a nutshell
Comprehensive assurance of SAP system availability is achieved through:
- appropriate division of duties,
- carefully thought-out team design,
- good information flow,
- effective duty, preferably performed 24/7 in shifts.
As shown, the work of a SAP system support team combines the repeatability of actions with the need to react quickly and confidently. It involves constant attention to every detail, forward thinking, individual responsibility for the tasks entrusted, and excellent knowledge of the competences of the entire team. A partner that provides this type of support ensures the efficient operation of the system and, in fact, of the entire business.
Author: Kamil Suszko, SAP BASIS Team Leader at Hicron.
The text was first published and is available in full in Finance and Controlling.
Our slogan is: Hicron. VisiON Architect. SolutiON Maker. It results from the way we operate, from the structure of our organization, philosophy, approach and mission. We respond to emerging challenges, and at the same time we go beyond them, we think long-term. And we do it in every area of activity: during implementations, extensions, as well as during the maintenance of existing solutions.