SAP application performance (speed and availability) is becoming a major focus as companies rely increasingly on their SAP systems to support employee productivity, partner collaboration, customer relationships, revenues, brand equity and growth. With many companies running their critical business processes on SAP, high availability and acceptable speed of the business software environment are essential requirements.
You're Only As Strong As Your Weakest Link
Traditionally, SAP solutions were installed on-premise; that is, the software was installed locally at each of a customer's facilities. In this scenario, there was software installed on a server (i.e., the core application functionality and the database), as well as on the client machine (i.e., each user's computer). While SAP still offers these on-premise solutions, they also offer pure web-based solutions, offered on-demand. In such a scenario, the software is hosted at an SAP data center and every user accesses the system through a web browser over the internet.
Undoubtedly, SAP's service-oriented architecture can help provide significant business advantages including increased efficiency, adaptability, flexibility and openness. But moving to a service-oriented architecture for your ERP system can create challenges, because SAP software can only do the job it is designed for if the overall IT infrastructure is stable and reliable, and able to quickly respond to users' requests. In order to ensure that SAP technology runs effectively, everything from the computing platforms to database and network connections must be running with maximum efficiency. SAP-driven business processes will be successful only if all these components work properly, in unison. This can pose nightmares for IT teams that are responsible for managing SAP application performance and ensuring positive user experiences.
Key Requirements for an SAP Performance Management Solution
As SAP continues to provide invaluable tools to facilitate business process and collaboration, regardless of how it's delivered (on-premise or SaaS), insight into SAP user performance becomes increasingly imperative. Without understanding how performance impacts end users and in which locations performance issues frequently arise, your SAP investments won't deliver on their promises. There are three elements to consider when evaluating SAP performance management solutions:
End-user Experience: End-user experience monitoring is the first step in a comprehensive, end-to-end APM approach. In recent years, the focus has moved to real end-user experience monitoring as opposed to capturing some proxy of that end user experience. Utilizing synthetic transactions is still seen as valuable in a supplementary way, but the main event around end-user experience monitoring is being able to capture what is actually going on when an end user is accessing the system.
To identify SAP application performance problems and their impact on the business, you need to know what end users are accessing which areas of your SAP application and what levels of performance they're experiencing.
Deep-dive Analysis: Identifying that there is a problem is a start but to fix problems requires locating the root cause. Only a tool with functionality that can dive deep under the many layers of today's complex systems can uncover the all too often elusive root causes of SAP performance problems. Conducting a deep-dive analysis is a multi-step process involving:
- Runtime application architecture discovery, modeling and display - software and hardware components involved in application execution, and their communication paths, are studied to establish the potential scope of the problem;
- User-defined transaction profiling - examining user-defined transactions as they move across the paths - to identify the source of the problem; and
- Analytics, to establish meaningful patterns and ultimately anticipate future issues that may impact end users.
Unified Dashboards: To rapidly resolve SAP performance issues requires an easily understood single source of truth which all lines of IT and business can use to collaborate quickly.
Companies can only be successful if their business processes are efficient. A disruption of a critical process can result in a financial loss due to, for example, unproductive working hours, lost sales, or delays in production, order fulfillment or logistics.
Companies worldwide have been making major investments in SAP software to improve business-critical processes. Consequently, SAP software is a vital asset for these companies. Any problem with the application, such as unavailability or delayed completion of tasks, poses a significant financial risk.
Effective SAP performance management offers an instant, in-depth insight into the performance of an SAP environment. Without such a solution, it is very difficult to quickly detect the root cause of performance problems as they occur and to resolve the issues with minimum disruption to SAP end users.
Unfortunately, when SAP users encounter performance problems they generally fall back on using traditional manual processes that existed before the application was implemented. This can, in turn, impact any expected return on investment (ROI) from implementing SAP. For this reason, it is vital that SAP customers keep a close eye on their SAP environment's performance, and proactively gauging and understanding the end user's real experience is the first critical step.