In a sluggish economy, SAP professionals want to know where the action is. One area that looks promising in 2009: RunSAP and Solution Manager. But there's a problem: many SAP consultants (and project teams) are not yet clear on how the two products relate, nor are they clear on the skills needed to implement them.
To shed light on this topic, Jon Reed of www.jonerp.com interviews Ajay Vonkarey, President of Alphasirius, a company with deep experience in both RunSAP and Solution Manager. Jon specifically invited Ajay to do this podcast because of Ajay's innovative thinking around RunSAP and Solution Manager skills trends.
During this thirty minute podcast, Ajay explains the tools and methodologies connected to RunSAP and Solution Manager and how they are relevant during a tight spending period where customers are looking to maximize the value of the existing SAP investments. Ajay clears up some misconceptions about the nature of the skills needed for these emerging areas, including why the classic "SAP Basis" skill set is not sufficient.
Through the course of their discussion, Jon and Ajay cover the following topics:
- How Alphasirius is involved with this market through their RunSAP partnership and certified implementor status. Ajay also explains how his firm's focus is different. They are not just focused on implementations; they also help with setting up operational support and managing solutions end-to-end. The work is not just about implementation - what happens when that phase is over? What are the keys to day-to-day operations and how are other customers leveraging RunSAP?
- Ajay explains that the customers he talks to are focused on how to best manage their current environment and trim costs. Alphasirius has developed their own methodology called Alacrity that helps SAP customers to identify their pain points and how to address them via Solution Manager and RunSAP. Ajay also talks about his background and his upcoming presentation featuring customer case studies which will take place in March at the Insider conferences in Orlando.
- Everyone is interested in how to better use social media tools like LinkedIn to improve their SAP know-how and enhance their careers. Jon asks Ajay to share his recent experience on LinkedIn, where he created a discussion on LinkedIn on the future of SAP consultants and the skills that should be cultivated based on customer needs. There was a big response from SAP customers, practice directors, and SAP consultants worldwide. One key discussion point: What's the difference between the SAP consultant of today and ten years ago? The biggest changes involve the expansion of the SAP product line, including the Java components. It becomes difficult for the consultant of today to limit themselves to one "silo" area like SD or MM.
- Ajay tells Jon that today's SAP customers want a consultant with broader process knowledge; they want a business process expert who understands how end-to-end tools translate into SAP tools and applications such as ECC 6.0, CRM, SRM, and Portals.
- This led to another LinkedIn discussion involving RunSAP and Solution Manager and what functionality customers are looking for and what the SAP consultants' role should be. One question is how the tools of RunSAP and Solution Manager fit into the broader SAP landscape - a question that Jon and Ajay explore.
- Jon asks Ajay to give the elevator speech on RunSAP and Solution Manager to a customer that might not be familiar. Ajay talks about the evolution of Solution Manager and also how RunSAP was created to help SAP customers better manage their environments after go-live, including system monitoring, better root cause analysis, and diagnostics. SAP went to a number of SAP customers, collected information, and built 16 "end-to-end solution operation standards." RunSAP is a methodology that allows you to address these 16 areas, and Solution Manager is the tool that allows you to manage your RunSAP approach. Solution Manager allows you to allows you to enable operational standards and functions.
- Getting into the skills issue, Jon asks Ajay to clarify a very interesting comment that he made prior to the podcast taping: that Basis skills are not sufficient to be a successful Solution Manager consultant. Ajay tells us that Solution Manager has changed over time. Eight years ago, in Solution Manager 2.1, it was mostly a monitoring tool utilized by the technical and Basis team. But now Solution Manager has been greatly enhanced and aligned with RunSAP. Now it is not just for Basis specialists, and SAP customers need to understand this or they may run into problems. It's a combination of Basis and many other roles that are touched on, from project management to business process expert or analyst roles. On the technical side, the Basis team, the infrastructure team, and the development team may all use Solution Manager to some extent.
- Ajay further clarifies these new Solution Manager skills and functions, from roadmaps to best practices to extended functionality like root cause analysis and diagnostics. The consultant will need the background to help customers understand these tools and how they can help. Today, the role of the Solution Manager consultant is not just technical; it brings in technical, functional, and project management skills. As an example, Ajay talks about a customer that expanded Solution Manager beyond core functions into change management, which tied in business change management issues and also integrated with technical transports as well.
- In today's economy, SAP professionals need to stay as marketable as possible. Jon asks Ajay to explain how SAP consultants can use Solution Manager to become more marketable. Ajay gives a view of how end-to-end processes like order-to-cash span many different modules and systems, from ECC to CRM to APO. Consultants need to understand both technical and business aspects. These skill sets tie into Solution Manager. Consultants that stay too comfortable with their existing skills won't stay on track with the market. A good start for a Solution Manager consultant is to better understand the implementation and operations functions, from managing upgrades to addressing SAP change management.
- To prepare their team for this new era of SAP consulting, Alphasirius trains its own internal team on Solution Manager. Depending on their roles, they might get more technical Solution Manager training, or more project management capacities. Ajay reports that this has helped their consultants be much more effective on project sites.
- Jon then asks Ajay about RunSAP skills acquisition: Ajay says that this involves both tools and methodologies. RunSAP is fundamentally "ASAP for Operations." Solution Manager can be used to optimize ongoing operations. For example, what is the best methodology to implement a service desk? This is how RunSAP and Solution Manager tie together. The latest edition of Solution Manager, the Enterprise Edition, includes a lot more functions, including business processing and interface monitoring. The consultant must be able to explain not just the functionality of Solution Manager, but how it maps into RunSAP and can provide value to SAP customers via project optimization. The skill set is a combination of tools, methodologies, and best practices.
- Before the podcast ends, Jon wants to ask Ajay one more important question: "We are seeing a lot of buzzwords lose their luster in this economy. But one that is still alive and kicking is Business Process Management. Most of us know that Solution Manager can help SAP customers with BPM, but we don't know exactly how that might work. From your experiences working with customers, can you tell us how Solution Manager and BPM fit together?" Ajay's response: BPIM (Business Process Information Management) is a key function of Solution Manager that relates to desire of SAP customers to manage their environments end-to-end. You can build the end-to-end process within Solution Manager and then monitor and optimize it from within Solution Manager.
- To illustrate his point about BPM, Ajay uses two hypothetical customer examples: one involving the integration of two SAP instances, or another involving the integration of two sales management systems after an acquisition. The back end functions of SD or CRM would still be processed within those areas, but they would be managed by Solution Manager. A key tip from Ajay: the customer does not have to set up business processes in Solution Manager for every process. They can choose the ones that will have the most competitive impact, such as monitoring sales processes. Also: monitoring is not just a technical task. Ajay explains that monitoring may also involve looking at how end users are following the steps of the process. This is a key way that BPM ties into Solution Manager and is also tied into the RunSAP methodology.
- Ajay offers some closing words on how RunSAP and Solution Manager are changing SAP landscapes and skill sets and presenting an opportunity for SAP consultants - not in the distant future, but this year.