Multinational conglomerate 3M is currently 60% of the way through an SAP deployment that will make it one of the biggest SAP shops in the world. The company also recently completed a successful cloud migration exercise.
AppDynamics has partnered with 3M throughout this growth journey. To learn more about 3M’s quest for performance and reliability that began in 2018 and continues to unfold, AppDynamics Executive CTO Joe Byrne interviewed Mary Lauber, Vice President of IT Quality and Release Management at 3M.
Why did 3M turn to AppDynamics initially?
Mary: We began deploying our SAP systems back in 2012. After 5+ years of running SAP, we began to see an increase in the number of stability and performance issues as we continued to add more users and transactions. The performance issue hit a peak in 2018 with our US deployment. Our existing monitoring tools identified that something was going on in our database or at the app server level. Sometimes end users experienced slow performance. Regardless of where the problem was, we could never get to the root cause fast enough.
SAP is one of our core applications, and it drives the lion’s share of our business. When a company is as large as 3M, the global impact of systems issues on business operations is a top priority. We need to maintain stability. Continuous performance and reliability are also absolutely critical. Because we can’t afford to incur unplanned downtime, we need to be as proactive as possible. We need to address issues ahead of time, and we need to be able to do that quickly.
When we reached out to AppDynamics to learn more about their products and tools, we realized they could give us so much more than we had; they could install agents on all our systems to help us quickly identify the root cause of issues regardless of the source. We could go down to the database, and we could go up to the app server. With AppDynamics, we could go anywhere and get answers.
Since 2018, we’ve continued to deploy AppDynamics across all our SAP production environments. Prior to each deployment, AppDynamics helps us locate risk areas so we can address them proactively. Then, when a deployment goes live, if the system slows down or an end user reports a problem, we can get to it straight away and resolve the issue to minimize any business impact.
How do you use AppDynamics before deployment to validate business impact and mitigate potential issues?
Mary: We installed AppDynamics in our performance environment, which replicates the production environment — same database, same app servers. As we prepare for a major deployment, we’re running performance tests in this environment and using AppDynamics to monitor the system. That way, we know in advance whether a particular process will trigger a database lock, for instance, or a backlog of queues.
Knowing beforehand what the user experience will be like enables us to prepare technical teams for production support. For example, when we went live with our Japan locations in 2021, our pre-deployment analysis showed there would be a 10% increase in the number of end users and transactions in our system. Armed with this information, we were able to ramp up our environment before we went live. We performed the necessary tests to ensure we could support that increase in both transactional and end user loads. During the testing process, we looked for any critical areas that might trigger a performance issue. AppDynamics helped us get in front of them before they happened.
When we went live in Japan, our system was stable and we were able to proactively identify potential system health issues and prevent any business impact. We leveraged AppDynamics to find anything and everything.
How has 3M used AppDynamics throughout its cloud migration journey?
Mary: We decided to migrate our 3M data centers to the cloud two years ago, and our SAP production environments were among the first to move. We did a lot of testing in our on-premises data center in preparation for the migration. AppDynamics played a critical role in helping us baseline what we were seeing.
We replicated the current production levels during the migration testing period with the goal of achieving the same level of performance we had seen prior with our on-prem instances. We followed the same process throughout all the environments, first validating responses on-premises and then again after we had migrated to the cloud. So, when we finally got to production, it was a non-event because we knew what to expect.
A lot of applications encounter various types of errors when they go to the cloud. We’ve seen some applications that could not be migrated successfully because the performance was so significantly different. But with the support of AppDynamics, we were able to monitor and compare the results of our migration both before and after. This gave us the ability to know, with certainty, when we were in a position to deploy without a hitch.
The result? We were able to deliver the performance and scalability we had promised. It was the outcome we had hoped to achieve with the cloud migration. And that was huge!
We know the people side of things is one of the most difficult aspects of a change in technology. How did your team respond to AppDynamics?
Mary: Because the stability and performance of our systems were at risk, our people were super excited to get the new tool. They gave the AppDynamics team a warm welcome when they came on site. Everyone was very enthusiastic about the learning and opportunities they knew would ensue.
And, you know, it’s hard when you’ve got multiple system monitoring tools. Which do you use for what? AppDynamics is my team’s monitoring tool of choice for deeper SAP production instance analysis. I’ve seen everyone on my team grow professionally as their knowledge of the tool has expanded. In fact, we are looking into the possibility of using the tool in non-SAP applications because we’ve had so much success with SAP.
Many people find the dashboards and reports we create to be a bit too technical, but it’s very easy to convert data into a format that is suitable for presenting to senior leadership. For a Japan deployment, for example, we created a dashboard I could share with our senior leadership daily. It depicted the status of three or four of our critical SAP production systems.
AppDynamics is a great tool. The team has done an excellent job of embracing and sharing it. We have gone beyond what we had originally thought we could do with it. And we’ve built up a really strong reputation in the organization with this team because we know what’s happening in the system, and we can respond a lot faster than we ever could before. And, of course, having the pride of ownership that comes with seeing the impact on the business is wonderful.
Looking at 3M’s future plans, what do you expect from AppDynamics — for example, in terms of the whole observability play?
Mary: While we’re finishing up our ERP deployment, we’re getting more and more opportunities for enhancement with digital transformation. There is so much new technology coming, and we’re trying to keep pace with all of that. We need to gain a better understanding of where we can fit in more system monitoring so we can continue to support 3M’s ERP deployments, as well as the growth that will result from digital transformation.
Following our cloud migration, stability and performance still have top priority. However, our ERP ecosystem is very complex, with multiple third-party applications and integrations. We leverage webMethods™ to integrate our SAP system with our manufacturing plants, and to determine if AppDynamics would be a good monitoring tool for that application, too.
The other area of focus as we continue to do deployments is the third-party logistics companies that 3M does business with. When we go live, these companies need to connect to SAP via our firewall in order to access our systems. We want visibility into that pathway so we can troubleshoot communications problems effectively.
Based on your experience with AppDynamics, what advice would you give to a company starting out on the journey to optimizing customer experience through systems performance and reliability?
Mary: A company with growth aspirations should take advantage of a tool like AppDynamics. I mean, it’s one thing to say, “Oh, I set up an alert. Maybe my database is going wacky or something.” It can take a long time to troubleshoot and solve a problem like that. Spending even an hour or two looking for clues can be a significant risk to your business operations.
I talk to people all the time about their SAP systems. When they tell me they don’t use system monitoring tools, I wonder how they know whether their systems are running efficiently.
So, I would say take your time, look at the tool, and try it out. You know, it doesn’t hurt to try. You’d be surprised by what you might find in your system if you opened it up and peeled it back like an onion. You might find things running that you didn’t even know were causing system performance issues.