Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is the backbone of every organization, integrating core business processes like finance, HR, and manufacturing into a single system. With a robust ERP system, companies have the power to drive efficiencies, improve visibility into operations, and enable smarter decision-making. And with more than 200 million users and 440,000 customers globally, SAP is the world’s leading provider of ERP software.
More than 77 percent of the world’s transaction revenue touches an SAP system. Few applications are as mission-critical as SAP, and critical applications require flawless performance. Enterprises running SAP business applications as part of their core systems of record simply can’t afford failures. After all, the average cost of a critical application failure is $500,000 to $1 million per hour.
When SAP performance suffers, so does business performance. But optimizing SAP performance can be challenging due to the complex and proprietary nature of SAP applications.
So, how should organizations monitor, diagnose, and troubleshoot SAP performance issues before they impact their bottom line? Keep reading to find out.
Best Practices for Monitoring, Diagnosing and Troubleshooting SAP Performance
Native SAP monitoring tools were designed to resolutely monitor the SAP environment. While valuable to obtain visibility on the performance of SAP infrastructures, in many instances, SAP serves as part of a wider ecosystem of software within a business. As a result, monitoring needs to extend beyond the system to understand performance as it relates to a business transaction that routes through multiple apps.
Likewise, SAP often creates a specialist IT group within a business that is less focused on the entire application stack. Therefore, when questions arise relating to the performance of business metrics that rely on SAP systems, or problems between a distributed app and SAP need isolating, the outlook of both the monitoring tools and personnel is too narrow. As a result, businesses need broader visibility–down to the line of code–in order to get an accurate and comprehensive picture of the health of their SAP environments.
Develop enhanced visibility
Thankfully, AppDynamics has solved a huge piece of the puzzle by developing an Application Performance Monitoring (APM) solution that recognizes the proprietary language of SAP and that business processes extend beyond SAP applications alone.
AppDynamics provides a real-time view into how applications work together and is the only APM vendor developing solutions to monitor core SAP business processes (for example, Order to Cash, Order is Fulfilled, Order Is Shipped) — not only providing business insights unmatched by competition, but also providing insights into the performance of business transactions of the underlying SAP systems, down to the line of ABAP code. Using AppDynamics, it’s possible for SAP users to obtain complete visibility into a business transaction from back-end right through to the browser. In particular, the front-end insight is unique, highlighting a visibility gap many SAP users don’t realize they face or indeed need to plug to improve the performance of their app.
AppDynamics can understand what is happening in real-time on a browser and tie this all the way back to what is happening on an SAP server. For example, how long it took a form to load even before you did the report, and then comparing response times between locations. This is insight that has not been achievable until now.
Not only that, when things do breakdown, AppDynamics provides an impressive window into the data to enable past events to be reconstructed and better understood, to predict more accurately what might happen in the future.
Understanding application performance is only one key component that the business needs to know however.
Monitor processes, not just apps
Connecting application metrics with business processes that identify if SLAs are being met is the real measure of success. Turning the insight offered by AppDynamics into the gold dust that powers business decision making concerning costs, productivity and operations means operationalizing the platform.
This starts with visualizing the critical processes and the role of SAP and your other apps. Examining the processes further will reveal that certain API calls will be more important than others and monitoring should be more closely aligned with these steps. This enables AppDynamics to be focused on collecting the data that matters and acceptable performance baselines for the apps and the process established.
Create standard operating procedures
Once performance baselines are live, standard operating procedures can be formulated to capitalize further on AppDynamics visibility. Crafting an alert strategy that provides early warning for when the process breaks down is essential. Our approach at Evolutio is to silence all alerts, except for those that matter.
As an example, a simple yet critical process is invoices out, which relies on the connection between Salesforce CRM and SAP. Without a won opportunity sending data to SAP for invoice creation, errors or even failure in billing will occur. In this instance an alert may sound if no new invoices have been triggered in the last hour. Following this, appropriate action would ensue and escalate if the issue persisted.
Get more people involved in monitoring
When APM is aligned with the SAP ecosystem, all IT and Ops teams gain visibility and can work together to troubleshoot and improve app performance as it relates to process. Similarly, closely correlating apps with process makes reporting business-friendly and helps get more people involved in the task of monitoring performance.
Put your plan into action
To evidence the entire approach, let’s walk through a project we recently undertook using AppDynamics. Evolutio has been operationalizing the AppDynamics platform to achieve complete visibility of business transaction flows, including SAP, for more than five years. Our approach is the product of working with countless SAP environments across industries as diverse as finance, telecommunications and energy.
A crude oil trader we were working with needed to ensure it was managing risk and making accurate decisions on when to keep oil versus when to trade. The business could not afford pricing to be more than 90 minutes old at any moment. Using AppDynamics, we collected data from all the applications responsible for crude oil movement, from arrival at a shipping terminal through various distributed apps for inventory, position reporting, invoicing and financial record keeping in SAP.
We visualized the entire trading process, monitoring response times between steps and identifying apps causing lag, so business information could be kept within their target decision window. Dashboards were then built for various personnel and an alert strategy deployed to ensure action could be taken if process degradation began to occur.
By leveraging AppDynamics APM, the organization was able to bring end-to-end business transaction visibility to its mission-critical SAP applications, gaining actionable insights that ultimately led to better business outcomes.
Laura Vetter is CTO at AppDynamics partner, Evolutio.