Cutting Right to the Business-Critical Problems at the Heart of Your Operations

August 17 2020
6 min read

Let’s talk about SAP: One of the most important, defining factors of your business’ success, and one of the biggest risks to business health when its processes go south. Surely there’s an easier way to monitor it?

As consumers, most of us know how online shopping works, and we have certain expectations about how it will unfold. Case in point: Just this morning, I placed an order online for monthly pet supplies, put the goods in my cart and headed to checkout. I was then prompted to begin processing my order by entering my shipping address, selecting my preferred delivery date, and submitting my payment details. As I hit “Place order” and went about my day, I knew that systems had started firing on the backend to fulfill and ship my order over the next few hours.

The order was received, paid for, and complete as far as I was concerned. But for IT teams on the backend of my order’s journey, things were just getting started. That’s because the conclusion of the ordering process means the start of what’s known as the “Order to Cash (or O2C) cycle,” which represents the entirety of order processing, from the moment I placed the order to the merchant logging it in accounts receivable. For large e-commerce enterprises using SAP, millions of processes like this happen each day as customers around the world order goods on the web.

Numerous business applications depend entirely on the functionality of SAP to deliver the digital experiences we’ve come to know and expect. In fact, SAP boasts over 150 million cloud users in part because of how customizable SAP is for a variety of business use cases, including O2C.

But there are limitations to SAP that make it extremely difficult for IT teams to quickly connect SAP performance to problems that arise within the context of the business. And this represents a significant blind spot for many IT teams who want the full picture of their SAP environment.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into why SAP monitoring is so hard and what makes the process easier.

Why SAP is so difficult to read

For most businesses, there are three main reasons why it’s hard to get the visibility and business context needed to properly monitor SAP environments.

First, the ecosystem of SAP and non-SAP business applications is complex.

Second, SAP’s own proprietary language, ABAP, literally can’t see that entire ecosystem.

And third, alert storms make it difficult to find and prioritize the problems that come up.

Let me explain.

Environment complexity

In today’s digital, always-on world, SAP processes are at the center of a vast web interconnected systems that define how your company does business. And the paths between systems have to go smoothly in order for SAP to fulfill its purpose at every point in the O2C cycle, from the front end (users doing their online shopping, for example) to all those backend logistics related to a plethora of business operations.

Think about all the things that need to happen behind the scenes for my cat food to arrive at my door — and this e-commerce example is a simplified one, considering the many possible ways to place an order (by phone, in person, etc.). First of all, the payment confirmation must automatically kick off a series of other actions in the various departments responsible for order fulfillment, inventory management, shipping, reporting, and so on. The importance of what happens during the few seconds after checkout can’t be overstated. A study by IBM found that companies who adopted best-in-class O2C practices were 81% more effective at order management than those who had not. It’s a big focus.

From this point, right up until the vendor receives my money and logs it in accounts receivable, branch out many other automated processes — all reliant on peak performance. Inventory counts must be accurate, otherwise I might have just placed an order that can’t be completed. Order data must be shared seamlessly between systems, otherwise it creates bottlenecks. Data from order to fulfillment must be up to date to get my shipment out to me on time. And so on.

For all this, SAP tends to have numerous dependencies, requiring custom code that feeds or pulls data directly from SAP to meet the needs of the business. So that’s the first reason it’s difficult to visualize SAP processes: the complexity across both SAP and its integrated, non-SAP applications. Yet remember, as a customer, I don’t know nor do I care that SAP and a distributed web of applications are involved in this process. I expect a seamless transaction.

ABAP obscurity

The second reason was ABAP, for which a limited number of solutions provide code-level monitoring. This often requires separate tools to monitor the performance of SAP and the remaining parts of the IT stack and all their dependencies. When you use multiple tools to monitor SAP and the different components integrated into their instance — not to mention across multiple teams — you can’t properly visualize processes like O2C in their entirety.

Which brings us to the third reason.

Alert storms

When something goes wrong, alerts could be triggered by any system that talks to SAP, leaving teams to troubleshoot the problem under an alert storm without full visibility into the potential root cause. Moreover, we lack the visibility needed to quantify what that impact means to our business. And we need that level of visibility to help prioritize what actions our teams make, ensuring we’re always making moves that drive the business forward.

Solution Manager, SAP’s proprietary product lifecycle application, offers some assistance, but can’t talk to systems outside of SAP. And, since the O2C journey is highly dependent, any point that experiences errors or delays can snowball into very costly problems downstream. Improper alerting can lead not just to longer resolution times and a lot of frustration, but to potentially devastating impacts on revenue streams and brand loyalty.

Clearly, in order for things not to go wrong, you need visibility into every part of the process. SAP is really only as useful as the visibility you get into it. Which means…

You need a single source of truth

We’ve talked about how O2C directly impacts your bottom line and relationships with customers, how important it is to optimize the process, and how challenging it is to monitor. We know organizational silos are a big barrier here, and, though Solution Manager is great, it lacks the functionality required to instrument applications outside the SAP platform.

The remaining question is: How do you get visibility into everything outside of SAP?

That’s the subject of our definitive guide to modern SAP monitoring, which goes into detail about how to leverage full visibility, or a “single source of truth,” to optimize your SAP operations — so that you can get on and focus on your most important priority of all: delivering painless experiences to happy customers… and their pets. Download a copy now and read on 👇

Adrienne Jack