In-House or Third Party SAP Support?

Posted by Steve Woodgate on Dec 04, 2014


You’ve heard it before: time is money. When it comes to calculating the value and cost of your IT systems you need to ask yourself: how much time do your employees spend addressing SAP production support issues? These issues may range from critical, where all work comes grinding to a halt, to low severity, where issues are investigated and addressed only when time allows. 

Depending on your business structure, addressing SAP production support issues in-house may be the best option. After all, your employees have specific in-depth knowledge not only of your system, but also how that system is utilized by your business. Your internal IT team also has a better idea of how to prioritize the work that needs to be done on your SAP system.

However, one of the problems when using your own team for production support is the amount of time required to resolve issues means less time spent on completing projects that enhance productivity, efficiency and organizational improvement as a whole. If you take a closer look, you will most likely find your staff spending more time on production support than you think.

To decrease the amount of time and energy your team spends on production support issues, using a third-party production support system might be a better solution. Moving to a such a system allows your IT team to do what it does best: focus on those areas that help enhance system functionality and decrease the amount of time spent “putting out fires.”

The third-party service provider is left to deal with any and all immediate production support issues, freeing up your internal teams to work on system enhancement projects. Even though the issues are addressed outside of your organization, this type of support structure gives you access to a large team of multi-skilled business professionals, scalable to meet your changing needs.

Before deciding either to maintain your current SAP production support model or move to a third-party support model, ask yourself the following questions: 

Where are you in your SAP life cycle?
Knowing where you are today and what's coming is essential to help you identify your short and long term support requirements. There are four main phases, each with its own unique set of challenges and each requiring a different set of skills and varying amounts of support:
  • About to go live
  • Recently live and stabilizing
  • In a period of relative low activity
  • Making material changes to your business and system
How much time do you spend on SAP production support and what areas require the most attention? 
If you investigate, you will undoubtedly discover that your team spends more time on production support than you think. Despite your best efforts, people often gravitate to production support over system enhancement projects, because they get a sense of achievement by providing quick fixes. It is also rare to find these issues and fixes recorded in a structured way, so you end up with a bucket called "Stuff." This is all well and good until you assess how much it is costing you to stand still.

The true value of your team is its business expertise. That expertise is best utilized when team members are completing much needed business changes and projects. An external support team may help bring some supplemental structure to your production support process. They will ensure all fixes are categorized and  documented, so you have a true picture of your system issues. Additionally, they should promote problem management best practices to fix the root cause of every issue and provide thorough knowledge transfer that enhances the skills of your team.

What's your current work backlog? 
Do you have a large backlog of issues that you never seem to clear? Do you have change requests from the business that you are struggling to review and prioritize? Is you team under constant pressure to meet multiple conflicting or shifting deadlines? While you will always have a backlog, you should assess whether it is growing at an unsustainable rate or is currently too large and uncontrollable. If you are struggling to get your backlog under control, you could find that it's an IT problem that's having an effect on business.

What is the size and skill level of your team? 
How many people do you have that can support your system? Can they cover the necessary functional areas of the system?  Some areas of SAP, by their nature, are highly specialized and while they still require support, there is not enough need to justify a dedicated person. Ideally you would like your team to be cross-functional, but that is not always possible. That's why it's important that you map your system modules to the skills of your team. Then create a plan to fill the gaps by either increasing your team’s skills or utilizing external help.

Ask yourself these questioins before deciding on the IT and SAP production support approach that's right for you. A properly implemented third-party production support model helps you optimize your organizational needs, enhance time management and reduce overhead costs.

To learn more about how third-party production support helps you optimize your SAP approach and frees up your team to focus on valuable system enhancements, please contact us directly.


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