Sometimes the best thing you can say about a particular piece of technology is that it’s so good that the people who make the most use of it don’t even know it’s there. That’s application lifecycle management (ALM) in a nutshell: the best ALM technology and processes are invisible to the average user. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Hence, the first big takeaway from the recent ASUG & SAP Application Lifecycle Management Virtual Summit: SAP ALM technology’s evolution makes it possible to manage increasingly complex SAP landscapes, and keep them up and running, as quietly and invisibly as possible.

The second: SAP ALM solutions are increasingly able to directly impact line of business (LoB) users and their needs, which means that an IT department can use ALM to align with business outcomes more directly across the enterprise. This ability to make the IT department a closer ally in overall business success constitutes a win/win/win for IT, the LoB, and SAP.

The Unsung Hero

A focus on this win/win/win aspect of SAP ALM technology is long overdue. ALM is one of the unsung heroes of the SAP enterprise software portfolio, and the Summit was a good reminder that ALM is more important than ever. IT professionals responsible for keeping SAP landscapes up and running are like the stage managers and crew for a Broadway play: behind those flawless soliloquies is a well-oiled backstage machine that makes the magic on stage seem easy, performance after performance. The Summit remind[ed] us that set designers, stage managers, and crew members laboring behind the scenes have a set of tools from SAP that aren’t just well designed—they are an order of magnitude ahead of what the rest of the enterprise software market can provide.

Cloud ALM, or CALM, introduced in 2018, is the best example of SAP market leadership. CALM was designed to support the core processes that go into the four main phases of an implementation project—Design, Build, Test, and Deploy. There were several Summit sessions that highlighted continued improvements in CALM’s capabilities. Among the improvements is the growing support for the entire SAP cloud portfolio—including SuccessFactors and Ariba—in addition to CALM’s support of SAP S/4HANA. (Cue LoB applause.)

Direct Integration Monitoring to Come

In particular, CALM provides increasingly robust support for monitoring business processes and their use by individual end-users. And CALM also is slated to provide direct integration monitoring, ensuring those end-to-end business processes that span heterogenous landscapes optimally work as well. Another win for IT/LoB alignment.

The Summit also laid out the different use cases for SAP Solution Manager—SolMan, its venerable ALM tool for on-premise systems—in addition to Focused Run, the SAP ALM tool for managing multiple, complex systems, including cloud and on-premise systems. In another nod to the importance of business process management, the integration of Signavio, SAP’s recent acquisition in the process mining market, also was a major Summit highlight.

One of the problems SAP customers face is the plethora of ALM solutions. Helping customers distinguish between differing ALM tools is an important SAP task. Making these distinctions even more clear will be an ongoing need for SAP as the functionality of the tools expands and the use cases grow, even as they also continue to overlap.

Three-Solution Approach Makes Sense

Providing a wide range of ALM tools, however, is unavoidable for a company like SAP. Many SAP customers have large, complex SAP landscapes, and are moving forward with a hybrid approach to their digital transformation strategies that include a mix of SAP S/4HANA public and private cloud systems; SAP S/4HANA on-premise systems; and older ECC systems running on premises or in a managed cloud environment—not to mention SuccessFactors, Ariba, and other SAP cloud properties. Faced with the myriad permutations of SAP landscapes, it makes sense that SAP has a three-part approach to ALM in its Solution Manager, CALM, and Focused Run offerings.

Another takeaway from the Summit is that as SAP moves its portfolio into the cloud, the ability of SAP to leverage the vast quantities of data that can be captured in CALM, Solution Manager, and Focused Run provides significant added value for customers and partners. These data can be used for continuous monitoring; real-time problem detection and resolution; and to improve both the underlying SAP systems, as well as the ALM processes themselves. The result will be a further alignment of business and IT outcomes, to the benefit of all.

SAP ALM capabilities are truly unique in the enterprise software market, and the Summit was an excellent showcase for these distinctions. The highest form of ALM stagecraft is, for the business user, invisibility. Nonetheless, everyone in the SAP ecosystem should understand this valuable corner of the SAP portfolio as thoroughly as possible. The Summit was an excellent forum for increasing this understanding across the board.

Joshua Greenbaum is principal at Enterprise Application Consulting.

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