Photo credit: SAP

There’s an urban legend/dubious pub tale that goes something like this: There is more technology built into your digital watch today than they used to run the Apollo moon landings. In truth, the Apollo 11 mission’s computers could outstrip most modern smartwatches, but they were definitely ­less powerful than today’s smartphones.

Regardless of beer-fueled exaggeration and colorful comparisons, we are still fond of drawing an association between the technology used to get us into space and what we deploy daily down here on Earth. But you can’t argue this point: In any modern business, the IT department is the mothership.

But where NASA’s mission control operations were predominantly located in one centralized room, the mission control for modern data and software development operations is a far more distributed, fragmented, and siloed affair. In the current age of cloud and services-based computing, a new type of control room is needed.

Four Globally Located SAP Control Centers

SAP didn’t necessarily take its inspiration from NASA when it started creating its Control Center offerings designed to help customers run SAP HANA, mobile, and cloud technologies. But then again, it kind of did. This is cloud and mobile technology running over the ether, through time and space.

Part of the SAP Active Global Support organization, SAP has launched four Control Centers to date, including two in China, one in Pennsylvania, and one in Germany, with others planned in Brazil and Mexico.

What SAP Control Centers Do

The control center model from SAP includes three areas of responsibility: the Innovation Control Center (ICC), Operations Control Center (OCC), and Mission Control Center (MCC). The ICC and OCC are set up at a customer’s site of choice, while the MCC is located at one of the SAP Control Center facilities. At go-live, the ICC transitions to become part of the OCC.

Each Control Center has its own area of responsibility:

  • The SAP Innovation Control Center (ICC) orchestrates customer solutions to accelerate time to value and avoid unnecessary modifications after deployment.
  • The SAP Operations Control Center (OCC) focuses on improving business processes, enhancing business continuity, and reducing the total cost of operations.
  • The SAP Mission Control Center (MCC) integrates with longer-term SAP platform development and provides support, consultation, and custom development options with risk mitigation to run throughout the life cycle of the project.

“The control center approach is not only designed to fix issues, but also to make installations go more smoothly from the beginning and increase satisfaction at all stages of a customer’s relationship with SAP. Experience has shown that customers have avoided up to 90 percent of unnecessary modifications and have decreased costs for post go-live support by up to 60 percent,” explains Brain Wasson, director of global marketing and communications for SAP.

A Single Source of Truth Across One Team

The SAP control center methodology centers around what the company considers a “one team” approach. SAP experts are embedded within the customer’s on-premises team. They’re responsible for both working in concert with the staff at the SAP Mission Control Center and bringing the customer’s staff together as one united team.

The flow of information from the control center appears in a dashboard that is relevant to both technical and less-technical team members, for example software application developers, project managers, and business owners.

SAP explains that its control center staff works to help customers build their own IT deployments based on what it considers “model company templates” that reflect best practices, as well as preconfigured, prototype-based deployments with built-in safeguards.

What an SAP Cloud Control Center Looks Like

The physical premises of the SAP cloud control centers occupy five key spaces:

  • The Control Center room: Mega-screens and video conferencing systems connect remotely to customer systems in real time to help guide customers through technical procedures and best practices.
  • Deployment rooms: These are populated by technical quality managers who oversee integrations between SAP and non-SAP systems to help configure, implement, and deploy all technologies at optimal levels.
  • Engagement support areas: These spaces exist to help customers address specific support requests anytime.
  • The partner room: This area focuses on making sure customers can oversee integration validation. It’s staffed to help customers work with SAP partners and their own technologies.
  • The collaboration area: A place where outside experts can work with SAP staff to help nurture the “one team” approach and embrace the design thinking practices that SAP recommends bringing to the customer’s process of managing the IT stack.

Space Jokes and Coffee

As we have suggested, this is not exactly SAP emulating a NASA control room with all the buzzers and pings you might expect at Cape Canaveral, but it’s certainly the cloud and data analytics equivalent designed to help customers boldly go forward into their digital transformations.

SAP’s Mission Control Centers might feature fewer spaceships, just one planet, and absolutely no chance of alien encounters, but the comparisons are there. And the term “mission critical” still genuinely applies, with all the gravitas you might expect. SAP systems, without argument, are some of the most mission-critical portions of the enterprise systems for all types of businesses. If you listen closely, you might even hear someone in the room say, “HANA? We have no problems.”

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