Welcome to the third edition of Your SAP Investment Unleashed, a new column from Kristen Scheffler, Vice President of Customer Evolution for North America, SAP, and VerNeil Mesecher, Sr. Director of Customer Engagement Events Liaison for North America, SAP. Together, they’re part of SAP Customer Evolution, an organization focused on supporting, guiding, educating, listening to, and enabling customers to get the most out of their SAP investments.

As we navigate these first few weeks of 2024, the words of Frank Sinatra come to mind. As he once so famously sang, “The best is yet to come.” Happy New Year to our entire SAP user community!

In continuing our series on how SAP customers can fully unleash the value of their SAP investments, we're dedicating this week’s column to discussing the importance of leveraging SAP Support tools you already have access to as part of your existing SAP investments.

Through maintenance and cloud subscriptions, you can access various resources to help you navigate SAP solutions, concentrated on learning, enablement, reports, services, and real-time assistance—to name a few. It can feel like drinking from a fire hose at times to understand and utilize all these tools, and SAP Customer Evolution is here to help.

But why hear it only from us? We asked your fellow SAP customers to provide insights into the value they’ve unlocked by utilizing SAP Support tools to the max. 

Below are our conversations with ASUG members Tim Nguyen, SAP S/4HANA Project Enterprise Architect at Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) and ASUG Philadelphia Chapter Volunteer; Susan Stone, Sr. Manager Business Solutions at Border States; Bob Bucy, Supply Chain Business Analyst at bioMérieux and ASUG Carolinas Chapter Chair; Carol Cardaci, Senior Manager of Operations and Support - IT Applications at PBF Energy; George Grix and Colin Gesink, SAP Architects at Steelcase; and a Senior SAP IT Professional at a large automotive/services company who preferred not to be named in their responses.

These interviews have been edited and condensed.

How did you find out about the breadth of the SAP Support portfolio?

Nguyen: NTUA was approached by the SAP Enterprise Support team as it sought assistance in planning SAP S/4HANA digital transformation project. Customers can discover the breadth of the SAP Support portfolio by attending presentations at ASUG conferences and ASUG chapter meetings.

Bucy: A large amount of what I know about SAP Support offerings comes through ASUG, particularly via presentations from the Customer Evolution team. More information comes from notifications in SAP for Me.

Cardaci: The transition team that worked with PBF Energy to bring us back on SAP Support did a phenomenal job of presenting what was available to us and how to access it. As we worked through the transition, we were helped to utilize tools and support already available to us.

Grix and Gesink: The Enterprise Support Value maps are a great resource to learn more about SAP’s support offerings. As customers who have used SAP Support for many years, we found that value maps provide new ways to engage with SAP. Also, it’s beneficial to spend extra time exploring new features in SAP for Me. Many offerings are presented in a way that allows users to instantly utilize them.

SAP Sapphire and ASUG events are great resources to learn more about SAP Support. These events allow users to connect with folks from SAP, as well as other SAP customers who recognize the value of SAP Support.

Stone: When I joined ASUG back in the day, VerNeil would tell me about what he did to support SAP and our customers, and I would pinch myself: "Free? What unicorn is this? SAP helping customers for 'free?'" I would attend his sessions and listen to his conversations with other SAP customers. Still, I couldn't believe it. Positions like his are 100% an investment in the customer's experience with SAP, seeking ways to improve each customer's experience. There are so few companies that truly invest in their customers and even fewer who do so without expecting a direct, hard ROI from the investment.

Finally, in 2017, I had my chance to see what this unicorn was all about when I became Director of ERP for the City of Houston. Operating on an extremely lean budget for its SAP ERP solution (like many public sectors), the City of Houston needed help. My first month on the job, I invited VerNeil and his team to visit the City of Houston's IT ERP office and present all the wonders and benefits of SAP support to my entire ERP team. They were as amazed—and skeptical—as I had been. Over the course of the next year, the team and I planned to determine:

1) Where were we taking the City of Houston's ERP? (Clearly, SAP S/4HANA was on the horizon.)

2) How could we squeeze the maximum amount of value from this unicorn to get us there on a budget?

SAP IT Professional: It's a continual growth process, with occasional growing pains.

I learned about the SAP Support portfolio from multiple sources and content. I’m over-subscribed to various tags and locations, and perhaps also to connections, including:

  • The SAP Community’s “coming soon” updates, at least the tags/follow items.
  • ASUG, which allows me to subscribe to areas, which can be helpful.
  • LinkedIn, for its SAP Community; I subscribe to relevant tags.
  • OpenSAP, as it moves forward in its evolution in 2024.
  • Various SAP newsletters.

How have you been using SAP Support besides tickets?

Stone: We use SAP Support to schedule SAP Expert Support, for expert chats, for learning journeys, and for certification of our Customer Center of Expertise (COE) organization.

Nguyen: There's a lot to SAP Enterprise Support, such as online education and training, SAP Value Maps, Continuous Quality Checks (CQCs), and Expert Guided Installation, among other offerings.

Cardaci: We've worked directly with SAP experts and requested or received several CQCs on SAP as we moved to the cloud and consolidated our SAP environment. Before we put SAP Solution Manager in place after the transition, SAP provided us with Data Volume Management (DVM) and Custom Code reports, which were reviewed in detail by PBF. Before we ever open tickets, we do our own research through the SAP portal around issues, notes, and functionality. We also consistently review, use, and reference training documentation. Occasionally, I do ask questions in the SAP Learning Hub.

Grix and Gesink: We're always finding new, beneficial features in SAP for Me.

In the reporting section of SAP for Me, the SAP EarlyWatch Alert service is visible in the portal. These alerts are more interactive than the large PDF documents that were distributed in the past. In our experience, these alerts include a lot of great graphs and helpful dashboards.

Another nice tool in SAP for Me is Custom Code Analytics. With this tool, you can see how close your system is to the SAP standard, as well as the number of custom objects in your system and how frequently they're being utilized. With older systems, it's common to find many custom objects are no longer used.

With the range of products available from SAP, it can be difficult to determine the capabilities of our current products. To that end, we have engaged with SAP Support to proactively discover the capabilities of products that we own today but aren't using.

SAP IT Professional: SAP has a role as a Customer Success Partner (CSP). The CSPs are great because they help you better utilize the SAP product they work with. They can address items not for support ticket/consulting hours but that still require some clarification, improvement, or adoption.

We're an SAP MaxAttention customer and benefit from that on “run” and other areas. We also buy SAP Consulting hours each year through MaxAttention. These are used as “call off-hours" to help with various items that appear during the year.

We use SAP Learning Hub, learning paths, and other such content. The content ranges from free to pre-paid (SAP Learning Hub, edition for SAP Enterprise Support) to paid (SAP Learning Hub, purchased through a user group).

We have used the SAP EarlyWatch Alert service actively for several years now. This benefits our productive SAP instances.

Bucy: I have a lot of support responsibility, so tickets are the largest part of what I do in SAP Support. My organization has also used services such as the SAP Readiness Check to begin investigating S/4 options.

What have you used as part of your SAP Support investment to help your organization? What was beneficial, and why would you recommend it?

Nguyen: NTUA has benefited from the numerous CQCs, online education and training classes, Value Maps, and Expert-Guided Implementations (EGIs), in addition to SAP Readiness Check. Services offered by SAP Enterprise Support are paid for (as part of SAP annual maintenance), and the information delivered through that support has been very valuable in planning, as well as making changes for improvements. The CQCs for Security Optimization and Data Management have been particularly helpful.

Bucy: I tend to exhaust my own knowledge and all internal resources before I reach out to SAP. My greatest benefit comes from SAP’s help with tickets. Based on what I see in SAP for Me from the rest of our organization, I think our greatest interaction with SAP Support is through tickets.

Stone: We were able to show “before-and-after” benchmarks for areas of optimization in our data center improvements and analytics improvements.

Grix and Gesink: We run SAP EarlyWatch Alert reports on our systems and review these proactively. The reports help us understand security risks and performance issues. Many of the learning journeys available as part of SAP Enterprise Support have been valuable jump-starts for employees to begin to understand the SAP ecosystem.

SAP IT Professional: We use the normal ticket approach for items that are broken, impaired, or don’t seem to work right, which could be down to knowledge gaps on our part at times. We have used the pre-go-live checks, to try and ensure that go-live performs as expected. We have used and continue to use SAP Learning Hub to gain focused knowledge on a topic.

We access the SAP Community to stay informed and to gain knowledge and guidance on topics that don't require logging a support case and are not [the purview of] external consulting.

In general, I recommend many of the support items and capabilities to stay current in the SAP space as it brings up a lot of topics and addresses a lot of changes. Our personal and work lives bring a constant barrage of changes, and items today have a shorter life than several years back. It seems that most areas have bought into Minimal Viable Product, iterative development, and working toward the next best development. In the SAP space, this means that for those SAP ECC skill areas that a lot of us “old timers” have – MM/SD/PP/FI/etc. – while the latest processes will often be similar, the actual hands-on configuration and work in those areas is now constantly changing.

Leveraging the support items helps with awareness, planning, and better handling of those changes. The better we understand and adapt to the changes, the more capability we can offer to our business users.

How have you used the real-time support options (Expert Chat, Schedule an Expert) and would you recommend it to others?

SAP IT Professional: I have only minimally used the real-time support option, as my topics seem to be special, and real-time support isn’t always possible. I agree and support this is the way to approach items: solve it in one pass rather than the previous way of offering support back and forth in the SAP case or ticket.

Cardaci: This can be a little tricky, as Expert Chats are way less helpful, as the answers are very generic and usually tell us what we already researched. Expert Chats go in loops over and over. They have not been of great benefit. However, the Schedule an Expert option has been very good.

Grix and Gesink: The Expert Chat support channel is helpful when you need interaction with an expert to resolve an issue or answer a question. We have used this channel a few times at Steelcase, and it helped bring about quick resolutions. Additionally, the ability to share screens is helpful, so the SAP expert can see step-by-step what we are working through. Steelcase has also used the Schedule an Expert feature for a call with a product expert, to better share details on our issue.

Bucy: I’ve used the Expert Chat option frequently and used Schedule an Expert a couple of times. For me, both are game changers. I wish they'd been available “back in the day” when I started with SAP. Expert Chat has bailed me out a couple of times on a Friday afternoon (which is usually when ugly issues happen, according to Murphy’s Law). I’ve used Schedule an Expert on more complex issues, where SAP Support representatives needed some preparation time. In some cases, I have an “oh, that...” moment when I see the solution, but that’s OK. Sometimes, I just need another set of eyes on the problem. It was great to run into a support rep on one of my calls who learned handling-unit management from the same expert I learned from.

How do you ensure others in your organization are leveraging support for more than just tickets?

Stone: I talk about the benefits until I'm blue in the face... because it is so hard for people to wrap their heads around the fact that it is free... and then how to engage with it.

Nguyen: It will take commitment and hard work, including naming one or more resources from the SAP team to work in coordination with numerous SAP Enterprise Support teams. Planning sessions will need to be held so that the value of investing time and effort (including that of human resources) is understood.

Grix and Gesink: We have held "lunch-and-learn" sessions explaining SAP Support offerings to our IT staff. These sessions allow members to share their personal experiences with Expert Chat, Schedule a Manager, Schedule an Expert, etc.

Cardaci: I try to provide lunch-and-learn sessions with some frequency to showcase the SAP portal to colleagues in IT. I need to do it more often though as there are still big gaps in IT on what information or support is available to us.

SAP IT Professional: We encourage and support people to leverage the various SAP offerings. With the pace of change now, iterative deliveries, shorter life cycles on items, and more frequent changes, our people need to be informed and aware. Leveraging the various SAP offerings also helps. We can find information on our own to move items forward. It also helps if consulting is needed because we are not starting from a beginner's point. We can have some awareness before we get into an area.

Bucy: I don’t have a lot of control over what others around my organization may be doing, so I just try to share my own positive experiences. Sometimes I do that internally through a Teams channel or an email. I’ll often post those experiences on LinkedIn to share with the rest of the world as well.

What recommendations do you have for others to get more out of SAP Support?

Bucy: My first recommendation for those in a support role is to use Expert Chat whenever it's offered. Even if you don’t get an immediate solution, you’ll get your issue in front of SAP Support more quickly and be sure that it’s routed to the correct group. And don’t be afraid of overusing this resource, as the folks in SAP Support are looking for opportunities to help. Additionally, we have an incredible resource available to us in Kristen, VerNeil, and the SAP Customer Evolution team. Reach out to them via email or LinkedIn with questions, and keep an eye out for presentations from their team at upcoming ASUG events.

Cardaci: It needs to be a constant reference for SAP customers in their day-to-day work as SAP changes the locations of resources and the names of solutions, which is very aggravating… Once you bookmark items to reference again, chances are, the next time you look for them, those items will no longer be accessible in the same location. If you're consistently in there, changes are noticed much earlier and it’s not as frustrating when there is a high priority need to find something…

Grix and Gesink: Self-learners will find the SAP Support Accreditation program helpful. This three-and-a-half-hour course consists of four units and includes knowledge quizzes that check for understanding of the content. At the end of the session, users receive a record of achievement.

SAP IT Professional: I recommend if possible that people reach out to an SAP contact to get an overview of the current SAP Support offerings in their existing commercial agreement, and learn if other items could be purchased. If an SAP contact isn’t possible, take a self-discovery journey starting in SAP for Me (with proper authorizations on your “S” user). Review the available offerings. Look at cost and payback for a value proposition.

If possible, start small and grow. Continual learning has been a buzzword but work to enable the people in your company to do that. Set aside time for them to take “learning” opportunities; this could mean reading a blog or taking online courses. There are many ways to learn. Ensure they take the time via personal chats or time allocation tracking. Encourage them to share what they’ve learned internally, whether that’s through internal communication or a periodic knowledge share session.

We would like to thank our customers for providing valuable, insightful perspectives on how they are best leveraging SAP Support. There’s more to support than just ‘incidents’, and we hope that you take this commentary and bring it back into your organization, to use more of what you already own.

Are you curious to learn more about the resources mentioned above? We’ve added some quick links below to assist you in your journey.

SAP for Me: Home

SAP Enterprise Support: SAP Enterprise Support Academy

Readiness Check: SAP Readiness Check - SAP for Me

Cloud ALM and Solution Manager: Application Lifecycle Management

SAP Community: Home

SAP Learning: Software Training, Certification and Learning

Expert Chat/Schedule an Expert: Get Support

SAP Support Accreditation: Get Started

Your SAP Investment Unleashed is intended to answer your burning questions and address hot topics for the SAP community. Please contact the authors with your questions, and future editions of this column will address them. Kristen Scheffler can be reached at kristen.scheffler@sap.com, and VerNeil Mesecher, Jr. can be reached at verneil.mesecher@sap.com.

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