IT Service Management – SAP Cloud ALM or SAP Solution Manager?

IT Service Management (ITSM) supports you handling incidents of your SAP solution. SAP Cloud ALM and SAP Solution Manager offer quite different approaches for this. When you think about which ALM solution fits better to your SAP S/4HANA Cloud solution, it is important to consider the main differences in IT Service Management as well. In this blog post, I will comment on the differences and their impact for you. This is another part of the blog series ALM for SAP S/4HANA Cloud 

Why is ITSM handled differently in SAP Cloud ALM and SAP Solution Manager? This is mainly due to changes in SAP Support in recent years.  

Traditional SAP Support 

Let us look back about 20 years in history first. SAP Solution Manager was still a young product. At that time, most customers of SAP had SAP R/3 as central ERP system. But some customers started already integrating other SAP products to their SAP R/3 system. And the support of such distributed environments provided challenges for SAP support. Mastering these challenges was one of the main reasons why SAP introduced SAP Solution Manager and included its usage rights in the SAP support agreements. 

SAP Solution Manager streamlines the collaboration between SAP support and customers. Located in the customer on-premise landscape, it collects incidents from the different SAP components. The customer support organization can analyze the incidents in the service desk of SAP Solution Manager and either fix them themselves or forward the problem to SAP support. In later case, colleagues from SAP support can access your SAP Solution Manager (if you allow this) to do a root-cause analysis and to propose a problem resolution. I found an old picture in the archive depicting this service infrastructure. 

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This general principle with SAP Solution Manager as collaboration platform has not changed. But of course, the scope has been enhanced over time. Let me just mention three important steps here: 

  • With the introduction of the new support model SAP Enterprise Support in 2008, the usage rights for SAP Solution Manager have been enhanced. Customers with the new maintenance agreement are entitled to use SAP Solution Manager not only for SAP components but for their whole IT, including non-SAP components. This implies that they can use the service desk of SAP Solution Manager for the whole IT as well. 
  • SAP Solution Manager 7.1, SP10 introduced a service catalog. It enables your IT organization to ease the ordering of IT services for business users and to improve the service delivery. This is a crucial step from re-active incident and problem management to pro-active care.
  • In 2013, SAP Solution Manager 7.1 received a certification that it supports all 15 certifiable IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL®) processes. This proves that SAP Solution Manager provides predefined processes which are 100% aligned with best practices according to independently defined IT Service Management standards. 

Some customers of SAP use third-party service desks for their IT support. SAP did not want to change this. Therefore, SAP provided a bi-directional open interface for the service desk of SAP Solution Manager already in the early stages. To be realistic, only a minority of SAP customers uses the SAP Solution Manager service desk alone for supporting their SAP solution.  

Next-Generation Support 

Support from SAP keeps evolving. Next-Generation Support aims at effortless, anytime, anywhere support, using the latest technology and tools to speed time to answers. 

  • More channels of access to SAP for help, and increased ease of access to expert help – seamlessly integrated
  • Easy-to-use and comprehensive self-help tools and resources 
  • Personalized help and resources to speed time to answers 
  • More interactive help through use of social media 
  • New cloud product-specific tools and dashboards 
  • Anywhere access through mobile and Built-In Support  

Especially the last bullet replaces somehow the role that SAP Solution Manager played in the past. With Built-In Support, an intelligent support assistant delivers help and support to you directly through your SAP application. This eliminates the need to leave the business context for getting help or for requesting support. The use of situational context enables us to offer intelligent and proactive support. With this, you get access to content, tools, and channels of SAP’s Product Support right at your fingertips. You do not need a collaboration platform like SAP Solution Manager installed at your own premises anymore. 

Built-In Support is currently available in a limited number of SAP products, including SAP S/4HANA Cloud and SAP Cloud ALM. However, the goal is to include it in all products of the Intelligent Enterprise. Therefore, we made the strategic decision to not develop a redundant collaboration platform in SAP Cloud ALM. And even if you have SAP components that are not supported by Built-In Support yet: You can still use the other components of Next-Generation Support, like real-time support channels, the peer-to peer platform Ask an Expert Peer to engage with qualified peers from outside SAP, self-service tools like the SAP Knowledge Base Article service, Guided Answers and the AI-driven tools like Incident Solution Matching. 

General Service Desk 

SAP customers with an on-premise SAP Enterprise Support maintenance agreement are entitled to use the service desk in SAP Solution Manager not only for supporting SAP solutions but for their entire IT support. With this, you can use SAP Solution Manager as a general IT service desk. The usage rights for SAP Cloud ALM do not allow using it for 3rd-party products.  

With all the components of Next-Generation Support, developing a separate service desk in SAP Cloud ALM has low priority for SAP. Multiple 3rd-party ITSM solutions are available as alternatives. Therefore, we decided not to invest in a service desk in SAP Cloud ALM. You can run your own ITSM solution in parallel to SAP Cloud ALM. For example, there is an integration to create ServiceNow tickets for events detected by SAP Cloud ALM for Operations available already today. And integration of further service desks is planned as well. 

Conclusion 

While discussing if SAP Cloud ALM or SAP Solution Manager is the better choice for you regarding SAP S/4HANA Cloud, consider these three key questions from the ITSM perspective: 

  • Do you need your own ITSM solution from SAP at all, or can you use another ITSM solution?
  • Is Built-In Support sufficient for you, or do you have components in your IT landscape that are not supported by Built-In Support? 
  • In case you need your own ITSM solution, would it be OK to subscribe for a 3rd-party solution? 

And remember: This is just regarding IT Service Management. There are other areas to be considered as well, as described in other blogs of my blog series ALM for SAP S/4HANA Cloud. So, add these questions to your decision table on whether SAP Cloud ALM or SAP Solution Manager is the better ALM solution for you. 

Next Steps 

Please feel free to add your comments or related questions to this blog post below.  

IT Service Management is just one aspect when discussing if SAP Cloud ALM or SAP Solution Manager is the better ALM solution for you. Find similar discussions on other aspects in my ALM for SAP S/4HANA Cloud blog series. <Start of series>  <Previous post 

And follow the tags SAP Cloud ALM or SAP Solution Manager for related information. Thank you.