The third and final chapter in our three part blog series. John Appleby sits down with Nick Miletich, CTO at Managecore, to discuss how building a next generation managed service firm had to include automation at the helm.
About Nick Miletich, Chief Technical Officer at ManageCore:
I’ve been in the SAP tech industry going on 19 years. I focus mostly on the technology stack in hosting SAP and managing SAP. This is what we call the Basis platform. In addition to that, the hosting platforms and evolving into the cloud stack. So the public clouds the hyperscalers such as Google Cloud, Azure, AWS.
A bit about Managecore:
It is a managed services firm that handles the project work to migrate clients into public clouds in addition to supporting them ongoing from both an SAP Basis standpoint and a public cloud standpoint. So really an all encompassing solution for our clients
John: What's next for you guys along the hyperautomation journey? What are the next priorities? Is it some of the stuff we talked about already or is there stuff that we need to build for you?
Nick: Yeah, I know we're working with you to really get engaged in the cloud in 2022 and going into 2023. We really want to focus on how we can integrate SAP and the cloud using Avantra and really getting that single pane of glass. Getting that automation configured. In addition to that we've been really listening to the market. A lot of the market drives what we do and we feel as we move upstream and clients and their size and, even smaller clients say we try to take a lot of that feedback continually with our meetings with our clients and say what's the next road map for what we do here at Managecore.
Some of the items that we've been doing is trying to think of out of the box ways to use Avantra. One would be how do we perform audits using Avantra? I know the tool set has capabilities to dig into a lot of different areas but our clients, as they get larger, they want to understand how are you meeting their SOCS requirements? How are you meeting their Audit requirements? And we can use Avantra to do that. Now we've developed that over the last several months and are using Avantra in areas like that. So it really is driven by our growth but it's also driven by what our clients want.
Since the latest version of Avantra, we have the capability now to do refresh automation to an extent so we're heavily working with your team to get that going as well, to be able to also provide additional value and try to be first and foremost and in sync with what you guys are doing so that we can take advantage right out of the gate for functionality for what you guys deploy. So it's going to be a lot more automation, a lot more into the cloud and really focusing on security would be the next aspect of it, I think, into 2023.
John: Yeah, there’s one thing on my mind; you've got this “No Ops” movement which might be just a buzzword but I do wonder to what extent we can put the control of these systems into the hands of the people who are responsible for them. You gave the great example of auto scaling, so you're doing a new product launch and then all of a sudden you find that on the retail side you're getting hits down into ‘available to promise’ to find availability, your R3 system or your S4 system starts to slow, and you should be able to then notify out through workflows to the person and say, “Hey you've got a problem. You're running out of capacity. Do you want to authorize this spend of ten thousand dollars on three additional AWS dialogue systems to allow you to improve the response time? Yes or no?” Then you approve it and, bam! It goes to the automation engine, we spin up the cloud systems and the response time improves. They get a notification… problem solved.
Do you think that's something that customers want?
Nick:I think it's coming. I think that will be something that we take a look at here once we get the cloud integration ironed out. I do think though that there is some truth to that but there's also the piece where there's always going to be - especially with larger clients - some type of regulation. So although I do see the ability to do that, I think that some clients aren't there. They’re either over matured in their own processes or not mature enough to grab that and be able to make it fit into Regulatory Compliance or things like that. So there are clients in use cases for that but I can also see areas where we likely won't be able to do that because you need approval. You need approval somewhere else, it can't just be a click of a button so I think there will be the time and place for that. But I think that it's probably a few years out.
I would say more so on the back end. So maybe as you automate let's say the refresh process, right? That in general doesn't take more money or require some compliance hoop to jump through because it's within a quality system. So being able to click a button and say “Start a Refresh” on the client side, I could see that coming in short order and working your way towards other other bigger things like deploying servers.
Our clients, as they get larger, they want to understand how are you meeting their SOCS requirements? How are you meeting their Audit requirements? And we can use Avantra to do that.
John: Yeah and we've got customers that are doing that already by the way. What they've actually done is a little bit interesting. They put it in the hands of the business operations team or the business IT operations - so not Basis but the people that run the 24/7 operations. They take requests in via service management from the business saying, “Hey I need this data Refresh.” They provide a level of sanity and get the approvals, then they kick it off. But there is then no SAP team involved in that which is really interesting.
This is a good time to say, is there anything I missed? I know I jumped around a little bit but are there any key things I missed?
Nick: I don't think so. Maybe I could ask you a question? I mean, where do you see the roadmap for hyperautomation going from an Avantra perspective?
John: We think of this set of business processes that run the business, and obviously we don't think about that broader set of business processes for the wider business. That's the domain of businesses like Solonex and Signavio, and even SAP. we're thinking about obviously the SAP IT portion of that. So we're constantly thinking what are those processes that are going on, what's happening within the IT management space for SAP and, where are the opportunities?
What I can tell you is that we've built this automation engine which can really do anything now, with our Avantra 23 release - it's really cool. We'll talk about that some more but with the maturity of that engine, we can do almost anything and we can't keep up with the ideas that people have got because the moment you do a data refresh, I mean okay that's great, but now all of a sudden we've got to obfuscate. We've got to do time slices.
The other requests, which are orthogonal, come in. For the first few customers we are now doing support package stats - end to end, fully automated, just a press of a button. So we want to get the download management portion of that done so it's downloading them automatically in the background, like your Apple update does, so it's got the data it needs for
all the systems that you've got. So we just see all these opportunities for so much low hanging fruit.
Our strategy for the next year is basically just getting to as much of that fruit as possible, and getting the templates and the use cases out to customers. So I can't see past that at the minute because there's just hundreds - if not thousands - of small business processes which are these minor change requests that come in. If you're paying for consulting, they're 10, 20, $30,000 of change requests and we can just turn them into a click of a button!
Nick: That sounds great, I mean I feel your pain, you know. There's a lot of change requests going on and that is a big pain point for our clients. That's something that managers are striving to do along with your tool is, you know, how can we provide more not necessarily for less, but for free of charge, right? I mean there's a lot of tasks that occur on a daily basis or a weekly or a monthly basis that just take time.
But to be more competitive in the market, to provide value and to provide automation does, to an extent, drive costs down and allow us, Managecore to stay competitive. But also use your tool sets to offer products and solutions that are just not heard of in the industry today. So it's been great trying to use your product set to provide more value to our clients.
John: Yeah no, I'm super excited about what we're doing together, it's awesome.
If you want to find out more about how Managecore creates value and transparency within their SAP operations with Avantra, you can read Managecore's case study.
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