If you’re looking to automate your SAP implementation, you’re not alone. Many organizations have no idea how to incorporate SAP into their existing processes. And as a result, they end up with a system that doesn’t fit their needs.
Automation of SAP operations: the automated execution of
the most important build and run tasks for SAP systems and SAP applications.
What is SAP Automation?
When it comes to SAP automation there is a wide variety of different meanings attached to it, so there is probably no easy way to provide a simple answer to this question. What you consider an automation tool in the context of SAP depends probably on the role you fill in.
If you look at it from a business process perspective, you may come across robotic process automation (RPA), and if that sounds somewhat tautological to you, you’re not alone. It essentially means using bots to automate business processes, for instance within SAP Business Objects.
If in turn, you look from an SAP application perspective, automation of test cases in different application areas may spring to mind, trying to simplify an SAP performance test suite, perhaps including regression testing and functional testing. This area for instance is covered by SAP TAO (Test Acceleration and Optimization), SAP eCATT, as well as alternatives like the free JMeter.
And there is one final area we want to talk about because it will become ever more important in the future: Automation of SAP operations, the automated execution of the most important build and run tasks for SAP systems and SAP applications!
Why is SAP Automation important?
There are (at least) two major drivers of change in the SAP ecosystem. On the one hand, there is the prevalent industry trend of migrating workloads to the cloud, including SAP workloads. On the other hand, there is SAP’s very own strategy of moving everyone to SAP S/4HANA. You see both of these combined in the recent announcement of RISE with SAP.
These two major trends, alongside the need for innovation, will provide tremendous career opportunities for every regarded SAP consultant. However, these are the very same people you need to keep the lights on in your SAP Basis shop: starting and stopping your SAP landscapes over the weekend, so your operating system team can apply patches. Or to change the SAP kernels and apply the latest security enhancements. Or to figure out which SAP Notes are relevant for the plethora of different components to assure an ongoing quality of service.
If you’re working in SAP application development or are a member of the test teams, don’t get me wrong: automation in this area is and will be key to keep end-users happy. But it’s unlikely the near future will bring as many changes to your work life as automation will for your colleagues in SAP operations.
What are some benefits of SAP automation?
It would be a euphemism to call this a benefit because you simply have to. There is just not enough talent in the market to cover both, the migration and innovation work providing benefits to the business, and the mundane tasks of SAP operations, let alone things like monitoring. And if you believe you can simply solve this problem by bringing in a couple of more SAP consultants from a service provider, then please read again. Everyone will try to do this.
Using an automation platform like Avantra adds a reliable virtual member to your team. And this team member does not bother working late hours or over the weekend.
However, there are of course some additional benefits. Using an automation platform like Avantra adds a reliable virtual member to your team. And this team member does not bother working late hours or over the weekend. SAP automation will relieve your SAP operations team from stress and increase their peace of mind. Plus there plenty of other benefits my colleague Tyler Constable already described in How Do I Convince My Business to Deploy Avantra?
What are the risks of SAP automation?
Unfortunately, there is a structural risk attached to SAP automation, at least in the context of automating SAP operations. In this area, basically the SAP Basis, you can look at SAP systems from an infrastructure perspective. There are many successful players in infrastructure automation, like Terraform, Ansible, Chef, Puppet, and probably others more.
Alles these solutions take advantage of the concept of infrastructure as code. Like source code, the people in development compile into executable programs, a whole piece of landscape (consisting of operating systems, databases, applications) can be compiled into an executable infrastructure. Now, if a software developer needs to apply changes to the program, they modify the code, compile it again, and replace the old executable with the new one.
The same holds true in our infrastructure as code example: instead of modifying the operating system or database or application directly, DevOps people modify the code and rebuild the infrastructure. This fundamental concept of immutable infrastructures makes automation extremely easy. And it allows for all sorts of testing before you modify your production systems.
Unfortunately, we cannot transfer this concept to SAP operations. Apart perhaps from a very basic SAP HANA system in the cloud, there is no easy way to set up an SAP system based on code. And if you think of all the customizing settings and development code your SAP Basis people transport through the system landscape, you can perhaps imagine how far this is away from immutable infrastructures. And, unfortunately, this ultimately results in extremely heterogeneous SAP system landscapes.
So, in SAP automation we cannot borrow from software developers or DevOps engineers. The only option is to automate based on the wealth of knowledge and the experience of SAP Basis engineers.
How can we build a robust SAP automation strategy for our company?
There is one fundamental building blog to leverage robust SAP operation automation and to mitigate the risks outlined above: your SAP Basis engineers have to stay in control! If someone promises you a black box, probably AI-powered that is supposed to do the work of your SAP Basis staff, you should be extremely suspicious.
It’s your SAP Basis staff that know how to operate your SAP landscape in your particular environment. Only if these people are able to understand how an SAP automation task is executed and what it changes under the hood, only then it can be safely automated. And only if these people know they can trust an automation tool they will see it as an opportunity!
At Avantra we have the vision of a world in which SAP teams are empowered,
where they are automating repetitive tasks, ensuring business continuity
and delivering best practices.
At Avantra we have the vision of a world in which SAP teams are empowered, where they are automating repetitive tasks, ensuring business continuity and delivering best practices. This vision is the foundation of the AIOps platform we provide. We started this journey twenty years ago with automating Daily Checks, automating system health monitoring, and automating Service Level Reporting. We continued with automating the starting and stopping of complete SAP landscapes, including virtual machines, as well as automating the upgrade of SAP and HANA kernels. One of the next steps on this journey will be the setting of profile parameters, alongside automated retrieval of relevant SAP Notes for your landscapes.
The secret of successful automation is to do the very small tasks extremely well and extremely reliably. Because they build the foundation of every larger automation task. Given the complexity of the SAP ecosystems out there, the world of empowered SAP teams has to be connected. We at Avantra are committed to establish a community and connect these teams, around SAP monitoring, and around SAP automation.
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