The number of people and the actual management organization to which they belong will heavily depend on the size and budget of the company and the size and importance of SAP systems and applications. Of course, several of the roles that are presented in the following discussion can fall upon a single person. Many companies decide to have their help desk or even their entire IT department outsourced to external and competent organizations.
The first and most important entity that every person or role in the organization must consider is the business itself and the mission. SAP solutions might be implemented because corporate management made a strategic decision to support a new business model, maybe as the result of a reengineering process for supporting the changing business needs to compete in a global market. What is for sure and obvious is that no company should invest in a new system like this without expecting to get some benefit from it. It must be taken into consideration that one of the most important aspects for successful productive operation and organization among all the entities is a fast and efficient communication path among them.
The following is an overview of the various roles.
Users of the business applications that do the work of feeding the system information and obtaining results to help in the decision-making process. End users usually have a partial but very important vision of the business, and sometimes they are the ones who know the very specific details of some business processes. For this reason, the end users also feed information to the business superusers. End users will probably be the largest group in terms of people, and they will be the main requesters of functional and technical support.
Normally, in a good organization, end users should not directly call the application experts but instead call a form of help desk that can be a first line of support which redirects the call to the appropriate person or organization.
This is a group of expert users with a comprehensive knowledge of the business. This group is usually the driver of the whole SAP project and should be made up of people who can make fast decisions.Normally, they belong to the steering committee for the project and assign a project manager or project leader for each of the business areas on which the implementation is based. For example, one leader may be appointed to the FI treasury module, another one to the materials management, another to sales, and so on.
In medium-size to large companies, management often requests an impartial view of the business and help in the implementation techniques, the know-how of the SAP applications software, and the ability for knowledge transfer. Because of the business nature of these projects, it is common to find external business consultants in most SAP projects. These consultants may also have the responsibilities of project managers or project management assistants. SAP has a large number of consulting partners, including the biggest consulting firms plus hundreds of smaller local consulting companies.
SAP Functional Support
Some of the participants in the group of business superusers make up the next group in the figure, SAP functional support. The function of this group is to help in the customizing of the system as well as solving user problems that directly relate to business processes and applications. It is also the function of this group to lead the corrections, enhancements, or new developments in the system according to user requests. Usually, this group is in charge of training the end users in their specific modules as well as receiving support calls that might relate more to functional system aspects than technical problems.
This team is called in when a user gets an error after posting a financial document, or when a user needs a higher customized report of the inventory, and so on. The SAP functional support might rely on an internal or external development team as well as the overall support of the technical group.
The Development Team
This team is only necessary when new developments are needed. When only the development of simple reports is needed, the technical support group could assume some of the development functions. However, in preproductive stages of the SAP implementation, some help might be needed for tasks such as massive data loads from legacy applications and development of batch input programs, business-customized menus, screens, and so on. Developers need to stay in very close contact with the functional group, since this group is supposed to know the business and user requirements. At the same time, a developer will often need the help of the technical group for things such as system requirements, database resources, and transport requests.
The SAP Technical Support Group
This team is in charge of all the technical aspects of the SAP system installations. This group gives continuous support to the development and functional teams participating actively in the technical parts of SAP projects. It is usually also the second-level line for solving users' technical problems. This group can be subdivided into SAP technical specialists, Web administrators, SAP system administrators, and operation personnel. In small SAP installations, all functions can be assumed by a single person as long as the procedures to maintain the system are well documented and mostly automated.
The technical group must have a wide range of skills, including client/server computing, operating systems, Web technology, database and SAP solution-specific expertise, and good knowledge about PC technology and even networking. These technologies can be totally or partially supported by existing technical group, such as the network support or PC support groups, besides having maintenance contracts and support with the corresponding hardware vendors. Some of the functions of this group could be handed over to existing IT resources.
For example, if there are operating system managers, they could well assume the management of new servers once the architecture of R/3 is introduced to them. Just as a brief summary, here is a list of functions that are normally assumed by the SAP technical and administration group:
The SAP Operation Staff
These people can be responsible for checking system critical log files such as backup logs and the system log and reporting the observed problems. This staff can also be responsible for the system and database backups as well as doing daily backups of the archived redo log files. Even when this process is automated without manual intervention, someone has to check the log and change the tapes sometimes. This staff can also periodically check some of the system monitors and the states of spool and background systems.
In any case, the administration and operation group should design a comprehensive guide such as an administration and operation manual that can be easily followed by anyone who could eventually substitute for or help this group.
The Help Desk
This is the central support group in charge of receiving user calls and doing first-line support. This group must be actively in touch with the rest of the support groups, so, for example, if network lines are not available for whatever reason, or the SAP system has been shut down for maintenance reasons, the help desk can quickly assess the situation and react to and answer user queries. This group might use one of the many available help desk software applications, including features such as automatic call transfer, problem logs, and incidence recorders.
The Role of SAP Itself in the Big Picture
The demand for SAP services such as the installation and implementation of the SAP solutions should be understood as the project goes along. SAP offers an extensive range of services, especially within SAP net and those aligned within the SAP Solution Manager, and should actively assist in overall support, both functional and technical. You might consider SAP for the following activities (and maybe some others):
Finally there is the central figure of the project manager, who has overall responsibility for the success of the implementation project after going live, supporting the project, optimization, and continuous change management. The project management itself constitutes a very important implementation issue.
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