Posted On: June 11, 2020

What is SAP Managed Services? What You Should Know

In this article, we will explore what SAP managed services is, why it is important, what is included, real-world examples, and some helpful tips.

Mission-critical enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications such as SAP are essential to your business. However, these applications can be time consuming, complex, and expensive to maintain, modify, and customize to your business processes. Add on the integration and configuration with other applications, SAP applications require a lot of “care and feeding” to ensure they are working properly every day.

Businesses requires these mission-critical applications to run well around the clock so many companies have challenges successfully managing their SAP systems. These challenges or issues could range from lack of internal IT staff availability to a lack of SAP technical skills to shifting business requirements to geographical implications to increased business pressures.

To cope with these business demands and successfully maintain their SAP environment, IT teams work with SAP managed services partners who can support them. An SAP partner can help a company streamline their business processes, reduce their total cost of ownership, better scale up and down, and achieve their business goals.

What is SAP Managed Services?

SAP Managed Services offers companies an extended team of experienced and professional SAP experts who really know the technical “ins and outs” of SAP applications and helps organizations manage their SAP environment on a day-to-day basis.

The SAP Managed Services partner team works closely with a company’s internal IT team and key users to take care of routine support activities, improvements and enhancements, and the overall health of the SAP applications within the greater IT environment.

The relationship is set up based on an individual company’s needs for how they operate their SAP applications and where they need ongoing daily support. This usually takes place in the form of a responsibility assignment matrix or RACI matrix between a company and their SAP Managed Services partner.

A RACI matrix is the simplest and one of the most effective ways to define and document project roles and responsibilities between a company and its SAP Managed Services partner. Knowing exactly who is responsible, who is accountable, who needs to be consulted, and who must be kept informed at every step of managing SAP applications will significantly improve organizations who run SAP.

Why is SAP Managed Services Important?

Companies work with SAP Managed Services partners so they can focus more time on their core IT activities and support the business who uses SAP applications. An SAP Managed Services partner would help proactively monitor the health of the SAP applications to ensure integrity and availability. An SAP Managed Services partner can help develop a strategy to remediate and optimize the SAP systems based on the needs and budget of a company.

Maintaining and managing an SAP landscape can be a burdensome, difficult, and tiring task. Without deep and broad SAP technical skills to deal with some of the more challenging issues of working with SAP, companies can lose countless working hours. Staff is needed to monitor SAP systems, adding costs to a company’s bottom line in terms of IT staff or headcount and interrupted business operations.

“If your systems are down and we can’t keep our manufacturing plants going, over 1,000 people go home. We can’t afford that. We need quality hardware to support our business.” Dole

Inadequate IT infrastructure and a lack of in-house expertise to implement and manage SAP ERP applications can hold a company back. Companies need an SAP Managed Services partner who helps them consistently operate a fast, reliable, and high-performing SAP systems so employees can do their day-to-day work.

Companies who operate SAP in their IT environment want stability, reliability, and the ability to move quickly on new projects.

Activities related to the operations of SAP applications are always ongoing and constantly need improvement. Many companies have limited internal IT manpower because they are always stretched due to business demands and ongoing IT projects.

Companies look for an SAP partner who can help with them with day-to-day problems and provide them with strategic counsel. Organizations need help deciding where to go with their SAP applications and how to get there.

Companies look for an SAP Managed Services partner who has:

  • SAP-certified experts
  • Excellent operational service level agreements (SLAs)
  • Guarantee a certain level of uptime
  • Years of experience managing SAP applications
  • High customer satisfaction levels
  • Flexible services to meet the needs and budget of a company who runs SAP

It is important to have an SAP Managed Services partner who can help a company plan, build, and run business-critical SAP enterprise applications around the clock and around the world. Additionally, this SAP partner can help a company meet the challenges due to insufficient expertise, capacity, and talent available in-house and ensure SAP systems always work smoothly, is carefully maintained, and can meet future business needs.

What is Included in SAP Managed Services?

It is important an SAP Managed Services provider meets the requirements for a company on its compliance, data protection, scalability, and availability of its SAP applications. SAP Managed Services range from upgrades to customizations to standard managed services to new implementations.

SAP Managed Services can include, but not limited, to the following:

  • SAP Hosting
    • SAP Basis Support
    • SAP Managed Security
    • Hosted SAP HANA 
  • SAP Remote Managed Hosting and Services
    • SAP Basis Support
    • Database Administration
    • Installs, Upgrades, and Enhancements
    • Incident, Problem and Change Management
    • Capacity
    • Operating System Administration
    • Infrastructure
  • SAP Service Delivery Management
    • Coordination of Services
    • Platinum Services
    • Hypercare Services
    • Service Level Reporting
    • Single Source Management
    • Value Add Services
  • SAP Maintenance
    • SAP Maintenance Support
    • Software Updates
    • SAP Early Watch Alerts
    • SAP Service Marketplace
    • Ongoing Issues and Recommendations
  • SAP Application Managed Services (AMS)
    • Application Support and Testing
    • Break / Fix
    • Application Optimization and Enhancements
    • Small Application Changes
    • SAP Roll Outs
    • SAP Upgrades
    • New SAP Applications
  • SAP Security
    • Security Strategy and Planning
    • Vulnerability Assessment and Management
    • Endpoint Protection
    • Perimeter Security (Firewall and IDPS)
    • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)
    • Single Sign On 
  • SAP Business Continuity
    • High Availability
    • Disaster Recovery
    • Backups

Real-World Examples of SAP Managed Services

 To better understand SAP Managed Services, it is important to see how companies are using SAP Managed Services to help them become more successful. Here are some examples:

Cintas

Cintas is a well-known facilities services and uniform company whose iconic white delivery and service trucks visit nearly one million customers annually throughout North America.

In 2014, Cintas decided to consolidate a network of homegrown and siloed legacy systems – an incongruous landscape that proved costly to maintain, created inconsistent customer experiences, and made it difficult for Cintas to understand its customers’ purchasing habits.

“Our environment was challenging to support from an IT perspective, and from a business perspective, it was not easy to actually see what customers were doing.” Matt Hough, Cintas

Cintas accomplished its systems consolidation by decommissioning the bulk of its legacy applications and implementing a single instance of SAP ERP to run mission-critical processes for each of its business units. At the same time, Cintas made another key decision to support its move to a digital-first framework by choosing to host its SAP infrastructure in a private cloud, hosted and managed by Syntax.

Cintas streamlined its IT department to devote more time and resources to enhancing customer service functionality instead of system maintenance and upkeep, fast-tracked the digitization journey with a hosted cloud, and achieved a fresh and clean customer experience.

Dole Package Foods

Dole Packaged Foods, LLC, is a world leader in growing, sourcing, distributing and marketing fruit and healthy snacks. Due in part to corporate divestiture, the company faced a tight timeline to move existing applications away from on-premise while also setting up the latest applications to enable the newly built company – Dole International – to exist and operate independently.

From an IT perspective, Dole wanted to reduce resources while improving performance, disaster recovery capabilities, and security. Each application was evaluated to see if there was a better solution. Dole’s transition to Syntax’s Managed Cloud Services allowed the company to improve its capacity and disaster recovery capabilities that wasn’t affordable in-house, access additional skills and resources without increasing headcount, and free up capital to invest in strategic initiatives.

10 Tips for SAP Managed Services

The right SAP Managed Services partner can help avoid unplanned downtime, impacting business and IT operations and overall bottom line.

Here are 10 things to remember when looking for SAP Managed Services:

  1. Expertise from Top SAP Talent

Make sure the SAP partner has top talent such as Platinum SAP teams to ensure the highest level of support. The Platinum level is the top 5 percent of SAP’s consulting force and it above the traditional Senior or Principal consultant.

  1. SAP Certifications

An SAP Managed Services provider should be SAP certified and operate IT infrastructure that is SAP certified to avoid risks and not sacrifice performance. It is important that IT infrastructure is refreshed at certain intervals, and the platform is elastic.

  1. Immediate Support

The mission-critical nature of SAP means technical support needs to be addressed right away and an SAP Managed Services partner needs to resolve problems quickly. It is critical to understand incident response times so there are no misunderstandings and problems now and down the road.

  1. Assured Availability

Businesses who run SAP can’t afford downtime and an SAP Managed Services partner needs to keep a business up and running. It is important to test for SAP high availability and disaster recovery capabilities, to be able to replicate data within seconds of its creation when needed, and to be able to consistently perform and store backups.

  1. Scalability

It is important an SAP Managed Services provider can match requirements to scale operations as an organization’s SAP environment grows. An SAP Managed Services partner should be to expand their team as more support is required and make it easy on a company to scale. If an SAP Managed Services provider doesn’t have a large enough team, the internal IT staff will need to take on more work, defeating the one of the purposes of SAP Managed Services. 

  1. A RACI Matrix

A RACI matrix is the simplest and one of the most effective ways to define and document project roles and responsibilities between a company and its SAP Managed Services partner. Knowing exactly who is responsible, who is accountable, who needs to be consulted, and who must be kept informed at every step. A RACI will significantly improve the partnership with an SAP Managed Services provider and a company who runs SAP. 

  1. Application and Infrastructure SLAs

 Operational SLAs are an important part to examine because it ensures an SAP Managed Services partner has “some skin in the game” when it comes to what’s important to a business who runs SAP. There two types of operational SLAs: infrastructure availability and application availability. Often SAP Managed Services providers offer a high availability number such as 99.99 percent but that may be only only talking about the infrastructure part. For example, traditional SAP ERP applications such as SAP business warehouse (BW) don’t have the same luxury as SaaS applications like Salesforce.com, Microsoft Office 365, and SAP Concur who can achieve very high levels of availability due to their web scale architecture.

  1. Private Cloud, Hybrid Cloud, and Public Cloud Experience

More organizations are dividing their workloads between multiple public and private clouds. In a hybrid cloud model, a company divides workloads between public and private clouds while in a multi-cloud environment, an organization uses multiple public clouds. A company can achieve the highest level of flexibility by using hybrid and multi clouds at the same time. It is important an SAP Managed Services knows the different types of clouds and is certified with hyperscale cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.

  1. Compliance

Ask an SAP Managed Services provider about their stance on compliance and how they help their customers. Organizations often leave compliance until the last minute, and then suffer adverse consequences. Compliance requirements can include the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) to detect, mitigate, and prevent misconduct. System and Organization Controls (SOC) for system-level controls. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) compliance for life science companies. Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (“PCI DSS”) to increase controls around cardholder data to reduce the instances of credit card fraud. U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to make sure organizations have a secure environment to store, maintain, and process protected health information.

  1. Security Misconceptions

SAP systems are home to a company’s most sensitive data, making them an ideal target for cyber-attacks. A single SAP system can house data from across a business including human resources (HR), finance, and product development departments. With so much sensitive data – all in one place – it’s not surprising hackers are targeting SAP systems. In fact, 89% of IT security professionals say that attacks on SAP systems will increase. Many enterprises believe SAP protects them out of the box. This is not true. While SAP is critical for helping business run, SAP expects a company to handle their own security. For example, ongoing maintenance and patching of operating systems.

Bringing IT All Together

SAP is the backbone of many businesses. It important to have a strong SAP partner to ensure an SAP landscape is successfully implemented, optimized, and runs smoothly every day. Remember, an SAP Managed Services provider may sound good on paper, but it can fail to deliver after signing a contract so choose wisely.

In IT, what can go wrong usually does and never, ever, in the way it was tested to fail. It is important to work with an SAP Managed Services partner who can help with the day-to-day operations while creating a strategy for better managing your mission-critical SAP applications in the future. The right SAP partner is tough to find so it important to do your homework and really understand the nuances of SAP, especially as more SAP applications are moving to the cloud.

Next Steps

Check out more advice and best practices on SAP Managed Services such as where SAP users are accelerating their cloud transformations, migrating SAP apps to AWS, and the biggest misconception about SAP security.

You can also contact us today to discover how we help you with SAP Managed Services. If you want to know how moving your SAP environment to the cloud relates to your specific IT environment, you can schedule a cloud readiness assessment.