Time is precious and not for sale. Or is it? UMB AG, a leading Swiss IT service and managed services provider, takes the opposite view. Under the company motto "Creating Time", UMB provides its customers with more time which they use for their core business instead of IT administration.
A core UMB service is complete support for SAP landscapes, be it on premise, in the UMB data centers or in the cloud. Here, UMB has relied on the artificial intelligence of the Avantra AIOps platform for a good five years in order to manage both its own SAP systems and its customers’ as efficiently as possible.
Creating time by monitoring SAP HotNews
Monitoring, evaluating and implementing SAP security notifications, known as HotNews, can be a significant time commitment. This task alone used to take a small team around 30 hours a week. Thanks to Avantra, a lot of time is saved, Mathias Lang, Head of SAP and Member of the Leadership Team at UMB, explains.
Time savings was one of the main arguments for us in favor of AIOps. But we not only save a lot of time, we have also significantly improved and expanded our service in this area.
Creating time through automated SAP kernal upgrades
SAP Kernel updates usually involve a huge resource and time investment, which is why many companies shy away from it or delay it as long as possible. This can affect the security and/or performance of their systems in the long term. UMB uses the Avantra platform to automate this process. This saves more than two hours per system landscape for each kernel upgrade. What’s more, the updates can now be carried out at shorter intervals, as the bulk of manual effort is removed.
Saving time is not the only benefit that comes from automating kernel upgrades. The quality of an upgrade improves when the procedure runs automatically and is not exposed to human error.
With Avantra, UMB is using AIOps for classic monitoring of SAP environments, to monitor SAP HotNews and automatically transmit data to customers. Through their own customizations, UMB has integrated the entire security baseline into its monitoring - or "copied" it, as Mathias Lang casually puts it. Thus, the proverbial "push of a button" is a reality and all parameters are set automatically, according to the global UMB definition. They allow for deviations for specific custom requests, "as long as it does not violate our security baseline, i.e. more is always possible, but we certainly don't want less," he continues.
In addition, UMB uses Avantra to create automatic reports for service delivery managers (SDM). If desired, these reports can also be sent directly to the customer and discussed in a subsequent meeting. The bottom line is that this direct information chain all the way to the customer also saves valuable time on both sides - and the data quality is much improved because it’s SAP specific.
Winning and retaining customers with AIOps
As a managed service provider, UMB’s goal is to continually win new customers and grow the business. AIOps plays an important role in their SAP operations service area. The monitoring and automation possibilities of UMB are explained comprehensively, which provides a huge competitive advantage. More and more customers are showing interest in these possibilities, and so, the Avantra AIOps platform can really tip the scales when it comes to winning new business.
Mathias Lang sees transparency as a valuable element in customer loyalty: "We want to be very transparent so that the customer is not fooled, but really sees how the system is behaving at the moment." To this end, UMB sets up special dashboards at its customers' sites showing the status of their systems - again keeping the communication chain as short as possible. In this case, monitoring is placed in the hands of the customer to a certain extent, naturally without any administrative effort on the part of the customer.”
Putting the power with the customer means that, through these dashboards, the customer themself can select any SAP system and stop it for maintenance purposes at the push of a button. Avantra then automatically performs certain checks, interposes a waiting loop and finally reports the successful shutdown. In the same way, when the system is restarted, Avantra automates corresponding checks so monitoring can be reactivated. All this happens without any activities on the part of UMB, so that both the customer and UMB save a lot of time and enjoy equal transparency.
UMB uses Avantra alerts to notify on the delay or failure of business critical jobs. Whether during the day or at night, alerts go out to both UMB and the customer. Here, all sides benefit from quicker response and resolution times. Mathias Lang comments:
We create concrete added value for our customers using the resources they already have by offering them a kind of extended workbench.
Avantra extends to tools such as ServiceNow, where a ticket is automatically generated and assigned to the responsible team at UMB. The service provider can set up any number of ServiceNow connections to trigger, track and evaluate a customer ticket for every critical message - including time saved and high quality.
Creating value through SAP HotNews evaluation
When asked which AIOps function he values most, Mathias Lang doesn't have to think long:
We use the HotNews evaluation most intensively. Each system administrator receives the appropriate report for his customers, which he then discusses directly with them. This is the function we have put our focus on.
Furthermore, he cites the automated SAP Kernel upgrades, especially for customers with large environments of 20+ SAP systems.
In short, at UMB, the AIOps approach with Avantra has become indispensable, both in terms of saving time for them and their customers, and in terms of quality by eliminating many manual sources of error.
If you would like to learn more about how UMB overcame the challenge of mastering time intensive SAP operations you can ready UMB's case study.