Data is increasing and systems are becoming unwieldy. This is not data hoarding, but the steady accumulation of data essential to the smooth running of a large retail company and the wellbeing of its staff and customers.
Current and future growth are dependent on record keeping and analysis which, in turn, are increasingly dependent on automation and up-to-date software.
So, a simple and straightforward solution to complexities is required by busy, successful companies.
SAP, with appropriate support to guarantee coherence and security of operations, is of particular value to the retail industry where, for example, efficiency across the value chain and improved customer experience can be achieved in real time with SAP connecting retail processes between customers, workforce and suppliers.
System complexities of a large retailer
For example, the Swiss-headquartered Coop Group is the second largest cash and carry wholesale supply business in Europe, with a workforce of around 80,000 and active in large-scale retail, wholesale and production, all adding to the complexity of its SAP landscape. Every transaction in its 2,000 Swiss-based retail outlets and 124 cash and carry markets across Europe requires careful management and monitoring. Coop currently hosts 170 SAP systems in its two data centres in Switzerland.
Coop Groups’ challenges stemmed from its growth as a service provider leading to overstretching of its ability to monitor and address its systems. It earns $27Billion in revenues and has more than 13,000 SAP users across the supply chain, commerce, and corporate operations, so requires an efficient and sophisticated system of management and monitoring.
There was a need for an overview of the SAP systems and what could go wrong.
“Our landscape is very complex,” explains Rochus Tresch, Head of SAP development at Coop. A wood-for-the-trees solution that saved time as well as effort was, therefore, very welcome.
Until recently, the group’s monitoring solution was always late in supporting new SAP releases and difficult to deploy – requiring imports in the SAP system, so the company looked for a solution that included fast implementation, improved notification time and daily health checks.
This is when the company’s needs were answered by technical solutions, which automated the monitoring of the implementation of new systems, tracked monitoring and notification history, and enabled easy customization.
Also included were auto-detection of new systems, easy web UI for configurations, instant notification of known and upcoming issues, and universal access to the real-time monitoring.
Finding answers with new-age monitoring techniques
Coop Group’s main challenges were due to an unstable, inconsistent monitoring solution together with a complex and lengthy process of adding and configuring new SAP systems. Therefore, there was a need for central monitoring in a heterogenous SAP landscape.
This was answered by SAP monitoring, which provided: transaction documentation and system alerts; reduced downtime — even preventing failures in advance; higher resource efficiency; simple customization to meet all business and reporting needs; plus monitoring over 120 HANA systems.
The migration to HANA was easier, notes Tresch. Because, the company used the right solution to monitor its landscape before, during and after the migration to ensure it received the expected performance enhancements by migrating to HANA.
The Coop Group was particularly pleased with the ability to compare profiles/system components/parameters across all landscapes; custom checks and their flexibility to fit to the company’s monitoring needs and detect changes, including in SAP system parameters, and HANA parameter changes.
Tresch says that the company has quite a lot of custom checks that monitor its complex SAP landscape: Using the right support, it was easy to monitor the same indicators on systems running on HANA, “While we stress test the system before HANA migration, this support gives us useful insights into the source and target systems during the HANA migration, even during the SAP downtime phase.”
Coop Group is quite SAP-heavy. It has more and more HANA systems plus quite a large BW system. The largest is growing but currently has 15 terabytes. If these crucial systems are not running then the phone rings or the whole company has a big problem. “The phone can ring pretty quickly,” Tresch emphasises.
“It was important to choose a product that supports optimally and I am very happy that this has been the case,” he says.
Bird’s eye view
There are a variety of solutions to ensure a large retail operation works seamlessly to full capacity with the flexibility to expand. For example, its full-stack automation platform automates repetitive activities such as monitoring, reporting, audit, security, and updates.
Also, with intelligent SAP operations, teams can avoid fire-fighting and alert fatigue by focusing on the right issues at the correct time.
Alerts help prioritize issues so the root-cause can be identified quickly, tracks and logs system changes, and predicts future capacity needs.
Complex SAP landscapes often lack operational transparency because of their many components, hampering efforts to optimize the use of these resources, says the company:
In addition, an easy-to-use control panel and automated business process monitoring, reporting, and notification escalations, can provide a team with an accurate, up-to-date, customized view to enable adjustment and optimization of its SAP landscape and operations.
The future of now
The complexities of running large retail operations do not diminish by themselves, but require attention and solutions capable of identifying issues and impacts as they arise, with constant vigilance. The example of Coop Group demonstrates that the digital management of a large and rapidly expanding retail outfit can be assured with appropriate and timely solutions.