Survey highlights SAP performance problems

SAP users report application performance challenges, opportunities for improvement

In a survey conducted last month, 90% of respondents reported monthly SAP performance problems.

SAP’s software plays a critical role at many of the world’s largest companies. Given all the systems and processes that a typical SAP implementation touches, it’s no surprise that troubleshooting performance issues can be a challenge for IT teams. Just how big a challenge? In a survey conducted last month, 90% of respondents reported monthly SAP performance issues.

Dimensional Research surveyed 695 professionals at SAP’s Sapphire 09 user conference in Orlando, Fla. The survey was sponsored by Precise Software, which makes application performance management software.

While 10% of respondents said they never have performance issues, the rest aren’t so fortunate. One-third said they have one or two incidents with SAP performance per month, and 35% reported three to five incidents per month. Another 14% said they experience between five and 15 incidents per month, and for 8% of respondents, performance incidents occur almost daily.

Such incidents take a toll on operations, respondents say. Among the ways that performance problems impact that business are: deterioration in customer satisfaction (cited by 46% of respondents), loss of productivity within corporate IT (38%), loss of non-IT employee productivity (33%), lost revenue (22%), and penalties for missing SLAs (12%).

Getting to the bottom of a bottleneck isn’t easy. Asked how long it takes the IT team to identify the cause of a typical SAP performance issue, the majority of survey respondents reported it can take hours (cited by 46% of respondents), days (22%) or weeks (8%). Those able to identify a problem in just minutes (22%) or seconds (2%) were the enviable exceptions.

Once a problem is identified, fixing SAP performance is a manual effort for 53% of respondents. Alternatively, respondents use SAP Solutions Manager (36%), third-party diagnostic tools (17%) or other methods (6%).

Not surprisingly, the majority of respondents (62%) said they are not satisfied with their current approach to fixing SAP performance issues.

One reason some companies have trouble resolving SAP performance issues is that many implementations have grown to include not only traditional ERP applications but also SAP’s analytic tools such as business intelligence, suggests Ed Colonna, vice president of marketing at Precise.

“You’ve got your transaction-level systems supporting your critical business processes and then you might add the data warehouse for all your business intelligence,” Colonna says. “You have to move all that data from your operational system to your business warehouse, and that’s incredibly complex and performance-intensive. Plus, once you have all the data there, the slicing, dicing, reporting and aggregation of information can create other problems as well.”

To combat such issues, Precise is developing a new product aimed at managing extract, transform and load (ETL) processes in SAP data warehouse environments, Colonna says.

Precise already offers software tailored for managing SAP application performance; Precise for SAP monitors SAP applications and the infrastructure supporting them to identify and troubleshoot any performance incidents.

The new product, called Precise for SAP BI, is designed to help isolate and fix performance problems associated with slow ETL processes, long-running queries, and slow reports, for instance.

“Obviously the ETL process of moving data from the transaction system to the data warehouse is time-sensitive. It’s done in enormous batch jobs, and it’s very performance sensitive,” Colonna says. “We’re helping to ensure that process performs well, to reduce failures and bottlenecks.”

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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