I don’t mean to mislead with that heading. We’re going to get to all 10, but like I said on Friday, I think it’s only fair that we break them into bite-sized chunks throughout a series of posts. With that, today we are going to get started with number 10: Get all the key IT players to the table. The blog series actually serves two purposes. The first is to give a key business stakeholder some vision into what your IT counterparts are going through to make this move for your organization. For IT, my hope is that you feel better equipped to get to BI4 with business stakeholder buy in. Let’s go.
Get all the Key IT Players to the Table
I’ve written about this topic more than a few times in a few different places. I think, most recently (shameless plug), was in our SAP BusinessObjects System Administration for BI4 which I co-authored with Greg Myers. I cannot imagine organizations of any size being able to accomplish this upgrade without the involvement of a number of different groups and people across an IT organization. These upgrades cannot be accomplished in a vacuum. I want you to think constructively with me for a few minutes about the types of people in your IT organization that if you haven’t already….you need to buddy up with. Why? I’m guessing for most of you that your XI R2 or XI 3.1 environments are more than a few years old. Technology changes…well….monthly. We’re going to go through this exercise to get us all on the same page.
There’s a good chance that if your environment is in a cluster of two or more servers, you are using SAN, fiber attached storage, or some other mechanism to share files between the nodes in your cluster. Sure, that technology could have been changed, deprecated, or recently upgraded in the way it can be used. You should buddy up with your storage admin to learn the ropes of what is happening in his or her space. Are faster solutions available? Do they have better backup mechanisms (point in time…hint hint) in place? Is there enough space for you to stage a migration to BI4 slowly? What about the coming change in application controls that let users build ginormous reports? Do the storage solutions scale to your disaster recovery center? These are just a few of the things I’d think I’d like to discuss with that storage admin.
What does this mean for a key business stakeholder? Enterprises evolve their technology stack year over year. Your IT counterparts invested in storage that your SAP BusinessObjects environment has been running on for a few years probably. That means a proper look at new storage technologies within your own enterprise could be the difference between “my reports are kind of slow to open up when I click the View link” to “wow, I didn’t even see the hourglass of death while I waited for my report”. It’s easy for your to get behind this type of relationship building.
Chances are, your organization has at least two different mainstream database platforms in house. There’s an even better chance that your SAP BusinessObjects CMS and Auditor databases can run on them. When was the last time you took a hard look at your database server and it’s capacity? Are you a good enough pal to your database administrator that you can ensure you can have an isolated database from other high activity applications? Is this a good opportunity to peel away the CMS and Auditor databases from other reporting databases? Is your database administrator ready to sustain the amount of storage and new databases needed to implement BI4 in all of your environments? And, like your storage needs, does that database have the ability to fail and keep on going somewhere else?
What does this mean for a key business stakeholder? Just like your enterprise’s storage capability, databases evolve constantly. Have you heard of SAP HANA? (chuckling loudly enough here I’m getting weird looks) It’s these types of innovations, regardless of vendor, that can make tremendous impact on the performance of an SAP BusinessObjects environment. Going back to that spinning hourgless of death above, a new and better performing database can mean faster logons, report listings, and better performance under heavy workload when all of your business users start using SAP BusinessObjects in the morning.
Your corporate network may change on a recurring basis. High network utilization applications come and go (maybe even giving SAP BusinessObjects a run for its money). It’s tough to stay in the know and understand what latency and saturation and all of those other network-y things do to your SAP BusinessObjects environment. So buy your network administrator a beer. Talk about the load balancing hardware available to create a fault tolerant web tier. Ask the questions about the speed of the interconnects between data centers as you consider an active/active or active/passive configuration between two data centers. Make sure the redundancies exist between the user, the SAP BusinessObjects environment, and the database.
What does this mean for a key business stakeholder? OK, not much. If you have to care about name server changes and routing, be afraid. But, what you should know is, as long as your IT brethren are setting up friendly names to access SAP BusinessObjects and that those do not change during your migration, you can rest easy they are on top of making any network changes smooth for your migration.
I don’t think that virtualization has hit mainstream across the board. With that, if you have not embraced virtualization in your deployment, now is the time. I’m not going to argue the pros or cons of virtualization for BI4 in this series. It still has its place. So, are you aware of the capacity of your virtual environment? Has your VM admin certified whether or not your hardware requirements make your deployment a candidate for your corporate VM environment?
What does this mean for a key business stakeholder? Virtualization, if not already present within your organization, can come with major cost and scalability advantages. There are times that virtualization is sacked due to the high system requirements needed, but that does not always have to be the case. Given the expense of data centers, cooling, power, and people time, virtualization is a great opportunity for your IT partners to optimize resource usage, create simple redundancy in the event of failure, and keep your business humming along.
I’ve been in shops that roll in both directions: 1) the BI team is responsible for the installation and configuration of the application beyond the operation system or 2) the server admins are responsible for that installation and configuration and the BI team is hands off. In either case, these are the folks that keep your servers running at all costs. They are the ones that are on call first for failures or faults in your environment. Bake them some cookies. Take them to lunch. Buy them coffee. Be a pal.
What does this mean for a key business stakeholder? Your BI team should be focused…on..well…BI. Some organizations consciously choose to outsource administration of SAP BusinessObjects. Some let it happen within their server admin group. Now is a good time to encourage IT to consider the time investment in managing SAP BusinessObjects and where that should best lie.
If you’ve never heard of the Product Availability Resource documents, they are another key component of successfully migrating to BI4. Do yourself a favor, first, and bookmark the SAP Support Portal. Second, in the Find Documentation section, click the link for Supported Platforms/PARs.
This PDF for your targeted Support Pack contains all of the information you need to have in the conversations with all of the people mentioned above. It’s really imperative that you have these conversations about supported versions to ensure your enterprise resources conform to the supported platforms in the PAR. If not, worst case, SAP will not be able to support you if an incident arises.
Recently I was on-site with a customer that is about to break the ice on their BI4 upgrade. I asked for an audience with each of these admins for just 30 minutes on day one of the project kickoff and the key business stakeholders. In those meetings we ruled out 2.5 of the people listed above (it’s complicated). We also brought the key business stakeholders up to speed on where we were with the upgrade and what it meant to them. The illustration is that in a series of simple conversations we were able to discuss capability, capacity, and next steps for those impacted down the road for this implementation.