Month: June 2014

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Variant Configuration – ALE Constraints with ECM

I’ve recently run into a strange issue when I ALE constraints with ECM.  I’ve been finding that in some situations, the constraints are properly sent to the target system, the syntax check out, but for some reason, they never fire.  No good explanation of why.  I feel like this happened to me in the past, but I’m guessing I never got a good explanation then either, since I don’t see anything in my notes.

The only work around I’ve found for this issue is to make a simple change (can even just be a comment or a space) and save it in the source system.  Then go back to CUK2 and ALE it again to the target system using the latest change number.

Suddenly, after doing this, the constraint fires again with no issues.  If you’ve seen this issue in the past, and can explain why it happens, please comment.  I’d love to know the underlying issue behind this, so I can at least understand why it happens =)

thanks for reading,

Service Notification ROI – Service Contracts Continued

Recently, I start this topic, and I wanted to get back to it again.  Last time we looked at using the volume of notifications to help you determine when service contracts might be useful.  So once you take the first pass and just look at volume, now you can use the same service notifications and get into the details, to help you decide at the next level…

When I talk about the details, now I’m talking about the catalogs or classification that (I hope) your call center employees (or better yet, your customers) are filling in each time.  These catalogs can be your lifeline, if you have the data.  You design these catalogs to fit your business, and cover all the major areas you expect to find.  So, if you sell computers, you have some obvious breakdowns.

* Hardware
* Software

Now, if you want to cover software under your contract, this is typically driven around call center/help desk support.  The sort of things that you can offer is live support through chat, or you can offer an upgrade to talk to a live person on the phone.  You can even upgrade further to offer a package to talk to someone in your chosen region (say, you don’t want to talk to call center 1/2 way across the world, but would rather talk to someone from your half of the country).

Ok, so you think offering a contract based on the software might be worthwhile.  How do you get the number to decide?  Well, start looking at the next level of the catalog.  What software was the biggest culprit?  was it the operating system?  was a particular app?  or was it more of a training?  Now when you know this, you can even begin to tailor the contract to what your customers really want.  As you can see, you can quickly see how many notifications called each of these catalogs, and sub catalogs.  You can even begin to analyze how long each notification was open.  Was it solved same day?  same hour?  or did it have to go up the chain to other levels?  how often did each of these occur?  Get the idea?  Just by looking at some simple data, you can quickly drive down to what happens the most often, and what your customers might be most likely to buy from you at a discount.

Now, again, this will require a little bit of analysis, but with some data analysis, you could start looking at selling unlimited calls for certain software issues, or you could sell up to X calls per month, etc with premium service.  Now, it might need a dedicated agent to handle these contracts, but premium service gets you premium revenue.  It all comes down to what your customers want/need.  You can use your service notifications to predict what they need…  then you just need your marketing guru to package it into something they will buy.  All because you used SAP service notifications to collect data…

Thanks for reading,

What are you really good at?

This is another one of those tips I got Perry Marshall.  When he first asked the question, it seemed obvious  I’m good at SAP, particularly Service Management and Variant Configuration.  That was easy…  but he gave us a homework assignment.  He said email 7 people that know you very well, it’s best if they’ve known you for at least 5 years.  And said, ask them 2 questions:

What is my unique capability?

What do I naturally do better than most people?

So, I did it.  Wow, was I surprised and flattered at the answers I got.  While some of my friends told me I was good at SAP, it was my friends that focused more on my general talents.  They tended to tell me things like ability to focus, drive projects to conclusion, simplify the complex, translate the function to technical.  Now, when I look back at my career, I can see all of these skills in myself.  More importantly, when I started to look at the list of things my friends said about me, in general, these are the things I really enjoy doing.

For example, I love problem solving.  I love finding clever solutions to keep things generic, but still meet the needs.  Those are also the times I find myself in a state of flow…

So, if you’re anything like me, you might take for granted what your true skills are.  More importantly, those skills are where you start to make the $1000/hr.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m good at the minor book keeping, and I’m trying my best to learn this marketing stuff.  But I also know it’s not what I’m best yet…  but, if I can take some of the things my friends told me, I might be able to apply those to new skills that will truly launch my business.  If you’re serious about taking yourself to the next level, you need to do this exercise.

Thanks for reading,

Variant Configuration – ALE Classes with Change Numbers

I recently ran into a minor little glitch when I needed to ALE Classes with change numbers.  It’s interesting, because the header of the class behaves differently than you would expect.  For example, if you pull up any class type 200 or 300, there is a valid from date that is automatically defaulted as today’s date.  Now, normally, this makes no difference.  However, when you’re in the midst of transferring models to a new system that is under engineering change management, you could begin using a change number with a date that is effective BEFORE the valid from date of the class.

So, here’s what happens.  Your class has a valid from date of today.  Your ECM has a valid date of yesterday.  When you transfer the classes with ALE, it will move the general tab (description, valid from date, etc.) and it will NOT be under engineering change management.  Now, the ALE will fail at the characteristics because those are under engineering change management AND the class valid from date is set in the future of the ECM date…  follow me so far???

Well, after all of this, there is a simple fix.  In your target/source system, simply change the valid from date of the class you are having issues with.  Remember, to make this change, you don’t need a change number.  You can simply change the date, and reprocess your IDOC’s.  Problem solved.

Thanks for reading,

Delegation vs. Abdication

I was recently listening to Perry Marshall, and he was talking about something that really hit me.  He starting talking about delegating your workload.  And delegating sounds like a great idea in theory, but being a small business guy, I don’t have a lot of people I can delegate things too.  But when Perry started explaining that delegation can be contractors, part time people, or even just a virtual assistant that works for you an hour/day, it started to hit me that delegation is good.  That’s when he went into a better explanation of what delegation means.

A lot of people look at delegation as “here, do this for me and let me know when it’s done”.  Literally, just throw it over the wall and forget it.  This is abdication, and this is absolutely what you DO NOT want to do.  As soon as throw something over the wall, it either doesn’t get done, slips through the cracks, and can potentially cost you a lot of time and money to fix.

Now, Delegation is best described as a four step process:

1. Request – this is where you ask someone to do something for you.  Pretty straightforward.  What do you want done, how do you want it done, when do you need it by, etc.  All the details you need to do a clean hand off.

2. Negotiation – this is where the other person tells you what they can do.  This might be a later date, or less functionality.  For example, I can build you the project plan by next Friday, not Monday when you originally asked for it.  Then you have to decide if you can wait that long, or if there is an alternative (perhaps have it partially completed by Monday, or find someone else to do it).

3.  Perform the task.  This is where the other person takes the agreed upon specifications from step 2, and does the work.

4.  Accept the task.  This is by far the most important step.  this is where you need to review what was done, and determine if meets your needs, if the other people lived up to expectations, or did they delivery something half complete.  If it isn’t done right, it’s now your responsibility to get it finished, or return it back to the party that did the work, and reject it.

Now, the whole idea behind this is that you one way or another, you are still responsible for anything you delegate, and it’s still your job to verify it was done to your standards.  If you accept it, then it’s on you for anything done incorrectly.

So remember, delegation is not just handing it off and hoping for the best.  It’s still a process, and you still need to validate it was done correctly.

thanks for reading,

Service Notification ROI – Service Contracts

You know, it’s interesting.  I’ve done SM for so long, but I never really went through the exercise of why?  or what’s in it for me?  It wasn’t until a recent demo I gave pitching the power of SAP SM, that it really hit home for me just what you can get from using SAP SM.  Well, today’s post is no different.  Today I’m going to talk about using Service Notifications to drive your service contract business.  Now you might be thinking you already know about connecting your service notifications to your service contracts.  And you’d be right, that is a great piece, but the real power comes from analyzing your notifications to determine what products are worthwhile to offer a service contract program.

Now, the initial thought might be to offer a service contract for everything you sell.  While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you might be incurring a lot of additional cost by using this catch all approach.  In a future post, I’ll talk more about the ROI of using service contracts.  Today, I’m going to focus on what you should offer a contract for.  How can a service notification tell you what products to offer “extended warranty”?

First, you start by looking at the volume of notifications by material number by product age.  This is going to give you a really solid first pass of a product worthwhile of extended warranty.  The idea behind this approach is to look a product, and find out when the majority of issues occur?  Much like the post a did recently when I talked about setting proper warranty dates, the same applies for service contracts.  You NEED to know when the majority of your issues begin to happen.  Is it 3 months of use?  6 months of use?  10 years of use?  Now, based on your “base” warranty, you can look at the volume of issues that occur in each time frame.  If the volume is high enough that things “can” go wrong, but low enough that you won’t be gambling the farm, this tells you the window you can offer the service plan for.

Maybe an example is in order here…  you have a material, and over the past year, you see the following.

3 months – 100
6 months – 120
9 months – 125
1 year – 133
18 months – 220
2 years – 250
30 months – 400
3 years – 650

now this is a blog, so I’m not gonna graph it, but you can quickly see the exponential type curve of these numbers.  the idea is to offer your warranty for 6 months or a year.  Now the volume is reasonable up to the 18 month mark.  once you hit 30 months, the volume starts to spike.  This suggests to me that you should offer an extended warranty for an extra year.  Your customers will see it as a value since things do happen more often after the first year, but you won’t be replacing EVERY unit.  win win in my book…

This actually went longer than expected, so I’ll pick this up again tomorrow…

thanks for reading,

Service Notification ROI – Maintenance Plans

Continuing the discussion on the Service Notification ROI, today I wanted to talk about the maintenance plans.  At first glance, the maintenance plan is more of a feature than a benefit.  Now in marketing 101, I’ve had it beaten into my head, benefits not features…  Well, the concept of the maintenance plan actually fits both concepts…  at least if you look at it the right way.  The maintenance plan becomes a huge time saver if your business does any sort of repetitive service.  Let’s go with an example everyone can relate to, oil changes…

In the auto service industry, everyone is familiar with the idea that you should change your oil every 3000 miles or 3 months.  Well, using a maintenance plan, you could have a notification generated every 6 weeks.  The notification would be for someone to send an email or a coupon to remind the person they have an oil change coming up soon.  Now the amount of automation you build into this is up to you.  But I’d be willing to bet that if you look at your industry there is at least some repetitive tasks that you could schedule.

Now, creating a notification or service order doesn’t really take that long, neither does sending an email.  What does take time is monitoring a list, running a report, or checking a database to see who is who should be contacted, or who should be receiving a notification of upcoming service.  If you set a plan one time, then you get to “set it and forget it”.  This has multiple benefits, you get the obvious benefit of not having to babysit your marketing.  But far more important, you move into the automated marketing world of keeping yourself in your customer’s minds.  You get the chance to remind them of the value of “regular oil changes”, you get to offer them a discount if you choose, and you build a stronger relationship with your existing customers.  The stronger the relationship, the more likely your customers will talk about you to their friends…  giving you that perfect opportunity to get new customers and take care of them just as well as your existing customers.

Pretty solid ROI in my mind.

thanks for reading,

How do you stop being the “go-to” person?

Well, if you anything like me, you often find yourself in the position of being the go-to guy/gal.  While this is initially flattering, you feel pretty good, everyone comes to you with the hard questions… you are in demand, you have job security…  all good things right???  Well, you quickly find this to become a tedious nightmare.  Why?  because everyone around you stops thinking, because they have you to do it.

I actually started venting to my wife, and she brought up some pretty valid, but annoying points.  It’s up to me to walk people through everything I do, teach them my thought process, and then write the whole thing down.  Now, if you know me at all, you know this sounds like absolute hell to me.  In my mind, this is the process, I could spend all that time training, and they probably won’t get it, so I’ll end up having to do it anyway, so….  I might as well just do it.  OR  I can do it much faster myself than training someone else, so I might as well do it.

I’m hoping you see the flaw in this logic.  Because if something ever happens again, I’m stuck doing that same tedious work.  So every time this same issues comes back, it thrown back on my plate.  Now, that doesn’t make it any easier to hand it off, and go through the training effort.  But, there is another secondary win that I often forget about.  When you teach someone else how to do it, they can often empower themselves to take the “next step” of doing something similar, using the same thought pattern.

So this post is mostly a reminder to myself of a few things.  1.  My wife is almost always right… (shhh don’t tell her), and 2.  it is worth it to train someone else so I can move onto more important tasks.  As Perry says, do that $1000/hr task, instead of the $10/hr…

Thanks for reading,

Service Notification ROI – Improve your Products

Continuing on in the series of how you can use Service notifications to improve your bottom line.  One of the best ways I can think of is making your products better.  Everyone who uses quality notifications knows the value of this, but for some reason, service notifications are often overlooked for this purposes.

The whole key to this is collecting enough data to categorize each notification.  The best way, in my opinion is using the many different catalogs to classify what is going on.  Just as a recap, depending on what fields you have available, you can have as many as 5 different catalogs available within a single notification.  You can even use the same catalog multiple times for things like causes.  Why do you care?

Because you can do reporting against these values to find trends in your products.  If you notice that 20 notifications come in a week for the same product, all stating that the product was damaged in transit, well, that should be a pretty big flag to review your packaging and your carrier to review what the hell is going on.  Maybe you got a bad batch of packaging materials, maybe you recently made a “cost saving” change to a different vendor…  regardless, you have an obvious set of data that you should be reviewing.

You may also simply find a pattern in your customers “mis-using” your products.  This might give your marketing/legal group something to include your literature stating in certain terms, product not to be used in the rain, or product should not be used for longer than 3 hours without shut down.  Doesn’t matter, but the data is there if you can collect.  This should be reason enough to train your call center to collect this every time.

Now, there is another way to capture information that is very valuable, and often more flexible.  You can use classification, along with multiple value characteristics allowing you to select as many options as apply.  This has the potential to give your organization ALL the data they could use.  SAP provides standard reporting using CL30N.  But if you’d like even more data, check out our out of the box service management dashboard.

Thanks for reading,

Service Notification ROI – Measure Productivity

Well, continuing in our theme of showing you what you can do with Service Notification data, today is a great metric that most businesses care about, but maybe don’t realize all the different aspects available when it comes to measuring productivity.  Let me tell you what I mean by that.

Now of course, there is a obvious call center metric of calls taken, calls waiting, etc…  But in the service management world, you can also be looking at more of the post call analytic’s.  For example, how many of the calls are closed during the initial call.  You could be tracking this using the standard status.  The initial status of the notification is closed, it means that your call center agent was able to close the call on the phone, no additional follow up was needed.  The only thing better than this is if the customer didn’t have to call in the first place 🙂

One of the other productivity metrics you can track is the number of notifications created by each SAP user.  You can be tracking how long each notification is kept open, simply by tracking the date/time stamp of the system status within the notification.  You can even keep track of who is filling in their notifications properly.  For example, if you use the catalogs, you can keep track of who is filling in this information.  This could lead you to additional training opportunities, especially if you employ temporary employees in your call center.  Losing this information could be costing you money, but I’ll talk about some of those opportunities soon 🙂

Anyway, the point of all of this is allowing you to see who your best call center employees are, and if you use temporary employees, they could be the people you entice to stay on full time, or the other end of the spectrum can be let go to bring in better people.

Thanks for reading,