Of all the things we help our customers with, managing printing from SAP instances may be the thing they appreciate most. Our SAP certified VPSX/OutputManager solution has been at the core of SAP printing at large enterprises for more than one and a half decades, and the benefits reported by our worldwide customer base continue to grow. Why? Because of the important role printing from mission-critical SAP systems has on a company’s operations. (If you don’t believe me, ask Hans or Jackie.)
In this article, I would like to describe a real-life scenario involving SAP output management. A European-based global company had a highly complex IT infrastructure supported by a number of parties. Much of this IT complexity was driven by the need for a large number of print servers. Like many organizations, the company and its partners had implemented Windows servers to handle application printing workflows, which can be labor intensive and quite varied. As a result, this organization had 30 employees to support its complex print environment, which included 23,000 print queues.
You can imagine how complicated the print network was, but in fact the SAP data flow itself was also very complex. It involved the transmission of data from the datacenter (where the application was hosted) through 265 print servers over the WAN, and failures in these connections would prevent successful SAP printing. To make matters worse, the aforementioned partners involved in the print process were not bound by Service Level Agreements (SLAs), meaning no one was contractually accountable when problems occurred. And problems did occur. Frequently. These caused shipping delays with fines for late order fulfillment and in some cases caused the company’s customers to seek other suppliers.
The most pressing problem was that the employee responsible for organizing the printed document had no way to check the status of their print jobs. So if something went wrong (provided they were aware of the error in the first place), they needed to log a ticket with the helpdesk. This ticket would be sent to the hardware vendor, who would see that the print originated from an SAP instance. However, this vendor did not have access to the SAP application itself. As such, the ticket would be forwarded to the ITO in charge of managing SAP. Without an SLA there was no pressure to quickly resolve the issue. Moreover, if the problem ended up being a printer malfunction, the ticket would find its way back to the helpdesk.
This process consumed a lot of valuable time. Perhaps if print problems happened infrequently, it would not have been a serious problem, but since print mishaps were fairly common, the situation was quite grim. Shipping documents could not be printed, shipments came to a standstill, and expensive resources were used to determine whether printing issues were hardware or software related.
You may find this story far-fetched, but our LRS consultants encounter this scenario on a regular basis. The good news is that after LRS software is implemented, the customer’s IT department establishes centralized SAP print delivery and print queue management that does not rely on Windows print servers. In the case of this particular customer, LRS software enabled the customer to remove every one of their print servers. Another benefit resulted from the fact that employees receive notification of successful printing, and when print hardware errors do occur, LRS software automatically redirects the print to a different device. This avoids delays and helpdesk or ITO interaction. The customer reported annual cost savings of €4,228,606. Of this amount, more than €1,928,571 came from the prevention of failed print jobs.
This was how the customer improved printing when they began using LRS software as a middleware to manage SAP printing in their data center. But things got even more interesting when they decided to move to SAP S4/Hana as a Cloud hosted service. They imagined that this change in the SAP landscape would bring back the pain of printing SAP documents, and that they would be once again need to create hundreds of firewall openings and many, many print queues alongside a reliance on print servers.
Fortunately, it was possible to move a critical LRS component to run as part of the S4/Hana application in their Cloud environment. That way, the LRS software could continue managing print jobs generated in SAP and deliver them to the on-premise devices.
The moral of the story: when you experience SAP printing issues in either an in-house environment or a Cloud hosted scenario, don’t add more print servers. Instead, contact the experts at LRS. They have an abundance of experience to share with organizations just like yours!