IT Challenge #7 – SAP printing
In our IT Challenge #4 Blog — Troubleshooting Printing Problems — we already touched on SAP printing and the potential problems that can occur when a document does not print. At LRS, we often talk to enterprises struggling with these scenarios. But such an important topic merits an article of its own in this series. Typically, when we talk to an organization that prints from back end applications such as SAP, we come across a very complex IT infrastructure. Unfortunately, such infrastructures are nearly always inefficient as well. Why? Let’s have a look.
Virtually all organizations have traditional Windows printing, meaning printing from regular office applications such as Outlook, Word etc. Managing this print environment is handled as part of the helpdesk duties. If an end user has difficulties while printing, they call the helpdesk and the problem gets resolved. As discussed in the IT Challenge #4 article, there are multiple complexities possible within this set up, depending on the number of print servers and/or print management solutions used. But regardless of how easy or difficult it may be to resolve the issue, it is handled by the same helpdesk representative.
That is not the case when it comes to printing from SAP. SAP printing is a whole different ballgame. This is a business-critical investment sometimes running into the multi-million dollar or Euro range. As such, everyone is keenly focused on making the infrastructure work as it should… including printing. To secure the investment and keep systems running, there is a dedicated team that manages the SAP environment. In addition to managing the environment, they also deal with everything that might go wrong if it originates in SAP, including a failure to print. Unlike most ‘regular’ office print jobs, these are critical to the organization.
For example, if these documents fail to print or aren’t printed properly, it can result in shipping delays. We have had customers tell us that shipments were refused because they could not be sent on time due to a printing error. We have also heard about mistakes where test pages were treated as real shipping documents and sent out. Both of these had severe financial consequences for the organization.
Solving such print problems must be done in a timely manner to minimize delays or prevent them entirely. That is where the challenge lies: an end user will still need to report the printing error to the helpdesk. The helpdesk needs to determine the cause of the problem. Is it a server problem, printer problem or does the problem originate in the SAP application itself? Once it is established that there is no print server or printer issue, the helpdesk contacts the SAP team to take over. By then, a significant amount of time may have passed. Depending on how fast the SAP team can solve the problem, business processes will likely be delayed until the issue is resolved. At the same time, their valuable time is spent on solving printing issues when their real job is to manage the SAP system. The costs quickly add up.
That is why reliable output and print management is a key success factor for companies using SAP applications. Such a solution acts as a middle layer between the SAP server and printers. It takes the information from SAP and communicates it to the printer, after which it reports back to the end user that the job has been successfully produced. In the case of an SAP printing problem, the issue is either resolved or reported to the appropriate person. This prevents unnecessary workflow delays. In addition, an output management solution also clearly marks test pages so they don’t get mistaken for real orders or shipping documents.
The value of such a solution is high and the cost is relatively low if you consider the investment that went into implementing and managing the SAP environment. At LRS, we have many happy customers, but those who were able to solve their printing problems may be the happiest of all. If you are facing difficulties and financial consequences from not being able to print from SAP or other business-critical applications, contact us to learn how LRS print and output management solutions can help.