USP Zdrowie, a manufacturer of such drugs as Apap, Gripex or Ibuprom, has been using SAP ERP since early 2010. Deployed with a wide range of functions, the system covers virtually all business areas of the company – from purchasing through production and quality management, warehouse management, sales and distribution, up to finance and controlling. The picture is completed by SAP HR, a system supporting human resources management.
SAP is a key tool, providing integrated company management and support of business processes, while maintaining high standards applied in the pharmaceutical industry.
The standards of the Good Distribution Practice (GDP) and the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), which are obligatory for manufacturers of drugs, define in detail the requirements and conditions that must be met at the stage of production and distribution. GMP and GDP require that all processes connected with the trading of pharmaceuticals be validated.
As a consequence, also the IT systems that support production and distribution are subject to a quality control and validation system. The documentation of processes (and any changes in processes) must be kept and made available to control bodies.
This means that pharmaceutical companies that use SAP have probably the most comprehensive, in comparison with other industries, system documentation – describing both the implementation itself, as well as any action introducing even a minimal change.
Predictable costs of system maintenance
I highly value the cooperation with SNP – I’m sure that the most critical system for the functioning of the company, which is SAP, is properly serviced and developed.
Key SAP users can focus on their core work, on building a business, they do not need to solve often very complex and unusual problems related to the proper operation of the system. All the problems related to SAP or its modifications are solved by SNP consultants on an ongoing basis, according to the SLA signed by us.
Fixed, predictable costs of the system maintenance are another benefit – a uniform maintenance rate gives us the comfort of budget support planning. The next issue is the availability of human resources offered by SNP; planning of vacations or substitutions in case of illness is much easier.
Marcin Szałapski, Financial Director, USP Zdrowie
Service standards at SNP
Since January 2014, SNP has been providing comprehensive support for SAP users at USP Zdrowie. The whole package of services consists of three elements: SAP application management for all business areas covered by the system, SAP administration support and SAP Enterprise Support (the so-called SAP maintenance). The implementation of SLA (Service Level Agreement) is a responsibility of the SNP Outsourcing Center. SLA for the provision of services defines in detail the scope of work carried out by SNP, reaction times (in hours) for requests with specific priorities, as well as the time of availability of consultants providing support. The terms of the contract with USP Zdrowie were determined individually – in line with the customer’s expectations.
“SNP offers a full package of services for handling and supporting the SAP sphere in the company. The customer – in accordance with his strategy of system maintenance and current needs – composes a package of services for himself or decides to choose only one service from the offer. Each of these strategies is reflected in SLAs handled at SNP. However, the potential of outsourcing at SNP is best exploited by those companies that, like USP Zdrowie, use a wide range of SNP services", underlines Michał Adamczewski, Application Management Deputy Director, SNP Poland.
SNP outsourcing contracts set out standards of work and customer service applicable in the Outsourcing Center. One of them is the principle of a single point of contact (SPoC) between the SNP service organization and the customer. The role of the Service Desk Team is to accept the customer’s request, register it and further distribute it in the service organization. After the initial selection, requests are forwarded to the appropriate teams of the application management, SAP administration or infrastructure maintenance (depending on the type of services) for processing.
In the entire “life cycle" of a request, a dedicated application is used. It is not only a medium of communication, but first of all it registers and archives all requests, enables keeping track of their status and reporting the time of response and completion of tasks, as well as escalation paths. And at the end of the process – it is a source of data for billing.
For USP, the single point of contact approach is a significant change in the organization of service support, which is, however, consistent with the expectation of a stable maintenance and access to high competencies. Each service request is a responsibility of the organization, and not an individual consultant, which ensures continuity of service at a high level. When making a request, a user can be sure that, in the first place, it will be accepted (by the consultants on duty), and secondly, that it will be properly addressed and handled in accordance with the priority assigned to it. Such organization of service effectively eliminates also problems with the unavailability of a designated consultant (e.g. due to illness or vacation), and the risk that the service provider will be no longer capable of ensuring effective customer service when a specific employee leaves the company.
The remote work and application for handling requests are used to organize work and ensure continuous availability, however they do not eliminate the direct contacts between the system users and consultants.
The direct communication between SNP and USP Zdrowie is a responsibility of designated coordinators of contracts. Their role is to oversee the implementation of the contract terms, to bill the work, to settle disputes, if any, to set activity schedules and to plan further work.
On the part of USP Zdrowie, the coordinator is Kamila Sienkiewicz, IT Project Manager: “I rate highly the quality of communication with SNP. In this aspect, the critical factor is the role of a coordinator – this is always one, competent person on the side of SNP, who leads the entire process from beginning to end, regardless of the type of a problem reported, doubts, questions. With such a professional approach, all issues, especially urgent for USP Zdrowie, are resolved quickly and efficiently. I want to mention also that comprehensive reporting tailored to our needs allows us to monitor the time limits covered by SLA on an ongoing basis.
I want to emphasize that the very smooth exchange of information makes our cooperation lively and focused on development – improvements of changes in the service system are generated. The comments collected on a regular basis are jointly analyzed in terms of best solutions and continuous improvement of cooperation between our companies."
The above standards are consistent with the IT Service Management System implemented at SNP in compliance with ISO 20000 and ITIL recommendations. Also the security of data and systems of customers is of utmost importance, which is in turn validated by the Information Security Management System consistent with ISO 27001.
Mariusz Bałdyga, IT System Support and Development Manager at USP Zdrowie, underlines: “In the pharmaceutical industry, we work in compliance with many stringent standards. Some are required by law, other are implemented by us voluntarily to improve our processes – because in such a sensitive sphere as human health there is no room for improvisation. We expect the same from our partners. SNP work standards periodically validated by certificates were for us an important factor when we were choosing a provider of SAP services. In addition, they guaranteed, in the first place, that SNP understood well the importance of our specific requirements, and secondly, that it would be easier to adapt to them since many of the basic rules related to the security of the system change process were similar".
SLA terms included in the outsourcing agreement oblige SNP to comply with established times of reaction to a request. These terms are valid from the first day of the contract. This is particularly important in the application management service that supports users, ensuring smooth operation, and thus execution of business processes.
Therefore – in accordance with the best practices adopted in SNP – at the end of 2013 (before the provision of services), the sessions of knowledge transfer between key users of individual modules of the system at USP and consultants from the corresponding application management teams were held. A review of configuration, demonstration of a model flow of processes, discussing custom solutions and extensions – experienced (also during implementation projects) service consultants are able to quickly learn the specifics of a supported system. At USP Zdrowie, an additional favorable factor was a very precise documentation of the system.
According to the agreement, SNP is also obliged to validate all the changes in the system – from uploading manufacturer’s patches to the development work. Documenting is done using the forms provided by USP and filled in partly by the system users and partly by SNP consultants.
Long before receiving the first request, SNP consultants who provide administration service and support for USP and are responsible for maintaining documentation were appropriately trained in this area.
In the SAP application management, that is where?
The organization of the SNP application management is based on dedicated service teams accumulating “modular" competencies – according to the logic of the system. With the experience gained mostly during implementations of the SAP system, service consultants are currently specializing in remote customer support, which guarantees their continuous availability and high competence in meeting specific service needs.
The application management is also backed up by the performance potential of SNP. In some types of work, e.g. minor system development – the SNP application management can turn to implementation teams for assistance. Basis, ABAP programming and IT infrastructure competencies available at SNP are another type of supporting resources.
All service teams of SNP are involved in the provision of support services to users of USP Zdrowie. Below, we will discuss briefly the nature of cooperation and most common types of work.
Finance and controlling
Finance and controlling is the most active area, generating nearly 1/4 of service requests. Most of them are routine requests for the configuration adjustments related to new business needs (e.g. setting up new bank accounts, additional tax codes, opening financial periods in a test environment) or minor errors (e.g. a problem with aggregating the costs of raw materials).
At the implementation stage, USP Zdrowie assumed that the standard SAP FI/CO solutions would be complemented with the smallest possible number of additional extensions. The company sticks to this rule even today in all areas, ensuring coherence of the system and limiting development to a minimum, which is necessary for the effective execution of business processes. As a result, the system of USP Zdrowie is a very stable installation, in which critical errors occur rarely.
“The cooperation with SNP allows the occurring errors to be efficiently eliminated and new business needs to be met. The approach to customer service, the so-called single point of contact, works great in the area of FI/CO, which is important in the context of supported processes, often interdisciplinary ones. In practice, this means that requests are processed by consultants from outside the FI/CO area who have relevant competencies to successfully close a given request, while ensuring that it be optimal from the point of view of all areas and modules. In addition, for five days per month, USP is provided with support from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. This option is used during the month closing operation", says Michał Furgol, Controlling and Continuous Improvement Manager at USP Zdrowie.
Support in SAP HR
The personnel and payroll area – due to frequent changes in labor and social security law – is usually one of the most active customers of the application management. This rule repeats itself at USP Zdrowie. About 40% of HR requests are related to the ongoing system maintenance, preparation of adjustments for HR notes and updates published by SAP (the so-called service packs, taking into account the recent changes in law, among others) and answers to users’ questions, analyses and support in solving the problems encountered.
Development requests for configuration and programming changes account for as many as 60% of all requests. Examples of typical configuration changes are corrections or leave report configuration or changes regarding the correcting payroll generation (standard SAP settings did not allow for proper generation of this payroll as expected by USP).
A good example of development work in SAP HR is the preparation of a health and safety report. “The responsibilities of team managers in our company include taking care of the validity of periodic health examinations of their subordinates. Of course, they could view relevant reports in the system, but it is troublesome to look them up – and you have to remember to do that. SNP has prepared a report that automatically generates a reminder email and sends it to a superior seven days before the expiry of the validity of examinations and on the day of the expiry of the validity of examinations. This improvement, although a minor one, turned out to be very helpful and was appreciated by our colleagues. The value of the regular cooperation with SNP is that such changes are happening very quickly – we present an idea, prepare a concept in detail remotely, get a valuation (budget of hours/days) and after its acceptance within a specified time period we get a ready-made solution installed in the system", says Beata Daczyńska-Jagielska, Payroll Coordinator and key user of SAP HR at USP Zdrowie.
The SNP application management team supports USP Zdrowie in personnel administration and regular payroll calculation for 700 employees every month. Under the agreement, on four days in every month USP benefits from the support in payroll calculation during extended hours (from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.).
Quality management, sales and distribution
Sales and distribution are key business areas of the company. Due to the industry requirements (GDP), this area is strongly coupled with quality management in SAP QM.
SAP QM covers a wide range of processes in the company, including quality control in purchasing, production and sales processes, control of materials and finished products, handling of complaints and documentation management.
The SNP application management provides USP Zdrowie with assistance, for example, in creating new print forms for QM certificates and labels. It also deals with the introduction of modifications within existing custom solutions in this module (e.g. z reports, creation of a quality notification on a return material document).
As part of the support of the sales and distribution area, SNP took over also the support of a custom USP solution for handling correction documents for retrospective discounts. At present, a report is being prepared to allow for the aggregation and verification of the correctness of provisions created and released by selected criteria. This solution, too, is developed as part of the support service.
SAP logistics tools (production planning, materials management and warehouse management modules) are highly adapted to the specific requirements of USP.
In the ongoing system maintenance, a large number of extensions to the standard translates into the need for broad ABAP development support. Service consultants often use the help of developers, e.g. when introducing changes into forms, labels and printouts. In this area, in the processing of cross-module requests, the synergy of actions between consultants from various service teams and developers is most strongly emphasized.
SAP administration support
The picture of services for USP Zdrowie is completed by the SAP administration support in the technical area. The company has its own team responsible for the maintenance of the technical layer of the system, and by deciding to select the service of SNP in this area, it secured for itself the third line of support, thereby rationalizing the cost of maintaining its own SAP Basis competence.
As pointed out by Mariusz Bałdyga: “Remote support for administrators in the first place guarantees fast and effective help in the case of problems disrupting the continuity of business operation on a 24/7/365 basis. Reduction of business risks is very important to us. Another equally important aspect is the possibility of holding workshops at our premises with the participation of consultants having extensive knowledge not only in the field of SAP Basis, but also on issues related to databases, operating systems or virtualization. In this way, we get access to the know-how at a high level”.
Maintenance for a complete package
The SAP application management is complemented by the SAP manufacturer’s support service, which is also used by USP under the contract with SNP. As an authorized SAP partner (based on the SAP Partner Center of Expertise certificate), SNP is responsible for handling requests related to problems with the standard SAP tools.
The SAP maintenance services at SNP are provided both through reactive actions, e.g. installation of updates to optimize the operation of SAP components and patches, as well as proactive actions, e.g. Technical Quality Checks (TQC) sessions, which can improve system operation or increase its performance.
And system development
An illustration of the cross-module cooperation of consultants, and at the same time an example of development work completed as part of a package of services provided for USP, is the preparation of interfaces between the external document flow system and SAP. Based on the webService technology, the interfaces are used for automatic initial entry of purchasing invoices into the SAP system and posting of orders on the basis of data sent from the external system. The process automation ensured by the interfaces saves time (in comparison with the manual entry of the same data into SAP) and guarantees the consistency of data in the documents.
On the part of SNP, the work was done by the consultants from three different areas of competence: Basis, MM/WM and ABAP.
The above is an example of minor development in the system completed as part of a separate project based on the approved concept and budget accepted by USP.
The possibility of doing this type of work is an added value of the service contract with SNP. Tasks are carried out by consultants who know the system well, which guarantees a satisfactory result in less time. Also the cost of the organization of such a project is much smaller if you have a reliable partner.
We have mentioned already the role of contract coordinators, but it is not the only form of direct contacts. A phone and e-mail are still in use. Cyclical workshops for key users of SAP HR organized for application management customers at SNP are another example.
The latest edition of workshops was held in November. Beata Daczyńska-Jagielska sums them up as follows: “I am glad that during the workshops I had the opportunity both to see innovative solutions expanding the basic functions of SAP HR and to broaden my knowledge in the area that I deal with in my daily work." At the workshops, proprietary solutions from SNP e-Deklaracje and e-Paski in SAP HR were presented among other products. Experienced service consultants shared also simple ways to improve daily work, for example how to deal with non-standard payroll accounting or how to organize, correct and develop the organizational structure data.
Mariusz Bałdyga sums up the importance of the service contract with SNP as follows: “At USP Zdrowie, more than 200 employees use SAP on a daily basis. Each of them has to perform specific tasks, which result in the best quality products manufactured in our factories being delivered to the customers, the management board being provided with reliable financial and controlling information, and our employees getting paid on time. These are our goals. SAP is a tool that allows their achievement. Thinking about IT at the USP Zdrowie group, we mainly focus on identifying business needs and satisfying them through the implementation of new technologies or developing the existing ones. For this reason, we have handed over the responsibility for the continuity of operation and optimization of the SAP system to SNP. A single vendor providing the full support of SAP is also a guarantee that a request will be effectively handled in a short time regardless of its nature (a configuration error, a problem on the side of Basis or a bug in the software)".