What exactly is it that a support engineer does for a living? A day in the life of Rimini Street SAP support engineer Joe van der Merwe.
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Every morning between 8:30 am and 9 am, Joe van der Merwe returns from taking his two oldest children to school and heads for his desk. With a cup of coffee at the ready, he starts up his computer.“First, I check the status of pending incidents every morning. Has a new incident been added overnight? Have solutions been found for those urgent incidents that were still open last night? These are the questions I ask myself to prioritise my work for the day,” explains the 39-year-old support engineer with 20 years of SAP experience under his belt before sipping his coffee.
Thoroughness trumps speed
In his role, thoroughness trumps speed. Rimini Street pays close attention to ensuring that all support engineers are vastly experienced, since they are all responsible for a certain number of clients. If this number is exceeded, the third-party maintenance provider hires additional staff. “This is an important point that I like about my work. I really have time to look after each and every client. This makes it virtually impossible that incidents don’t get resolved,” emphasises Joe.
This level of problemsolving expertise comes as no surprise. On average, the SAP suppor t engineers at Rimini Street each have 10 years or more of professional experience, which they acquired either in the project or the support business.
“In all modesty, we can say that my colleagues and I are all senior staff members, which has significant benefits for our clients,” emphasises Joe, adding: If one of us ever gets stuck, we help each other out. This ensures that our focus is always on our client and their problem, not on us and our own state of mind. This kind of solution-driven team spirit is something I hadn’t encountered at any of my previous employers.”
Situations in which colleagues help one another may arise in particular when the cause of a client’s problem lies in a tiny detail, but after four hours of code analysis it’s very easy to get lost in a forest, looking for trees. In such cases, Joe van der Merwe sends an email to his col-leagues and takes a short walk or goes to lunch to clear his head. “What other company offers this kind of freedom and flexibility?” he asks as he looks out of his office window and into his garden.
Quality is Rimini Street’s top priority. And it thrives best where people can engage individually with their clients and draw fully on their skills and creativity. “Often it’s not about solving the specific case, but to change the problem in such a way that the request becomes solvable in the first place. I remember a case where the client wanted to call up SAP functions from the web interface. But that did not work,” says Joe.
In the end, the solution was to call up the functional components directly, which were supposed to be executed via the menus in the original request. The client responded promptly: “I’m pretty sure that Joe is an ABAP Jedi,” he commented after the support incident was closed.
Putting the Customer First
Because that is what Rimini Street is all about: client satisfaction. This begins with response times. For example, sup port cases with priority 1, that is, failure of a productive SAP system, must receive a response from the responsible support engineer within 15 minutes.
One member of staff is always on call and in charge of monitoring the incoming requests. Such colleagues are available for each time zone. If there is no response from the responsible support staff, the case will be escalated to the next higher level, for example, to Europe.
If there is no response from there either within a few minutes, all support staff worldwide are alerted. “Naturally, this is more theory than reality, given that the average response time for priority 1 and 2 incidents is currently five minutes. Besides, even our CEO himself would be alerted before the 15 minutes response time lapses,” explains Joe van der Merwe.
He is a SAP Senior Support Engineer for Europe, as well as a specialist in ABAP programming and SAP Duet Enterprise, and has been with Rimini Street for almost three years now. Previously, he spent 17 years working as a programmer and support staff member in the SAP environment.
This unique experience is what distinguishes the support engineers at Rimini Street. Joe, for example, took just a week to resolve a support case that had been open at the manufacturer for two years. The client’s response was glowing:
“This was my first support incident with Rimini Street. I wanted to put the support staff through their paces, and there was one case that SAP wasn’t able to resolve for more than two years. The manufacturer spent almost the entire year 2011 working on the problem with one of our programmers, but to no avail. I re-opened the ticket in June 2013 with a different description and chased down support about it for five months. Again to no avail, only numerous delaying tactics. When Joe came in contact with the case, he solved the problem in about a week. He was professional and courteous. Thank you very much for your help. I‘m so glad that we switched to Rimini Street.”
“It’s feedback that is based on a personal relationship with the client and genuine trust that makes my job so rewarding for me personally,” Joe notes with satisfaction. “Clients are always delighted when they are able to work with the same contact person in case of problems.
The Panic Manager
Imagine an SAP system fails and hundreds of employees can’t carry out their work, or an entire production line may be about to stop. Even experienced SAP colleagues might panic at first,” explains Joe. “So it’s great if you can turn to a friend, so to speak. In such cases, I become my clients’ consoler, panic manager, communication specialist and problem-solver all in one – and I love it.”
The causes of such problems don’t always have to be complicated. In one case, a client could no longer log onto the SAP system and start the product system after a system backup. The reason was rather simple: there was just not enough available space for the backup, so many backup files were damaged.
In situations like this, it helps to keep a cool head to find the best recovery point from where the production system can be made functional again. Because even the best support engineer can’t know everything, Rimini Street ensures that the necessary expertise is available even before a contract is entered into with a client.
Only then can our clients’ entire SAP environment including all individual code changes be supported – which is the standard at Rimini Street.
Each month Joe resolves 15 to 25 cases. Most of them are assigned to category 3. They are queries that need to be solved, but have no major impact on the production system. “A good day for me is when I have resolved an issue or saved the day for one of my clients,” sums up Joe.