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Scotts Miracle-Gro Sows Seeds for Digital Future

The company is freeing IT talent to advance digital transformation through intelligent SAP operations management.

4 Min Read
hand sowing grass seed

Scotts Miracle-Gro, the world's leading manufacturer of branded consumer lawn and garden products, began its digital and cloud transformation around 2017. They were running SAP software on the AWS public cloud and streamlining customer support with ServiceNow, a leading provider of customer support ticketing solutions. While the core application automation and database functionality were robust and becoming more so every day, routine tasks like updates, system refresh, and support ticketing were largely manual, which was impeding digital initiatives.

"We needed better access to data about critical operations. We needed better integration of SAP system health data into ServiceNow. And our talented system engineers were so busy reacting to day-to-day operational urgency that we had to outsource much of the more strategic activities such as cloud migrations and database conversions," said Manikantan Velayudhan Pillai, who heads up and is responsible for the SAP Basis team that drives automation and cloud initiatives at Scotts Miracle-Gro.

Concerned that this dilemma could impact business, Scott's management tasked Pillai with automating as much of the day-to-day activity as possible.

"Our teams in both India and the U.S. had been monitoring operations for specific time periods and would just update Google Sheets or Excel sheets; so, this was something we were not doing efficiently," he said.

Pillai knew that SAP had automation partners that were automating SAP operations using artificial intelligence (AI) and, through in-depth discussions at the SAP SAPPHIRE user conference, learned how this could be applied to Scotts Mirale-Gro's automation needs.

The Power of Observation

Instead of manually collecting data points and analyzing them on spreadsheets, the AIOps platform constantly monitors the SAP environment. It records billions of observations and presents anomalies in personalized dashboards, combining AI and advanced machine learning (ML) predictive analytics into a powerful operations solution. It uses sensors and operating logs to monitor the entire SAP landscape, freeing Pillai and his team from the myriad hours they might otherwise have had to invest in data gathering, troubleshooting, and reporting.

The Winning Ticket

The next step in Scotts Miracle-Gro's digital journey was integrating observational monitoring with ServiceNow. When the automation platform detects anomalies, it generates support incidents in ServiceNow automatically, providing all alerts specifications for the team to act on. Integration could be as simple as adding observability metrics into incidents or event management and integrating them into the automation approval process.

"When we started automating system monitoring, we received more than 500 incidents in our first month but were able to fine-tune and reduce the incident count to less than 50 per month," Pillai said.

A Refreshing Change

In addition to meeting Scotts Miracle-Gro requirements for observability and support, the AIOps automation platform enabled them to automate one of its most time-consuming operations: SAP system refresh.  This required turning on the platform's automation functionality, using built-in workbook features to create complex automation workflows easily. 

It supports everything from the simplest workflows to the most complex custom automation scenarios. It draws on the observability functionality to recognize key health and performance indicators before and after a refresh has taken place, simplifying and accelerating the refresh process dramatically.

"We can now refresh five SAP systems simultaneously. We can now do in three hours what used to take five people four days. We just have one person available in case of trouble," said Pillai.

Easy Implementation

Implementing the base observability functionality took only a few weeks. The platform added monitors and set thresholds automatically for each SAP system. The implementation team then made a few adjustments to default values to match the company business requirements. They did this for multiple systems at once, without having go into each individual system and manually enter what could be thousands of monitors and checks.

Integrating ServiceNow into the platform was also easy, taking less than a day after downloading the app from the ServiceNow store. It only involved authenticating the SAP system automation to the ServiceNow instance and setting some field mapping requirements for incident creation.

Automating refresh took just two weeks to set up and run successfully, with the built-in template having done most of the work. A few adjustments were needed to map workflow to business requirements. In the beginning, after each refresh the team made additional adjustments to optimize performance and quality.

Only the Beginning

With integrated monitoring and automation running and configured, Scotts Miracle-Gro is well-positioned to expand its automation initiatives, including deploying custom checks to match requirements, intelligent alerts, automation, and much more. Pillai believes that these will evolve in tandem as SAP implementation takes root further. Scotts Miracle-Gro has, for example, just gone online with SAP transportation management (TMS) and yard management applications and says that having live systems gives a much better sense of automation possibilities.

"Automation is the way to move forward. It helps focus resources on core business support and helps reduce time spent on daily mundane tasks," Pillai said. "Automation in system monitoring also helps drive better system health, which results in a better end-user experience. It also helps drive a significant reduction in time and effort spent on day-to-day activities and make for a better end-user experience."

Brenton O'Callaghan is Chief Customer Officer at Avantra. From Cork in Ireland, he has spent over a decade in the SAP world across multiple companies, roles, and geographies. Brenton has a deep background in computer science.

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