In this article, the first of three, we seek to bring some clarity around SAP change terminology to help you better understand the intricacies of both change management and change control and the potential tool sets available to help manage the SAP change process within an SAP operational environment.
In recent years SAP has introduced significant flexibility in the way its systems can manage business needs, processes and information. This has resulted in an increase in business requested change to the IT operations teams and the resulting need for the business to develop methods to best understand what changes among the many that could be made, should be made.
IT operations are then tasked with implementing the change technically and managing the risks and resources required.
When it comes to managing change the business is typically concerned with investigating and requesting changes that might improve process, enhance functionality or better manage information. Although the business is involved, or at least should be, in approving the implementation of change, its focus is best aimed at managing the requests for change long before a line of code is written or a configuration table changed and then reviewing the change and its actual ROI once implemented.
This aspect of managing change at the higher business level we refer to as ‘Change Management’.
AMR (now Gartner) has recently reported that many find change management in an SAP environment a daunting task. They state that whilst process tools such as the Information Technology Information Library (ITIL) help manage the technical operations aspect of change, finding methods to include the business leadership in change management activities and ensuring selection of the most critical changes for investment is an ongoing challenge. In understanding methods and process around Change Management, the business can more easily manage what change requests are considered for implementation, what the consideration process looks like and eventually, how the implemented change is reviewed from an outcome and ROI perspective.
The IT operations team is primarily concerned with controlling the development and implementation of the changes and the associated system risks that come with introducing changes.
This aspect of managing change we refer to as ‘Change Control’.
Due to the growing complexity of SAP environments, IT operations teams are finding controlling high volumes of change cost efficiently whilst managing risk and regulatory requirements increasingly difficult. As per AMR findings, ITIL has provided a sense of structure and framework around the control process that has been helpful, but much of the process detail is still left up to the individual organization to think through.
In the early days of Rev-Trac, Revelation Software Concepts’ SAP change control technology (see www.xrsc.com), and this was in the early 2000’s, few organizations had thought through their change control processes very much at all. Since then, and the rise of ITIL as a framework, most organizations we speak to these days do have well considered processes. By going beyond ITIL and defining detailed processes within the framework the risk involved in implementing change can be managed, however the policing and managing of the processes can be time consuming and quite costly making it more difficult for business to justify change based on an effective ROI.
In the next few issues we will be expanding on the processes and available tool sets around Change Management and Change Control and then discuss how bringing the two together can be helpful for both Business and IT Operations.