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Author's profile photo Rick Porter

Breaking Ground for Your SAP Factory

This post discusses what you’ll need before you select an SAP change control solution or modify your processes. What do you need to break ground for your factory?

Traditionally, IT systems follow demand. They add a little here, cut away some there. With no central focus, it’s “IT sprawl.” This is how typical IT Operations systems evolve over time as tools are implemented piecemeal, processes developed on the fly and regulations, such as Sarbanes-Oxley, imposed as required. To “Run Like A Factory” you’ll need to transform this sprawl into a reliable, highly integrated set of processes, each component fitting precisely into a flow where nothing gets lost and outcomes never depend on chance. This transition must be planned, not haphazard. It’s not just a question of tuning.

That leads to the core value of visibility. To plan effectively, you must know exactly what you’re dealing with. Not just the physical architecture and components, but also the data flows, software components, trouble points and, if possible, the causes behind those trouble points. Visibility allows you to map out your objectives in advance, in more than a general way. In engineering terms, it lets you document your requirements. It’s a bigger challenge than many people realize but, as the saying goes, the devil is always in the details. Setting specific requirements lets you make informed assessments of candidate solutions.

Another important factor will be flexibility. You’ll need flexibility when implementing a new change control strategy, not just during continued operations. If a tool can’t be flexible enough to manage and enforce your existing processes or easily interlink with existing tools, or if it takes six to twelve months to configure or customize and requires consultants for every subsequent major change, then the solution is more likely to be more painful than the problem – and costs will mount  quickly. So, make sure you understand not just the initial cost of the technology, but the continuing investment necessary to reach and maintain productive use. Avoid trading flexibility for low up-front cost.

That gets us to auditability. Audits themselves are, ultimately, visibility tools. As previously mentioned, auditability is possibly the best way to gain efficiency and to realize long-term savings in regulated or standards-compliant industries.

With visibility and a clear understanding of your change control requirements, you’ll not only be able to manage change vs. “just making changes,” you’ll be able to accurately forecast the time and costs required to get the factory up and running. You can leave behind your obsolete status quo and “Run Like A Factory” while you lead, not follow, your markets.

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