With the Revelation Software Concepts team having just spent three long days on the floor at SAPPHIRE NOW in Orlando few months ago, I was keenly interested to hear what the key topics of conversation were at RSC's ‘Simplifying SAP Change Control’ booth. In this article, I overview the five key areas users and decision makers were most interested to learn about when speaking with the team around SAP change control technology options.
Surprisingly, ease of use, degree of automation, enforceability, ease of configuration and costs to implement a technology were the key areas of interest this year. Perhaps as the result of SAP change teams and technology users being far more knowledgeable on the subject of SAP change control technology than in years past and many having had direct user experience with a technology.
Ease of use
Firstly, users were interested in how easy a change control technology is to use.
Many on the change team will find themselves interacting with a change control technology daily and so how intuitive a technology is and how familiar they may be with the GUI, set up and or configuration certainly goes a very long way to ensuring their acceptance of the product.
Several of the issues cited for asking about ease of use centred on user issues, time and intensity of ongoing user training efforts and the likelihood of users looking for and using a work around.
Degree and ease of automation
Next, users were interested in the degree of automation a change control technology might provide.
Depending on the technology, there can be significant variations in both the degree of automation provided and how the automation is accesses or applied. For example, how change is detected, how and when transports may be deployed, how transport sequencing errors might be detected, what actions kick off workflow alerts and how the approval process might be automated.
The degree of automation provided has a significant bearing on the amount of human effort (cost and risk) removed from the change process by the technology.
Thirdly, users were interested in how easy, or possible, it might be to enforce the use of the technology or any particular change process.
Particularly important if the technology is difficult to use, enforcement prevents users coming up with creative workarounds. If the technology can tolerate user workarounds then an amount of change will go unnoticed into production and without adequate audit trail.
Understanding the degree of flexibility around enforcement configuration and whether or not the disciplines can be enforced with relative ease is an important element of change control technology success.
Ease of configuration
Next, users wanted to know how simple (or not) the change control technology might be to configure, set up and change.
Whether or not a team is going be stuck with limited control over process and user configuration has a strong bearing on ongoing change control flexibility. An organisation’s change control processes, SAP landscape environment and organisational structure tend to be dynamic and so a high degree of configuration flexibility can be empowering.
Costs to implement
Finally, users were interested in the all-important implementation and ongoing costs of a change control technology.
Things like the number of estimated days to full productive use combined with the daily cost of the implementation team and internal resource requirements have a significant impact on the total cost of a change control technology project. One of the traps, as with any technology project, is not have a full and clear understanding of such cost variables before embarking on a project.
Together, ease of use, degree of automation, enforceability, ease of configuration and costs to implement can make or break a SAP change control technology project. By drilling down into each of these areas during technology evaluation SAP change organisations can save themselves a great deal of user frustration, save wasted effort and save hard to come by budget money by arriving at the right decision before selection rather than after.