Do you feel the pain of change?

28 November 2011

Richard Labib

Richard Labib

Consultant

In today's electronic age you'd assume that information can be served quickly and accurately, and this would hopefully enable us to be proactive and efficient. In many business areas this is certainly the case, for example many years ago HR was seen simply as an administrative function rather than a strategic business partner. Some of this shift was due to the introduction of more employee self-service processes. But why is this not the case within IT?

Well since 1973 when R/1 was released by SAP, Change Management has been one of the biggest pain points when implementing, upgrading or optimising the solution landscape. Over the past decade we have seen an explosion of different products that are utilised, and are critical, to business operations. So if Change Management has caused pain in the past, it is only set to increase in the future.

In this blog series I'll be looking at 3 core pain points that most organisations will face. 

  1. How we can  identify the technical impact of change to our SAP systems
  2. How we can maintain our solution documentation during change
  3. How to test changes.

The pain of change

One of the 'simple' aspects of making a system change is the actual execution of the change.  For example, how long does it actually take to implement a new Enhancement Package for SAP ECC 6.0? I have always found  that the actual time to perform the technical work is a small percentage of the total project duration, and this is because it is often a complicated process to identify the change impact, plan and create solution documents, document and execute our tests.

It has always been a key challenge to understand which business processes are impacted when a support pack or enhancement pack is introduced.  Most companies will often perform a regression test of every business process because they simply do not have confidence in knowing which objects in the system have changed. In the past SAP would provide release notes that would define what is expected to be changed, but this often relies on the company understanding which objects they use in detail and how this could be integrated to an object that is going to change.

Change impact analysis

The first SAP tool that can improve our Change Management experience is the SAP Solution Manager Business Process Change Analyzer (BPCA).  BPCA enables you to identify which objects in your production system are going to change when a transport is imported. So when a new EhP is introduced into a development system and transport orders are created, these transport orders can be checked in the BPCA and a full list of every changed object can be produced.

To use BCPA you need to create a starting image in the system that can be compared with a transport order to enable the identification of changed objects. The starting image is a Technical Bill of Materials (TBOM) that is assigned to a Business Process in SAP Solution Manager.  In SAP Solution Manager the TBOM is created through the recording of the transaction code that is used in the business process.  For example if we take the Order to Cash Business Scenario the first process could be Quotation Processing and to create the TBOM you would record transaction code VA21. When you record this transaction code the system logs every object that is used during the execution of the transaction, for example views, view definitions, function groups, functions, tables, table attributes, data elements, and programs to name a few.

TBOMContentDisplay

Once TBOMs are created for all business processes then the BPCA can identify which business processes, and which objects in the business process, are going to be modified when a transport is imported. 

When the BPCA has identified all objects that are going to change a Test Plan can be generated in SAP Solution Manager. 

So our first pain point to identify what will be impacted by change can be reduced by utilising SAP Solution Managers Business Process Change Analyzer.  However this is only part of the picture, once we know what will change, we need to ensure that our Solution Documentation is maintained. And this is what I'll be covering in part 2.
 

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