Keeping a Constant Eye on Software Maintenance

Who benefits from Change Request Management?

Demuth: Companies and public agencies have problems maintaining and modifying their IT applications. This situation is especially acute when the employees involved are distributed in different places and in different organization but must nevertheless collaborate to make common software modifications, to develop solutions, or to initiate a productive start. The employees find it difficult to communicate and to maintain an overview. That’s why many customers look for a product, such as the one we’re introducing with Change Request Management, that can better control and trace the processes.

When is Change Request Management to be implemented?

Demuth: Our solution helps during comprehensive migration projects or the implementation of new processes, such as a call center. Change Request Management also supports day-to-day processes, such as software modifications, or the implementation of supplemental functions (add-ons), such as the modification of a product catalog or changing a price list. Master data also needs ongoing maintenance, such as the creation of new customer and vendor records, cost centers, materials, and products, or a restructuring of master data.

What does the solution do?

Demuth: Change Request Management helps plan, trace, and monitor change and maintenance processes throughout the life cycle of SAP applications. That also includes development processes, test runs, and productive use. For example, it shows which steps are to be performed and how much effort the steps require. Take another example. The solution answers questions such as the following: How is workflow designed? How long does downtime or setup time last? Is training required? Our change management solution breaks down plans for change, development, or implementation projects into tools and areas of responsibility – into many small work plans. What’s decisive? That it supports the employees responsible; that it gives them a top-to-bottom perspective.

Can users who are not IT experts also work with it?

Demuth: Yes. That’s one of the main goals of our development. We often see cases in which nontechnical persons hold responsibility in project management. They are then forced to fight against communications problems, especially involving those handling software maintenance. Change Request Management overcomes this difficulty. All those involved in a project – in business departments and in the IT department – technicians, managers, project managers, developers, testers, and system administrators, whether in a company or in external entities, receive a common view of the required work. The process flows are transparent to everyone. They can see which tasks have been performed and which are still outstanding.

Have you completely redeveloped Change Request Management?

Demuth: We’ve developed an overall functionality from existing components that existed independently of each other. Our task was to integrate the components completely. We benefited from the advantage that SAP already had the components as proven, partial tools to make a change management solution available. The components included project management, for which we used the SAP collaboration projects (cProjects) component and the help desk from SAP for the administration of maintenance processes. Change management also includes the technical tools, long used in software logistics (the entire environment of software and customizing modifications), to maintain and enhance IT solutions across the entire life cycle. SAP also offers solution management, an essential consideration.

What has been changed in the solution management tool?

Demuth: Up to now, SAP Solution Manager was oriented toward ongoing operations. It controlled the SAP solutions used in production and administered the interfaces to external applications. We’ve enhanced SAP Solution Manager with a new subfunction that we call Change Request Management. It creates an anchor for the components I’ve mentioned. It is the central location for triggering and monitoring all measures with a change request via mySAP CRM Service. The special consideration here is the connection to operations. The change request flows directly into a system. mySAP CRM Service does not work in isolation; it is completely integrated into the systems. All process steps required to correct an error, to perform maintenance or an upgrade, or to implement an entire project are documented centrally.

Can the documentation fulfill legal requirements?

Demuth: Companies and agencies increasingly demand validation procedures that provide reliable tracing of change flows. These demands primarily arise in the context of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. They also arise from the requirements of the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), the American supervisory agency for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries and the requirements of data protection. Change Request Management can securely retrace all interventions and changes – the entire flow from planning to the last technical operation. The electronic signature ensures that only authorized persons can perform and release specific tasks.

When and how will the tool be delivered?

Demuth: Change Request Management will be offered to customers for the first time in the third quarter of 2004. The tool will be delivered as a preconfigured solution. The effort required to install it is low. Change Request Management is designed so that immediately after its implementation, it can independently collect and inventory the modifications currently maintained in the system. It first analyzes the change history before it can be used for change management. The use of Change Request Management enables controlling a maintenance process or activating an error correction. cProjects can be used to provide detailed project control for a larger, follow-up implementation project. A function to track changes beyond individual systems is also directly available.

Your project team was financed by a support program within SAP. What’s that about?

Demuth: The SAP Inspire initiative sponsors our team in its development of Change Request Management. As the corporate venturing group, SAP Inspire sponsors corporate talent within SAP with the goal of quickly and flexibly realizing innovations and new ideas in market strategies and for new products that have not yet become part of the SAP portfolio. As is also true of other projects, the financing of the change management project is limited to 18 months. After sponsorship by SAP Inspire, the project will become part of standard development. We’re pleased that we’ve so far been able to fulfill expectations well.