Part 5 in the “Journey to Intelligent ERP” series
As I explored in my previous blog on custom code, standardized solutions are not a perfect fit for every organization. Sometimes making changes to ERP software will be the best way for IT to meet the needs of the business.
This is just as true for modern, intelligent ERP solutions as it was for traditional ERP software. But what has changed is the pace at which IT is being asked to make these changes.
Meet the demands of business agility
Today, developers are working faster and more collaboratively than ever to deliver what business users need to do their jobs effectively. As explored in my previous blog on user adoption, development increasingly takes place outside IT with in-depth involvement from business users, and can often be outsourced.
Changes could involve anything from altering a back-office process to making it easier for a user to find what they need on a KPI dashboard. But one thing is certain: The pressure is on to quickly implement changes that help organizations run in an agile way.
Take a measured approach to keep control
Unfortunately, this new mantra of “fast, collaborative, and agile” clashes head-on with the traditional, more measured change-management approach that most IT folks are used to. This would normally involve moving changes through separate development and quality assurance systems before finally introducing the changes into the live production systems.
By introducing changes in this controlled way, IT teams help ensure that there are no surprises. They can understand the impact and risks of any changes ahead of time and can plan effectively. Furthermore, they can rest assured that any changes are fully traceable – a must in heavily audited sectors such as healthcare and defense.
Define your change management style
How can organizations manage the conflicting pressures of this two-speed IT? First, you need to ask yourself what your business really needs and choose the most appropriate change-management style for your organization.
A smaller company operating in a fast-moving industry may choose a continuous deployment approach. This involves making individual changes in the ERP software as and when required, without undergoing time-consuming impact assessment and scheduling.
An organization may choose to import all changes associated with a particular project at the same time. This phase-driven deployment approach enables IT to release numerous project-related changes in a controlled, scheduled way.
Finally, a large enterprise with multiple teams working on numerous changes at any given time may choose a managed release approach. This involves detailed analysis of the relationships and dependencies between each change, and optimized scheduling of the release of changes into the live system to minimize disruption to the business.
Choose the right tools
Whichever change management style you choose, it’s critical to take advantage of software such as SAP Solution Manager that supports the entire change management process. By using a range of tools and functionality, developers and IT teams can work together to introduce changes to your ERP solution in a smooth and controlled way.
Transportation management tools enable you to organize development projects, and then transport changes between development, quality assurance, and live production systems. These tools provide analytics and testing that help you understand business impacts, such as how long it will take to restart your systems once you’ve made the changes. They also track change activities at every stage – from development to release. These analytics also prove valuable in helping developers understand the impact of changes on IT to avoid conflicts and finger-pointing over slow or delayed changes.
Release management tools allow you to define how and when you want to release changes into your live system.
Provide flexibility while maintaining a consistent strategy
As is so often the case, one size doesn’t fit all, and the key to successful change management is finding the approach that works best for your organization. However, with a consistent strategy in place and effective management tools to help you achieve it, you can run a modern ERP solution that flexes according to changing business needs. And you can do that without sacrificing control and traceability.