03/04/2008 by Peter Helfenstein
In the context of large commercial software installations, the opportunity to reduce costs in the long run – all through the life cycle of the systems – is tremendous. Four fields of Application Management, pragmatically introduced and applied, are able to substantially contribute to this potential benefit.
Project Portfolio Management
A consistent Project Portfolio Management (PPM) which considers, evaluates, and releases all changing activities from a business as well as an IT point of view, will concentrate effort and reduce cost. In many cases, changes are evaluated from either business or technical perspective. To get to a comprehensive assessment of change requests by IT – concerning complexity and effects on other business processes or technical components – suitable tools are often missing. As a result, decisions are often based on wrong assumptions, and effort and cost estimates prove to be false.
A pragmatic Quality Management, consistently supporting the development process, and realized as an integrated tool, is often missing or insufficiently implemented. Integration of development and quality methods and tools spanning all phases from definition of requirements up to testing, will ensure completeness of testing and, above all, hold the scope of testing activities at a reasonable level. Often, Quality Management fails because the scope of testing cannot be clearly defined. As a result, complete testing gets too laborious and will be left out in parts or even completely. When attempting to put the changes into effect, then, at the latest, there will be undesirable additional costs.
The presumably most difficult issue with large SAP and other packet software installations can generally be referred to as Environment Protection – and it holds the greatest potential for benefit. The number of components in modern systems is dramatically growing. The reutilization of customizing settings, data, processes, functions, program components or services helps in the first place to lower development costs. On the other hand, it increases the risk of changes taking effect on various parts of the system, intentionally or unintentionally.
So how could be made sure that one or more changes at a time will not interfere with other functions that are, at the same time, running or being edited? There are in fact approaches to address this problem by the help of methods and tools. But most of them are to a large extent restricted to the developers´ perspective. They are inadequate for customizing activities, let alone for a business analyst evaluating the effects of changes, which means inadequate on business level. Environment Protection is getting a more and more exigent issue as the amount of internally and externally created services used in the context of SOA (Service Oriented Architectures) is constantly growing.
The lifecycle of large applications is not restricted to three or five years. From a realistic point of view, we should rather talk about ten, twenty or more years. And these applications are permanently in a process of change. A consistent Lifecycle Management for all objects, no matter if they are of rather business-related, technical, organizational or descriptive nature or relate to the technical process of their development and operation, is a pressing requirement. The issue is not only relevant for the results of development – how is a result changed over a longer period of time, and for which reason? – but also for the development process itself: What does its realization look like? And, once it is clearly defined, should it repeatedly be carried out in the same way? Changes must be targeted and documented. Useful and reasonable documentation, digitalization, administration, and automation are in demand. This is a promising approach to avoid redundant and unnecessary activities in the context of system change and development.
Application Management projects around SAP and other large packet software installations in all kinds of industries make it obvious that the targeted investment in Project portfolio Management, Quality Management, Environment Protection and Lifecycle Management is profitable. With reasonable effort, they produce high benefit all through the lifecycle of the systems. But there is also a short-term advantage, the reduction of errors. Better defined system environments facilitate parallel work on projects. And it will be possible to benefit from prior projects, with respect to development as well as testing and deployment.
Project work, in particular, clearly shows the high demand for an optimized support of methods and tools in the context of Application Management. In many cases, there is still a great deal of unnecessary manual work done – an issue bearing a great potential for software vendors and at the same time being a challenge for producers of commercial software. In our new beteo mini guides, we present a survey of Application Management tools – not only for SAP systems.