Change Management

IT Governance and SAP– How to Evolve and Manage the new SAP Application Push?

At SAP Sapphire last month, SAP’s focus on in-memory computing with HANA, mobile and “people-centric” applications (looking to leverage the accessibility and community creation and allure of social business) bring both additional opportunities and challenges in the areas of application life-cycle management (ALM) and IT governance.  SAP’s executives laid out a broad and attractive plan for leveraging these areas which was augmented by additional sessions at the conference. The performance optimization benefits to in-memory computing with SAP’s adoption of HANA at a time of dramatically increasing data and analytic demand is engaging. Mobile is becoming the platform of choice for users – most of us – with our insatiable demand for immediate, 24×7 access to key corporate (and personal) financial, supply chain, and customer data which is driving massive growth for mobile applications. And accessing that information in ways that take advantage of intuitive, alluring social media create potential benefits for collaboration, for intuitive ease of access and broader user adoption and leverage by communities. Yet missing from this was a clear discussion of how to address the challenges of managing key applications in these emerging environments which are differently architected and carry with them the need to handle and cope with both additional opportunities and challenges for requirements (to leverage benefits), quality (to manage and measure successful application creation, function and performance), software change management and version control  and security (given increases in complexity and additional vulnerabilities that can be introduced in these environments),  greater complexity for release management and deployment, and prioritization across the portfolio of needs, given limited resource expertise in these new areas for SAP. (It isn’t surprising that these details weren’t forthcoming at this early point, yet for pragmatic and successful adoption it is key that SAP educate its user base and take advantage of its own and partner capabilities as they evolve to address these challenges.)
More Obvious initial synergies exist with Sapphire product announcements from SAP itself, and partnerships with ALM and IT Governance vendors, and we expect additional announcements in the weeks and months to come.  SAP announced an update to  Solution Manager with release 7.1, including what SAP refers to as IT Service Management on  SAP Solution Manager, based on SAP CRM7.0, improved capabilities for monitoring and alerting, as well as stronger integration with third party partners for ALM (HP, IBM, Microsoft, iRise, Worksoft), and other areas, more intuitive user interface and extended usage rights. Although Solution Manager comes with maintenance from SAP and so doesn’t obviously grow revenue, it provides SAP’s ITIL-based approach to coordinating its own and partner capabilities for broader lifecycle management for SAP applications.  In other words, it facilitates management and governance of existing SAP applications. 
Additional third party announcements of an OEM relationship with iRise demonstrate SAP’s interest in the front-end of the application deployment process. Too frequently, user requirements and collaboration between those with the need and those creating the application is poor. iRise’s simulation and visualization capabilities facilitate improved business communication and can result in more targeted creation of appropriate, relevant deployment and customization for SAP users. , This OEM relationship is timely to help focus user communities appropriately, with increased complexity globally and the importance of key ERP applications, if the vibrant level of activity at the iRise booth was any indication
And on a wider scale, SAP also announced closer ties with Microsoft DUET and the Visual Studio framework of products emerging over the coming months. The announcement expands – in concept – the Microsoft/SAP relationship to include ALM and development tools for now. This news is significant because Microsoft’s developer and use audience with its SMB and workgroup is broader than the typical enterprise SAP customer, and the DUET partnership has benefited both companies since its launch 6 years ago. With Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2010 launch (and close integration with both Microsoft Project 2010 for project and portfolio management and Sharepoint 2010 for collaboration), announcement of the extension of the SAP/Microsoft partnership can potentially have impact for better management of SAP applications by Microsoft’s broad user base.
SAP has partners with end-to-end lifecycle management capabilities that include systems and service management (such as HP, IBM and others). These partners are also in a position to support broader governance and management of SAP applications as SAP continues down its path with in-memory computing, mobile, and its nascent social business approach with “people-centric” applications. (It is interesting that the first such application announced last year – Streamworks – also enabled more agile development approaches at TechED Q4 2010. I observed the final phases of a 24-hour Developer Jam seeking to solve a series of business challenges for non-profit organizations. The resulting majority of applications were targeted for and made available on mobile platforms.)
SAP has for some time laid out an approach to application lifecycle management that leverages third parties and encompasses a broad agenda (as well as taking into consideration processes for the hand-off to deployment with ITIL support).   SAP’s architectural and cross-platform deployment initiatives from SAP must result in additional product and partner capability to address both the opportunities and challenges available with these news initiatives.
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