Passing the Relay Baton

Communicate, Coordinate, and Collaborate – The Importance of SAP Environment Management

The speed, complexity, impact, and sheer amount of enterprise projects increases every day, especially if your business is going through a major initiative like digital transformation. Enhanced and integrated change control leadership across business units will keep up with the speed of the business while ensuring systems integrity, quality, and reducing risk. This is called Environment Management.

The horror, the horror

It’s 4 pm on Friday, and the SAP (ERP) project team just got out of the change control meeting approving a bunch of changes to go to production systems that evening.

Meanwhile, on another floor, the business plans to start a long load process for data conversion from the recent acquisition that evening.

In another building, the IT team executes their first steps for an enterprise storage migration spanning the weekend, beginning that evening.

A few hours later, orders stop flowing, transactions are failing, customer service is panicked, the data loads fail with new errors, and IT has to scramble to get the system working right away…then go back and try to figure out what happened. What a mess! They trust IT will figure it out, especially if it was anything like what happened last quarter. However, now someone has to explain why another disruption that resembles the previous disruption has occurred.

Incidents like these are why businesses implement Environment Management in their Centers of Excellence.

How was Environment Management born?

The Environment Management function was born out of a need to close gaps in the way businesses communicate and collaborate on changes across separate groups. These groups include project teams, application production support, business operations, and IT services. They are classically separated by organizational charter with different leadership, expertise, and tools for planning and change management, often physically separated as well. As a result, their planning and execution of business and IT activities are done separately, increasing the risk of conflict which results in avoidable business disruptions and outages. This leads to higher cost of operations, potential loss of revenue and customers, bad press, stock price hits, and will frustrate the business and IT leadership.

What does Environment Management provide businesses?

Environment Management helps businesses collaborate and integrate change management processes across the enterprise to deliver operational excellence. It can integrate project and operational calendars, proactively identifying risks before they impact the business. By implementing environment management, businesses increase stakeholder engagement and reduce risk, while improving quality and lowering costs.

Does the Project Management Office Handle Environment Management?

The short answer is, not likely. Why? There are a few reasons. Often the classic PMO’s charter doesn’t crossover into production operations. Second, the PMO doesn’t have any charter to manage changes outside of that project. At best they can manage project-based plans and changes from an application perspective. Unfortunately, that also means that the separate IT groups manage their projects and changes.

What does it take to implement and run Environment Management?

Establishing and running an effective Environment Management function means inherently integrating these different groups by erasing previous lines of separation and enabling a common platform for collaboration. It requires people, a process, and a common repository for activity tracking. If your business already has an effective SAP Change Control Board of some type, most of the foundation for Environment Management is already laid. Depending on how your company is organized and whether you have a Program Management Office or Enterprise IT Change Board, the stakeholders can be identified, and the charter of the Environment Management function can be agreed upon, complete with a level of authority. Finally, a transition process is set up to begin integrating these change drivers and their activities with a common repository, meeting schedule, and communication plan.

Witnessing the Benefits of Environment Management

20 years ago, I joined a core technical team supporting a large SAP client and its 3 business units. The client had very little change control to speak of. As a result, they were stepping on each other’s toes, causing problems, had little quality assurance, and were reinventing the wheel constantly. Partially born out of their need, but also for the sake of my sanity, I spearheaded the creation of a new Change Control Board and processes. We saw results very quickly with many benefits realized:

  • Production systems became stable
  • Change status became available (proposed, approved, implemented, etc.)
  • Fewer risks across the project, production support, IT, and business operations teams
  • The volume of flawed changes significantly decreased
  • Number of change windows was reduced
  • Emergency procedures more rigorous but still easy to follow and efficient
  • Stress levels improved, and people started taking lunch again
  • Fewer nights and weekends were being worked
  • Greater accountability and quality through a QA feedback loop

The benefits Environment Management made it a central component of our support. I had no idea at the time it would become an area of expertise we are passionate about and a foundational belief for Crosstek’s delivery of operational excellence to our clients.

Click here to learn about Crosstek’s Environment Management program.

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