Moving into SAP Functional Development : Gaining Control of Change Control - How to Organize and Plan for Change in the Real World

1/7/2014 2:49:30 AM

To stay linked with the entities that drive or create changes, you must integrate a “change management” organization into your SAP processes and day-to-day life supporting SAP. Doing so also promotes the need for maintaining, testing, documenting, and otherwise managing change throughout the company. To accomplish this, I recommend constructing an SAP support team focused on creating the best end-user experience achievable. Such an organization should have timely or “always on” access to an online change management system; authority on behalf, and cooperation of, the end-user community; access to the SAP TSO and other resources as required, and more, as you will see.

In my experience, there is no single best answer when it comes to building a change management organization, much less simply naming it. Placing them within the larger structure of the SAP Technical Support Organization or another group is also subject to a variety of things. As is evident from the following list, the teams tasked with managing change can be found across many different organizations, both in and out of traditional technology-focused and business-focused organizations. Some of the “homes” that SAP change management organizations find themselves a part of include

  • Obvious organizations, like Change Support, Change Management Team, Change Control Group, and so on

  • An organization focused on change within a business-management context, including Business Applications Services, Business and Change Integration, Organizational Effectiveness/BPR Management and Business Services, or Business Systems

  • Groups tasked with knowledge management, like SAP Knowledge Management or the Knowledge Transfer Team

  • A group within the general IT organization, like Information Resource Management team, Information Technology, Technology Integration Group, or the plain ol’ IT Department

  • Part of a larger functional area or business-oriented team, like Finance & Accounting, Global Supply Chain, or SAP Cost Management and Controlling, Operational Accounting, and Financial Information Support Team

  • Part of a training group, including MIS Global Learning Solutions, Training Services, Learning Center, IT Training and Documentation, Change Management & Training, ERP Training/Information Technology, Training and Process Group, or Technology Education

  • A group affiliated with customer service or help desk organizations, like Client Services, Information Support, SAP User Support, or simply SAP Support

  • A member of the general SAP Technical Support Organization, with perhaps a title that reflects “Change Management Analyst” or something similar

Given this, however, an organization like the one illustrated in Figure 1 is deployed most often in my experience.

Figure 1. The change management and project management activities work hand-in-hand in this typical “Change Management” organization.

Change Management Review Board

Although the change management team might be focused on managing and implementing changes, a change oversight committee or Change Management Review Board tends to play a key strategic role in larger or more complex SAP implementations, staying connected with the project well after Go-Live. The Review Board ultimately serves as the gatekeeper for the release or change wave strategy, refining and enhancing the process as the business or relevant IT organizations require. In this role, the Review Board actively communicates and coordinates functionally, cross-functionally, and across regions or geographies—their scope is as large as the circle of project stakeholders. Traditional Review Board responsibilities include

  • Driving standardization of common, global change management processes, and pushing these down into the functional and SAP TSO organizations

  • Identifying activities and practices that must exist to effectively achieve the benefits expected from each change/enhancement to the SAP Solution Stack

  • Coordinating and prioritizing changes/tasks to achieve improved productivity from the SAP system’s end users, including pushing organizations in getting timely decisions made

  • Measuring improvements in SAP by identifying and publishing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), provided from each of the business organizations

The Review Board also often acts as the facilitator for coordinating and communicating resource allocation needs, like training materials in support of changes, updated workflow/process-flows and similar documentation, access to testing resources, and access to super users or power users identified as such within their functional areas.

Manager of Change Management

The Manager of Change Management (a generic title) is a key member of the Change Management Review Board, tasked with building/maintaining the change management team as well as maintaining and refining the change processes adopted by the Review Board. Because of this, the CM Manager must possess not only excellent communication and facilitation skills, but also exceptional business acumen. With these core competencies, the CM Manager is equipped to address a number of key responsibilities during the initial stages of the SAP implementation, including

  • Securing executive sponsorship in support of a formal change management organization

  • Assessing the critical implementation challenges specific to the project

  • Developing or embracing/refining an existing change management organization

  • Communicating the real or perceived impact that changes will have in different organizations to all stakeholders, and then working to either expedite resolutions or mitigate risks


Don’t be tempted to outsource the “CM Manager” position to a third-party contractor or consultant house. Such a role is best served by a long-time employee of the company, intimately familiar with the informal and formal power structures within the organization.

An ability to align business operations and work processes with new technology is key as well, as is an ability to negotiate with the various stakeholder and agents of change in the company. And it must be noted that the biggest opportunity for failure, according to more than a few of my SAP customers, is not gaining the executive sponsorship needed up front. Without this, the Change Management Manager has less perceived authority, and therefore less ability to enforce change control processes vital to the stability of the system.

Senior SAP Change Management Analyst

This senior position is critical to fill as early in the deployment as possible, as the best candidates will play a significant role in supporting changes even as soon as the data center is completed and the development system is put in place. I have seen anywhere from one to eight change management analysts included in my clients’ overall SAP implementation project plans. Two to four seems to be average. Key skills and experience in the following areas are of the utmost concern:

  • Change management experience with SAP systems or other large ERP/enterprise solution environments

  • Organization and change strategy consulting or related hands-on experience

  • Familiarity with the specific releases and versions of SAP to be deployed

  • Both outstanding written and oral communication and presentation skills

  • Ability to work with all levels of the organization, from executives to “single contributor” employees and contractors

  • Ability to keep a small team focused on working through changes that may prove difficult to implement, including maintaining a high level of resolve on the part of the entire team

Additionally, because the senior change management analyst will probably help the change manager develop the SAP change management team over time, as well as address day-to-day and other tactical issues, the following qualifications are also important:

  • Change analysis experience in support of implementing and managing SAP enhancements (functional change releases or waves)

  • Experience with automated testing, and building test case models

  • Leading and educating the business through readiness activities

  • Ability to draft and maintain clearly written documentation

  • Training logistics

  • Change metrics (how to measure success)

Other typical activities might include participating in the design or redesign of the team, documenting the various business process design sessions or the technology update projects in which he participates, and so on. Assistance with developing and deploying training curriculum is a common use of this member’s time, too, as is helping to continually refine the SAP communication plan. Finally, the senior change management analyst should also be focused on how to plan for, manage, and implement the emergency changes that crop up periodically.

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