Fortune 100 food and beverage company refreshes SAP ALM with LiveCompare
Relying heavily on SAP ERP, one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies was challenged by SAP application lifecycle management (ALM), especially with testing, support packs, master data management, synchronization and overall quality control. In addition, they aimed to benefit from new SAP technology, but had to do so while simultaneously reducing risks.
Custom development analysis
“Our situation is unique: instead of just assessing SAP support pack transports, we’re also analyzing our own custom development transports,” explained the company’s SAP application development lead.
“We have to scope-out testing for internal releases, as well as for SAP support packs. Therefore, we needed to reduce the time, money and resources necessary to handle such high volume, frequent, system activity.”
Guarantee system stability
Knowing how difficult it can be to guarantee system stability during functional and operational ALM activities, the food and beverage guru bundles internal development into several planned releases per year. IT struggled with the overwhelming amount of manual analysis necessary to identify every object and coinciding executable process change. Too much time was being wasted: too many people were being utilized: too great a risk to the SAP system was being taken. IT struggled daily to balance project and time management with efficiency and accuracy.
“It’s essential to do a comprehensive SAP system analysis, but it’s not practical to do it manually,” said their SAP application development lead. “We were burning resources and weren’t guaranteeing data integrity, putting general business operations at risk. We knew automation was the key to this process and we began the search for a solution to empower IT to more effectively manage SAP ALM.”
Tricentis LiveCompare bubbles to the surface
SAP is at the heart of the company’s functional operations, so the quality of releases gets very high internal visibility. “It’s a top priority with the CDO and CIO,” remarked their SAP application development lead. “There is strong emphasis on quality management and stable releases.” The company had to improve SAP ALM. Tricentis LiveCompare software was the answer. “LiveCompare ensures we’re testing the right things and spending resources in the right places,” said their SAP application development lead. “When developing a regression test plan, the data received from LiveCompare allows us to more accurately tailor each plan to an individual release. Instead of testing everything we test only what’s impacted. That has translated into a direct resource savings of 30-40%.”
Regression testing, validation & scope analysis
For every release, the company runs LiveCompare to understand what will be impacted with the next SAP version. Data generated is used for regression testing, test validation and scope analysis, making IT more efficient and enabling them to focus on the more strategic aspects of maximizing SAP. “We use LiveCompare as a sanity check before and after the test cycle,” noted their SAP application development lead. “Once we’ve made changes to address defects, we simply launch LiveCompare again as a total landscape audit. Now, we catch everything and there are no surprises.”
- Testing scope of support packs reduced significantly
- Up front knowledge of which transactions are affected and need to be tested
- “Test everything” approach replaced with a smart, focused testing strategy
- Maintain data quality in development systems
- Troubleshoot transport issues before and after they happen
- Perform ad-hoc analysis as and when the business requires
Optimizing test strategy for support packs
The company’s IT is advanced in leveraging innovative technologies to improve operations. They have made LiveCompare a standard practice in its SAP ALM strategy. “Drilling into every object to find every process it touches would involve lots of manual analysis if we didn’t have LiveCompare,” said their SAP application development lead. “It’s just not cost effective to do that. Automation is critical.”
A key example of LiveCompare’s usage at the company is around support packs. In the past, IT would shut off the path to production so any maintenance was conducted in a separate “break-fix” environment, which was on the same release and SP level as production. As for development, IT would have to redo it on the development system and ensure the changes weren’t lost when the normal path to production was turned back on. That meant IT was doing double the maintenance work and exceeding budget, as well as human resource efforts.
“Managing SAP support packs was a major challenge for us and our risk adverse approach was to test all critical business processes,” explained their SAP application development lead. “IT had to find a new methodology for identifying and mitigating the impact of implementing support packs, as well as custom development in our SAP environments.”
“The knowledge we gain from LiveCompare allows us to minimize the double work and test only what needs testing. That saves time, costs and risks, and also gives us more SAP system flexibility.”
With LiveCompare’s smart impact analysis capabilities, the company can identify standard and custom reports/transactions that will be affected by a support pack installation, dramatically reducing the testing effort while increasing test plan coverage. LiveCompare tells IT whether or not a specific change is safe to make and that insight has increased the business’ confidence in maintenance, as well as the overall release process. “The knowledge we gain from LiveCompare allows us to minimize the double work and test only what needs testing,” said their SAP application development lead. “That saves time, costs and risks, and also gives us more SAP system flexibility.”
Validating change in SAP environments
As a part of IT’s SAP ALM strategy, the company is always finding new uses for LiveCompare. While it’s used primarily in the ERP, BI and HCM systems, LiveCompare can be used anywhere. “We ran across an unauthorized modification to a table, which created quite a stir,” recalled their SAP application development lead. “Once we restored it, we needed to be sure it worked and everything else ran as expected. IT used LiveCompare to assess the transport and table change, and determine the scope of impacted processes. This allowed for efficient, effective validation. The software is like a security blanket.”
The company also spoke of an ad hoc Unicode remediation that had to be tackled for a system conversion. There were three transports IT wanted to evaluate to get a sense for the scope of all included objects and the effort to test them. LiveCompare was used to quickly assess the situation and more quickly identify the impact of changes to thousands of objects than could be done if analysis was manually conducted.
“LiveCompare is great for simple ‘bread and butter’ operational usage, as well as for strategic SAP ALM,” said their SAP application development lead. “LiveCompare helped us see the impact of those objects and run them against the usage statistics in the production system, and then call out what would have been affected. It reduced both our remediation workload as well as testing.”
“LiveCompare is great for simple ‘bread and butter’ operational usage, as well as for strategic SAP ALM.”
Data consistency & master data synchronization
IT frequently uses LiveCompare’s Quick Compare Wizard functionality. Deep within their SAP lives a list of tables that are maintained centrally and distributed to other areas. Data across those tables must be consistent and IT doesn’t want to rely solely on risky manual entry when changes are made. The company has been using the Quick Compare Wizard as a safety net. IT selects only what needs to be compared, and chooses tables across multiple systems to check that master data is synchronized.
“With LiveCompare we can maintain high data quality in our development systems and confirm that we don’t miss anything from a distribution perspective,” said their SAP application development lead. “It’s a very straightforward tool that just needs the input to ‘do its thing’ and that takes a lot of pressure off of my staff.”
The company continues to extend its usage throughout the SAP landscape. “LiveCompare automatically identifies what is changing and what’s the impact of each change across SAP lifecycle activities in multiple environments,” said their SAP application development lead. “Quality has improved in our last three SAP releases and LiveCompare is definitely a part of the reason.”