Automating SAP ECP Change and Release with ActiveControl
An SAP-approved solution for cloud-hosted payroll systems
How many times have you heard SAP described as being like an island, or a black box, or something similar? If you asked the Basis Technologies team I’m sure the answer would be ‘lots’.
In which case, what do you call an SAP system like SuccessFactors Employee Central Payroll (ECP) that’s disconnected not just from other applications but from much of your SAP estate?
Actually I don’t know. I stretched my simile and it broke. But that isn’t really important. What ECP is, why it’s separate and why that matters are the things to care about.
I’m probably as guilty as anyone of over-using labels like ‘business-critical’ or ‘mission-critical’ when describing SAP systems (though in my defence, the cap does often fit). Regardless, I’d happily apply either term to payroll.
Sure, a payroll outage might not stop you processing customer orders, or ordering from suppliers, or closing your books. It might not actually stop your business. But it could mean your staff - arguably the most vital cog in your company’s machine - don’t get paid on time, or don’t get paid the right amount; both events with potentially disastrous consequences.
And then there’s the data question. Payroll data, and a variety of related information, is highly sensitive and often closely regulated. Data breaches can be accompanied by serious financial penalties, never mind the likely negative impact on staff morale.
So it’s probably not controversial to say that everyone should be extra-careful when making any changes to payroll systems. You want a rigorous, repeatable, traceable process with all the right checks and approvals. Quality is paramount. Auditability is vital.
And that’s fine in a traditional SAP landscape: just use a change control automation tool like ActiveControl, Basis Technologies SAP DevOps automation solution, to enforce the right process.
But what about ECP, the island within an island?
ECP is a cloud-hosted payroll application provided by SAP on a subscription basis. That means they provision and run the systems and take care of things like back-ups, infrastructure uptime, disaster recovery and so on. They also control what can communicate with your ECP system and what tools can be used within it. The kind of stuff you’d normally get from a Software as a Service (SaaS) product.
Which is no coincidence. ECP is part of the ‘SuccessFactors family’. It’s essentially designed as a payroll solution for SAP users who’ve moved their HR operations into the cloud via SuccessFactors.
But ECP is a bit less SaaS-y than the rest of the family. It’s based on ABAP and Netweaver foundations and - perhaps in recognition of the complexity of payroll and the need for company-specific processes - allows end users to apply significant customization.
Which is great. It means your shiny new cloud-based payroll system can be adjusted to fit your company’s particular needs. What’s not so great is the lack of an out-of-the-box solution for managing transportable change in the kind of rigorous, repeatable, traceable way I mentioned earlier. SAP’s default offer is STMS, spreadsheets and emails. Definitely not a good option if you’re looking to minimize risk to critical systems. Think incorrect sequencing, overwrites and overtakes, missing dependencies and so on, all with a dash of unclear accountability. The usual outcomes of manual SAP change and release.
ActiveControl: Certified for ECP
Fortunately ActiveControl can help in ECP as effectively as in any other SAP landscape. It’s fully certified by SAP for use in SAP-hosted ECP systems, one of a select list of third-party add-ons to have received such approval. The ECP certification sits alongside mainstream Netweaver and S/4HANA certifications to make ActiveControl suitable for change and release management just about anywhere in your SAP estate.
How does it help? In short, ActiveControl provides advanced automation that allows you to customize ECP fast, with minimal effort and, most importantly, minimal risk. Whatever the reason you need to update your payroll systems - a highly seasonal workforce, rapid company growth or changing legal requirements, for example - ActiveControl enables you to do so with complete confidence and total transparency.
Powerful, versatile, compliant
ActiveControl automates just about every element of the change and release process. Transports can be deployed automatically according to workflow rules and a pre-defined import schedule. Up to 70 powerful analyzers eliminate technical errors like missing dependencies, and enforce quality checks like ABAP Unit tests and Code Inspector analysis. A unique Rules Engine lets you define completely customized approval workflows that match the way your team works. I could go on, but if you want to get into the details, maybe check this feature sheet or these videos out instead.
Crucially - and perhaps even more important in ECP than other SAP systems - ActiveControl acts as a single source of truth that captures every step of every change, from who created the transports, to how they were tested, to where and when they were deployed, to who approved those deployments and why. It’s basically an auditor’s dream. And better yet, all that information is available in reports that can be automatically generated in just a few clicks, saving the SAP team huge amounts of time and effort. You can even report on changes that were made to the configuration of the tool itself!
Standardize and align across ‘islands’
OK I’m back to my broken simile, but it’s helpful for my final point. Aside from all the benefits of automation, adopting ActiveControl in your ECP landscape means you can stop treating it as an island from a change control perspective.
ActiveControl gives you the means to standardize processes and align your development approach - whether that means waterfall, agile or DevOps - across your entire SAP estate, including ECP, with all of the benefits that can bring in terms of quality and efficiency.
If you’d like to learn more about how ActiveControl’s DevOps automation can help your company to manage change in ECP - or any other SAP system - more safely and effectively why not get in touch with one of our experts to see what ActiveControl can do?