I was watching my son play on his XBox at the weekend – some particularly violent shooting game. Every time he was ‘killed’ he simply re-spawned in a safe place on the map – before setting about his business all over again.
This got me thinking about a number of conversations we’ve had on customer calls recently – about transport reversal, rollbacks and backouts.
I’m often asked about the ability of ActiveControl to ‘reverse’ SAP transports via its unique BackOut Function – and indeed, the wisdom of actually doing it in the first place.
The point is, if you have a properly managed SAP change control process where changes are correctly documented, approved and tested – then why do you actually need a way to reverse SAP transports at all?
In truth, in most cases if the above is really true you don’t.
But this also assumes that we live in an ideal world where everything works as planned and expected – which of course we all know from experience is not the case.
Most SAP changes involve complex modifications to code and configuration that need to be carefully managed through their winding journey from development to production.
And of course, this is where SAP change control solutions like ActiveControl come in – to assess the risk, quality and completeness of each change, and to ensure that they go through the correct testing and approval processes.
The aim of all this ‘process’ is to ensure that the operational SAP production systems your business relies on are protected from inadvertent and poorly managed or tested changes.
How many times have you heard a change and release manager ask “What are your backout plans?”
Every SAP change has the ability to bring down business operations and even when managed with a quality change process there’s always a small risk that something can go wrong.
Maybe a change wasn’t impact assessed fully or the testing of a change might not have been as rigorous as it could have been.
When a production outage stops your business, you’ll be less concerned about who was at fault and more concerned about getting things back to normal again.
But most change and release managers have a similarly ineffective plan for this (sadly all too common) eventuality:
- Identify the exact cause of the outage
- Make the appropriate change, unit test, and release
- Promote the change to your test environment
- Time allowing, carry out testing
- Sign-off and migrate to production.
But do you really have time to do all this with appropriate rigor when the business can’t function? The pressure on your senior management may be extreme because the impact of a major SAP system outage can be catastrophic: loss of sales, delivery problems, failed production runs, inability to service customers, a negative impact on business reputation – I could go on.
How long will that take and at what cost to the business?
Some years ago the the Enterprise Management Association told us that 60% of outages were caused by ‘misconfiguration’, while the IT Process Institute concluded that the average software outage period was 200 minutes – or just over 3 hours. When you consider that more than a third of firms estimate the cost of a one-hour outage to be between $1 million and $5 million, the severity of the issue becomes obvious. And that’s before you even start thinking about how to put a price on lost customers and damage to your reputation.
We have one customer with a global brand who estimated that the impact of their SAP system being unavailable to just one particular country for one day would mean over $2 million off their bottom line. In today’s economic climate that is a risk they are unwilling to take, so they have put tools, including ActiveControl, in place to ensure that it will not happen.
However, it’s difficult for even the cleverest and most comprehensive automation software to account for the human factor, which recent IBM research found to be the most likely to cause of system downtime in 2019.
ActiveControl addresses this challenge through BackOut. BackOut enables an entire import run to be rolled back to revert your SAP system to its pre-import ‘operational’ state in minutes, so your business quickly gets back on its feet and your IT department can take off their flak jackets.
Then, with the pressure off, they can properly understand the reason for the failure and put in place a long-term, robust solution.
BackOut works for both versionable objects such as workbench changes and non-versionable objects such as configuration changes.
And it doesn’t only apply to SAP production systems – you can easily use it to roll back transports changes into any SAP system.
Test systems, training systems, and even multi-track development retrofits can all be reversed out with no development effort or cost.
I’d like to take credit for calling this feature the ‘ultimate insurance policy’ – but it was actually one of our customers who coined the term – the first time he recovered his SAP production system and quite possibly recovered his career prospects!
To learn more about ActiveControl and its BackOut feature – book a demo now.