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Just a few days ago, SAP released the new feature pack for SAP Solution Manager 7.1 by releasing SP10. Many of you might ask themselves what has been shipped and improved in this new release? In this blog I would like to give a short overview from a product management perspective.

* * UPDATE * *
More content and interesting blogs in SCN about the new features are linked in this document now!

Table of Contents

Integration of Central CTS Infrastructure

It was about time. The new central CTS infrastructure was already revealed some time ago, now it is the moment for prime time. With the latest support package, the new infrastructure is available to all our customers. The new infrastructure fully supports one of our focus-areas in Change Control Management which is "flexibility". By introducing two new entities, we can overcome existing limitations of the classic TMS, changed the way how transports are managed and implemented new features and functionalities that have been on the wish-list of many customers. In this blog I just want to highlight briefly what this new infrastructure is all about, how it works and mention some key benefits.

Two new entities: Transport Collection and Clusters

The two entities are the "Transport Collection" and the "Transport System Cluster". A Transport Collection is mainly a container for one or many transport requests that belong to a particular change. It does not make any difference whether they were all created in the development system of your ERP landscape or in any other system that belongs to the development cluster. So what is a system cluster again? Right! Important thing to understand: The system cluster is a new layer that is introduced by the central CTS infrastructure. It allows you to model dependencies on system level. The idea is to assign all system of a particular role together (e.g. Dev-Systems) that have a logical relationship in your solution landscape.

Let's take a simple example: Your landscape consists of SAP ERP, SAP BW and SAP BusinessObjects. Typically your changes require adjustments in almost all of the systems: A backend change in ERP needs a change in BW, in order to update and display the reports correctly. Also the iViews in the Portal need to be updated, so the data is retrieved correctly after the change in ERP.

With the central CTS infrastructure, you can now have a change in Change Reques Management that has transports for all three systems - technically all of them are assigned to the transport collection. However, the transport collection is not shown to the end-user, as this shall remain a technical detail. Central CTS will make sure the import is done correctly for all the transports requests of the collection. Today a simultaneous import will be triggered via the system node automatically, which will trigger the import for all related systems as well. This helps to ensure that dependent transports that logically belong together are not forgotten or missed out, when moving a change through the system. On collection level, all transports are always referenced and assigned to the same change.

Flexibility with Released Transports and Handling of External Transports

Besides the mentioned cluster and collection entities, the infrastructure enables a completely flexible transport management. In the past, transport requests that have been "released" could not be reassigned to another CTS project. This made it impossible in Change Reques Management or QGM to remove them from a project and assign them to a later release. However, reality shows that this is exactly the kind of "flexibility" that is required in order to react on changing business demands and project situations. Sometimes shortly before the go-live we need to be able to react and decide whether a transport or change shall take part in the go-live or not.

This is where the new infrastructure comes into the game. By introducing the transport collection, and assigning the transports via the collection to the solution manager project logically, we don't need to change the CTS project on the transport if we want to reassign changes between projects or releases. This means we now really have the maximum flexibility on the technical transport layer - making it easy to inherit this flexibility upwards to the process-layer. From a process point of view, it is always easy to introduce new flexible processes, modify the workflow, insert additional steps - but it was always hard to also ensure the consistency on the technical layer. With Change Control Management in SAP Solution Manager and our tools Quality Gate Management and Change Request Management, we want to keep this link between the technical layer and the process layer. It is our goal to support you even in complex environments and provide you with a tool, that is capable of managing the transports this way. Now we really reached this level of flexibility and make the story come true.

Additionally we introduced the support for "external transports" - which means we are now able to take existing transports, assign them to Change Reques Managementor QGM entities and move the throughout the landscape. Without modifying the original transport or taking  the content and re-packing it into a new transport. The use-case behind this feature is the following: Many customers get add-ons for their existing SAP solution from 3rd party service providers. Such add-ons are often delivered via a transport request file (which we call external request). However, in order to ensure that customers do not modify the add-on, this transport must not be changed or repacked in any way - otherwise the customer will loose the warranty. Service Providers mostly only provide warranty and services for the original package. In the past it was not possible to handle those kind of "external transports" with Change Reques Managementor QGM, as they have already been released and we have not been able to manage them with the existing infrastructure. As mentioned above, the new infrastructure is also capable of handling released transports - thus delivering the basic foundation to allow a control of external transports not delivered from SAP, but any 3rd party vendor.

Interested in learning more about this new infrastructure and its capabilities?

The official online documentation is already available today on the SAP help portal. Also there is a detailed configuration guide available here in the SAP SCN. If you would like to get started today, also have a look at the SAP Solution Manager Ramp-Up Knowledge Transfer area on the SAP Service Marketplace:

Enhanced Approval Management & Substitution Feature

With the approval management a key part of the Change Management process has been enhanced with SP10. In the past it was enough to have the proper authorization, in order to execute specific approval steps of an approval procedure.

Now we introduce the enhanced approval management which will make it possible to control quite detailed, who is able to approve: Only the person that is really assigned to an approval step can approve a given step - and only this step. Other steps cannot be approved by this person - as well as other users, that might have the approval authorization in general, cannot approve as well. Please see the picture above for an illustrated example.

In order to avoid bottlenecks in the process (e.g. an assigned approver is on vacation and cannot approve right now) we introduced a substitution functionality. By defining a substitute, people can make sure that their assigned approval steps can also be executed by this substitute. Of course, the substitute needs to have the general authorization to do approvals - otherwise it will not work.

Another feature that has been introduced now is the possibilty to assign business partner groups for the approval. A typical customer situation is the following: Instead of assinging individual people an entire group of people will be assigned to the approval steps, because only one out of the group needs to approve and it is not important who will do it. Maybe you have a group of change managers or system owners

The group approval feature does not work together with the substitute feature - because the group should be able to "substitute" for herself. Otherwise group-approvals and individual-approvals can be mixed quite easily within an approval procedure, as shown in the picture below.

Read more about this new feature, and how it works in this Blog from Michael Vollmer. boris.milosevic has also published a blog about the setup of the group-approvals in particular: The Group Approval - PPOMA_CRM Org. Model -  CHARM SP10

New Import Strategy: Selective Import

Being flexible with the imports in Change Request Management was already a focus topic of Feature Pack 1 of SAP Solution Manager 7.1 (SP5). There we introduced already the "preliminary import" for Normal Changes, as well as the possibility to have a "status dependend import". Bundled with the downgrade protection features, this already increased the flexibility of the overall solution dramatically. Now we took the next step: Introducing the "selective import" which allows you to select freely what kind of changes or transports you would like to import.

Based on the import buffer of a system, the selective import strategy will show a popup window, listing all changes and transports that are waiting for the import. The administrator can then select, which changes or transports shall be imported. The main entity is always the change, as this should be a consistent unit in your change management environment. Only transports without a relationship to a change can be selected individually - otherwise always the whole change is "in" or "out".

There is also another blog in SDN available already that contains some additional customizing and configuration hints: New Import Strategy : Selective Import Solman 7.1 - SP10 (How To)

Integration with IT Calendar

When the IT is growing, more systems and people are involved, the management of all these different system, technologies is getting more and more challenging. With SAP Solution Manager, SAP would like to support you by providing a central calendar for your IT employees. In this calender they can find all required information about planned work modes, changes, project/release timelines and other IT events. The next step towards a true single source of truth.

With SP10 we enabled Change Request Management (and Quality Gate Management) for an integration with the IT calendar in SAP Solution Manager. This helps you to establish a real "Change and Release Calendar". Every Request for Change or Change Document can be integrated and displayed in the IT calendar. This will make it easier for Change Advisory Board meetings to check the planned/forward schedule of changes or publish a projected service outage plan for your systems to the end-users or IT personnel.

In order to configure this integration, there is a simple customizing report available. It will allow you to configure the integration more in detail: what should be copied/transferred to IT calendar, how shall it be displayed, ...

Some additional information and how-to descriptions can be found in this blog: IT Calendar and CHARM integration Solman 7.1 SP10 (How To)

Integration with SAP PPM

Change Request Management is now fully integrated with the project management (formerly known as cProjects) of SAP PPM. This means you can now link Requests for Change from Change Reques Management with associated project tasks in PPM. Relevant information about the task will then also transferred automatically from the task to the RfC and back. When your developers are doing time recording, the information is automatically summed up, then transferred and finally displayed agregated on the task.

The idea is to support the project manager by keeping the overview about his project and the different activities, without the need to look into the different changes that might exist. The information is available directly in his working environment. On the other hand, people from the project that work with the changes, don't need to go into PPM to report their working times or the status of the task. This can be done automatically via the RfC and change document.

Additionally you can benefit from the integration into the SAP ERP, that is supported by SAP PPM out of the box. As this is a quite huge area I don't want to squeeze it into this blog but rather plan to publish a seperate blog focusing on the integration and the features and highlights of it. Stay tuned!

In the meantime the community was active already - please find more information also in this blog: PPM Projects integration with Change Request Management in SP10

New Scenarios and Enhancements for Retrofit

You certainly don't need to establish a full Change Request Management implementation in your organisation, in order to benefit from retrofit (New for you? hannes.kerber/blog/2013/06/13/do-i-need-charm-to-use-retrofithttp: from hannes.kerber ). However, as retrofit was built based on the transport management infrastructure that is also used by Change Reques Management, I wanted to mention some of the enhancements also in this blog about the Change Reques Management related news. Still, retrofit is also integrated into the standard Change Reques Management processes and will make it easier for you, to perform and trigger the retrofit process directly from a change document.

With SP10 we released some new scenarios for retrofit that include also the support for BW as well as other custom scenarios. I plan to publish a seperate blog about the key benefits and functionalities this provides for our customers.

Pre-Configured Email Notifications based on HTML Mails

Notifications about new changes, activities that need to be done or other relevant information about a Change Document or Request for Change are vital for a good change management process, in order to avoid bottlenecks and keep the process flow alive.

In the past, customers had to implement those kind of notifications completely from scratch. Now SAP delivers some pre-configured actions and conditions within the standard workflows to setup such notifications. This will make it much more easy to configure and use the email notifications in the process. Plus there is now also support for HTML mails: Instead of using smartforms, you can now use HTML Mails (a general component from SAP CRM that can simply be re-used) to setup your mail templates - including a direct link to the document.

Enhanced Home-Widgets

The home-widgets that we introduced with SP5 for ITSM have been very well accepted by our customers. Soon after the release, people started to ask for support of Change Reques Management transactions for the widgets and additional configuration possibilities. I'm glad to report today: We have been listening! :smile:

The new home widgets are now available with SP10 and they are fully customizeable. Customers have now many many possibilities how they can include those widgets into their business roles. Of course, also the support for Change Reques Management entities like change documents or requests for changes is possible! The picture above shows the "My Messages" widget for change documents as an example.

Additional minor Usability and UI improvements

Finally we also did some general usability and UI improvements. I don't want to highlight all the small things, as I probably would forget something anyway - but I want to highlight at least two areas: Search and Status Overview.

The search we can see in the picture above: A whole set of new search criteria has been introduced. Moreover, the entire search for the ITSM scenario between Incident, Problem, Service Request and Change has been harmonized. The goal was to provide the same search criteria and the same initial configuration for all our standard transaction types - making it easier for customers and end-users to keep the overview.

Besides that we introduced the "Status Overview" assignment block to all Change Reques Management transactions.

It is not visible per default, but you can simply enable it via personalization now. In the past, this assignment block was only available for the change cycls (maintenance cycle or project cycle). We received great feedback - many of you appreciate this assignment block, as it directly shows in which status the document is, and what kind of other status values are existing - even though it does not really show the exact workflow-process that has been designed. Finally we decided to enable this for all our standard transactions, and leave it up to the customer, whether he would like to show it to their end-users or not. Of course, I still hope to have a real graphical view of the workflow sometime in future...let's see :wink:

Well, that's it with my little overview - I hope there is something you have already been looking forward to or you just enjoy the new features. If you are new to Change Request Management (ChaRM) and have been hesitant in the past, why wait? Now is the right time to get started. Get your SolMan on 7.1 SP10 and kickstart your Change Reques Management experience... :cool:

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Join the SAP Solution Manager community here in SCN and explore our SAP Solution Manager space, to find out more or ask specific questions, exchange experiences with others or check for issue-resolutions.

- Tobias