AGL Project Revamps Back-End Retail System


AGL is one of the largest energy companies in Australia with a reported 3.6 million residential and business customers in 2017. The utility is involved in both the generation and retailing of electricity and gas and services five Australian states.

As AGL expanded through mergers, acquisitions and organic growth, its back-end retail solution had become increasingly complex. The company had adopted SAP’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to control key business functions. 

Over the years, AGL’s SAP environment swelled through maintenance and the customisation of applications to improve business processes. To better manage the volume of changes, it consisted of seven landscapes – operating in parallel – to deliver SAP applications an enhancements to meet business requirements.

Each of the landscapes – consisting of separate development and quality systems used by the SAP IT team to develop and prepare software enhancements – ultimately feeds the same production system. 

Such a complex system involves massive volumes of SAP change to create new applications and keep up existing ones. Managing significant quantities of SAP change across multiple landscapes is a challenge. Risks associated with simultaneous change and the order in which changes are transported to the target system can contribute to rising costs and threaten IT infrastructure stability. 

Any unscheduled downtime of your connected hardware and software technologies can run into millions which often doesn’t take into account productivity costs, wasted resources and the disruption to 100’s of thousands of customers. 

Automated landscape consolidation

AGL implemented its SAP Extreme Delivery initiative to accelerate SAP changes by consolidating its numerous landscapes and reduce the level of risk to the business. 

As part of its transformation efforts, the utility wanted to progress all SAP changes to production in 5 days or less. It deployed Rev-Trac – an automated SAP change management platform – to help achieve its objective of rapid, low-risk application delivery to keep pace with constant changes in customer and business demand. 

When the project launched, AGL had numerous development systems for SAP application delivery across multiple landscapes, all with a path to production.

The business’s IT team made use of Rev-Trac’s automation and process enforcement capabilities to eliminate high-risk manual effort and effectively manage the parallel development of SAP applications and enhancements.

A more controlled parallel development was crucial for the success of the project. Parallel development can easily get out of control, particularly in complex SAP environments with multiple teams working on different project tasks that can impact others and increase the level of risk. In this scenario, SAP changes can be made out of sequence (overtake) or eliminate part or all of an existing change in the target system (overwrite), threatening system stability.

Brett Campbell, SAP Development Architect, AGL said it was important that different development teams were not independently making SAP changes to the same parts of a program at the same time. Resulting in the very real possibility of overtakes and overwrites. 

Rev-Trac incorporates a feature that alerts developers if a part of an application is being worked on in a particular landscape and requires permission for parallel development to proceed. 

Appropriate communication is required to prevent overtakes and overwrites that could result in costly unscheduled downtime. Implementing Rev-Tac to control SAP change management enabled AGL to enhance communication between its various teams and stops avoidable production system incidents. 

“We now have a process that we expect our development leads and developers to follow,” Mr. Campbell said. “If they are going to organize parallel development then communication has to be key.” 

Low-risk, rapid application delivery

Leveraging Rev-Trac as a tool to support system consolidation and effectively manage the change process allows AGL to speed up its SAP environment and mitigate risk. Consistent and enforceable processes ensure SAP changes don’t get lost, missed off a list or out-of-sequence.

Mr. Campbell said conflict is avoided and with more controlled parallel development AGL could deliver faster and safer SAP applications and enhancements. 

“As our SAP change processes have matured with Rev-Trac, our production code overwrite issues have continued to reduce,” he said. “There have not been any such issues for more than 12 months.”

Now, AGL can cost-effectively manage simultaneous change with low risk while realizing its goals of rapid SAP application delivery to satisfy both business and consumer demands. 

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