In-Depth

Change management in the 21st century

As 1999 came bounding forward, there was a renewed blast of year 2000 (Y2K) doomsday articles in the popular press -- this at the same time as the European Monetary Union's first Euro currency conversions went off without too many apparent hitches. This perhaps begs the questions: Is the era of panic over? And, is IT getting better at large-scale conversions? Or to put it another way: Have we learned anything from the massive industry-wide Y2K effort?

Application Development Trends has been asking these questions throughout the last few years. As with many Y2K questions, views conflict. But what is becoming gradually more apparent is that an ever-growing number of organizations are taking a more disciplined approach to change management. This includes all kinds of change.

The Euro currency conversion problem is not as complex as the Y2K effort, so perhaps we should not draw too many analogies between the two. The fact is changes must always be made to large- and medium-scale bet-your-business applications. Even people who have solved their Y2K problems have found this to be true. More than a few, going about their daily tasks, have introduced Y2K bugs into code that had been successfully remediated.

CASE redux?

This problem is almost a direct re-creation of the worst foible of CASE in the '80s. Methods faded out of use. "CASEware" became "Shelfware." Although some still prefer to focus on Y2K, many experts agree on one thing -- establishing an ongoing process for managing change is the key to the future.

Bug-free software is a noble goal. However, it may never be achieved. It should be noted that many of the new Y2K bugs are not showstoppers -- they are the kinds of bugs that come about as part of a day's work. Perhaps that is a reason why a recent CapGemini survey of IT shops shows that, while Y2K error incidence is increasing, respondents' confidence levels remain steady. [In December 1998, CapGemini said that more rigorous Y2K testing protocols are now in place, and that the percentage of companies with a process in place to validate renovated code prior to testing rose in the past quarter from 16% to 62%.]

The fact is that a lot of the experts and consultants that have mined the Y2K vein were actually mining the area of change management and best practices before the little Y2K bug got so big. So-called change management tools vendors continue to update their offerings. And Y2K tool specialists are giving theirs a new twist. We spoke with some of the vendors, and recalled some words of change gurus, as we looked down the path at "Software Engineering/2000."

"In enterprises that address [Y2K] properly, managers are forced to get a good handle on their information assets -- how things interact," said Leon Kappelman, co-chair of the Society for Information Management (SIM) Y2K Working Group. "This positions us for better management and more efficiency, eliminating things that are not necessary. It also prepares us for new interfaces and new interoperability."

Of course, the truth is that any application that has been completed is a legacy application. The result is that change or process management must now include all kinds of "legacy." That includes not just COBOL, but 4GL applications, ERP application packages and Unix client/server applications. Meanwhile, a big change in the works is Web-enabling COBOL mainframes. Also found: Change management vendors still often have either a Unix or a mainframe bias. This will change only as environments become neither "mainframe-centric" nor "Unix-centric."

Y2K is not over, but a new focus on change management can be anticipated. Vendors in the emerging change management space are numerous. Their roots may be in configuration management, remediation, software analysis, requirements management, component management or testing. An admittedly incomplete list of relevant vendors would include Chainlink Technologies, Computer Associates, Compuware, Continuus Software, IBM, McCabe, Micro Focus, MKS, Pinnacle Decision Systems, Platinum Technology, Pretzel Logic, Princeton Softech, Rational Software, Remedy, Seec, StarBase, Technology Builders, The Source Recovery Company, True Software and Viasoft.

True to a fault

Many of the more predominant software configuration and change management products on the market today have a long legacy, reaching back 10 or 20 years. Many have grown from their mainframe-centric roots to support client/server and distributed environments. More recently, these products have been called upon to manage change in the Y2K conversion.

Managing change in today's environment, however, is different than controlling the once-mainframe-centric environment. How much effort was required to evolve these products into the fast-paced development environment of Y2K? And will there still be a market for these products after the Y2K crisis fades? According to Alex Lobba, vice president of marketing at True Software Inc., Waltham, Mass., when people at the departmental level of large organizations first began to develop client/server applications, change management products were stretched to the limit.

"Managing these environments became critical," said Lobba. "It meant collecting different pieces because companies still had legacy applications, but had added in client/server pieces and off-the-shelf software. It was becoming a lot more difficult to recreate the controls people had been accustomed to in the mainframe world."

Thus, at the enterprise level in the distributed world, True Software found a niche in end-to-end application management. "In the distributed world, companies are more geared to software vendors' changes. You need to manage multiple changes across files, and you need the ability to unplug or rollback a change," noted Lobba.

To address this type of environment, True Software provides three products for change and configuration management. The firm's TrueChange version control/software configuration and change management product is actually a new version of Software Maintenance & Development Systems' Aide-de-Camp product, acquired by True in 1995. TrueTrack is a change tracking program, while TrueRelease, a differentiator for the company, is the tool that actually releases the application into distribution.

A typical environment today, said Lobba, must simultaneously manage huge volumes of changes through multiple projects. "We're seeing customers who are working on the Y2K conversion, the Euro conversion and at the same time creating front-ends for moving applications to the Web. These companies need a way to manage their code," said Lobba.

What is important here, he added, is that Y2K is going on in parallel with everything else. "You have
to incorporate the Y2K changes with all the ongoing changes. The challenge is in how to keep it all synchronized."

And what happens after the Y2K issue? According to Lobba, Y2K will be addressed for a very long time. "Not all of this will be addressed within the next year."

The one constant that will not go away is the requirement for speed. "To stay competitive, people must constantly evolve their technology," said Lobba.

It is because of the need for competitive advantage that firms may be working on four or five generations of their technology all in parallel, noted Lobba. Beyond Y2K, the key is being able to incorporate into process management ERP applications, such as SAP and PeopleSoft, and the Web. "This is where the industry is moving, and where our customers are moving," he said.

Part of the problem in managing the ERP environment is that companies will have to synchronize changes within the ERP package with those outside. "Changes will have a trickle effect across the entire spectrum," said Lobba.

Crisis-neutral

Under the covers, the PVCS change management product from Micro Focus Inc., Palo Alto, Calif., provides core management, control and tracking of software, regardless of how it is developed. The product is therefore easily adaptable to managing change in any environment, according to Joe Gentry, PVCS group product manager.

"The infrastructure and the base technology were there," he said. In its earliest evolution, the originally mainframe-targeted product became implemented in organizations moving to client/server and distributed
environments. Today, PVCS technology is widely implemented for Y2K change management.

The most notable difference brought about by Y2K, added Gentry, is in the way people perceive change management as a discipline. "Y2K was good for us," he said. "It made IT realize the need for change management."

Managing those changes is imperative for many reasons. "With Y2K in particular," noted Kevin McKay, vice president of applied technology at Micro Focus, "there is a return on investment and that has been seen in the quality of the software."

In addition to improved internal practices, said McKay, Y2K change management may also serve to protect companies legally. In the event a firm is sued, for example, PVCS, and software configuration management as a discipline, can provide the ability to roll back to show that a company made major changes in compliance with Y2K.

Micro Focus has several strategies in place beyond Y2K. Major areas include the Euro conversion process, Web development and ERP packages. "We can easily work with software vendors to tie our solution in to these environments," said Gentry. "There's a need for this because there are many types of software being deployed, and most are being customized on the fly. PVCS is there to help roll back and provide change management."

Euro conversion will be an important element because a large contingency of Micro Focus customers are either based in Europe or have European operations. Because the Euro conversion impacts code as it does for Y2K, it will also have an impact on business. PVCS plays a major role in Micro Focus' Euro Vantage solution. Once again, according to Gentry, because the change management infrastructure and base technology are already in place, there will be no significant changes to PVCS in bringing it into the Euro conversion process.

The next area of prevalence, said Gentry, will be managing change in Web development. In a major trend, most Micro Focus customers are working to bring their systems to the Internet.

"It's fundamentally critical for us to support the Internet," said Gentry. "For PVCS, this is just another development paradigm. There is a lot of synergy in the way people develop systems, whether it's in Visual Basic or in Front Page for HTML."

A key strategy for Micro Focus in managing change for Web development is the company's integration with leading Web development products. The firm already has a number of Java and Web-based partners, including Microsoft, Symantec, Oracle and Sun. With this product integration, the PVCS menu will pop-up from within the development environment itself.

Among a host of other vendors that see "renewal" in Web-enablement is Pittsburgh-based Seec Inc. Last month, the firm released the Seec Re-Engineering Workbench for migrating COBOL systems. Besides the Web, data warehousing and package replacement are cited as end uses.

There is, according to Micro Focus' Gentry, a major difference between traditional mainframe developers and Web developers. "Web developers are more typically graphic artists and marketing folks; they didn't come up the same ranks as the traditional programmer or developer," he said. Gentry added that in order for Web developers to use and adopt change management, it must be integrated into their workflow.

The route of Endevor

In many respects, the Endevor product from Computer Associates International Inc., Islandia, N.Y., has traveled a route very similar to that of a change management product. "People realized that with Unix and NT there just wasn't the same robustness as was found in the mainframe tools for application management," said Mark Stabler, senior vice president at Computer Associates. "Endevor provides the ability to manage the whole process, whether on Unix, NT or the mainframe. Applications reside on all platforms, and you can't have mismatches in the version build."

Much like PVCS, Endevor lends itself easily to any type of change management due to its original infrastructure. "Y2K, simply put, is just another application enhancement to Endevor," said Stabler. "It is just another issue that is dealt with by the program."

IT has gained several major benefits from the Y2K change management process, agreed Stabler. "For the first time, IT organizations are coming to grips with the inventory of their applications. They are learning what they have, and what is actually used, as opposed to dead code," he said. "People are now seeing the real concept of configuration management, because they've never had such great control over their environments."

Key benefits to Endevor customers in the Y2K process, according to Stabler, are the ability to have applications put into production without mismatches; improved programmer productivity; and ultimately, improved system performance. "Once past the Y2K conversion, IT will know where all of its systems and applications are. For example, do they reside on NT, Unix or the mainframe? This will result in an improvement in system availability," said Stabler.

What will Endevor move on to after Y2K? According to Stabler, the Y2K issue will not go away anytime soon. "I hope the Y2K issues will be resolved, but many customers are still in Y2K remediation at this point."

In fact, Stabler sees Y2K as another life-cycle environment that must be managed and controlled. "Endevor is a superb fit for Y2K because it goes beyond assessment and remediation, and supports the entire maintenance process," he said.

Another area that Endevor is playing into is change management for the Euro conversion, although, according to Stabler, this process currently is more prevalent in Europe than it is here.

Kris Kehoe, product manager at Computer Associates, noted that Endevor is also being employed to manage the so-called "clean room" discipline, which has become popular particularly in Europe for managing the testing process. "Endevor provides the ability to manage components and their relations in the testing process," she said. "Companies are realizing that they should extend the clean room beyond Y2K, because you can't be sure that developers won't make changes."

Next on the horizon, according to Stabler, is the move to support clients moving systems and applications to the Internet. While CA is intending to support this development environment, the company's approach is somewhat different than that of Micro Focus, maintains Stabler.

"With the transparent nature of our client/server products, we wouldn't need to actually integrate within the development environments themselves," he said. "And developers won't be required to make any modifications to use Endevor."

While ERP has been brought up by Micro Focus and True Software as one of the next important change management issues, Computer Associates' Stabler pointed out that this is a solution that will not be easy to tackle. "ERP solutions are very proprietary in nature, and not open to being managed by anyone," he said.

Comments Joe Alegra, president of Princeton, N.J.-based Princeton Softech: "If you were using one of these change management systems [he cites Endevor, among others] before the Y2K project, your project was probably much more manageable. You had a good idea where all your source code was. A lot of the early gnashing of teeth just simply had to do with finding out where the software was."

Last Fall, Princeton Softech released a change-savvy tool, Version Merger 6.0. While not specifically a change management tool, it is useful, according to Alegra, for "version reconciliation" and the emerging methodology known as clean room development. Standardized clean management processes, supplemented by automated tools, will go a long way in reducing risk and improving overall software quality, said Liz Barnett, vice president, ap-
plications and solutions, at Cambridge, Mass.-based Giga Information Group.

In looking at the future of the mainframe, Princeton Softech's Alegra suggested that there will be more and more use of these systems as servers. "The next wave of activity will be to connect them to the Web to bring them into the e-business world."

Maintaining 4GL

While a great deal of attention has been placed on IT mission-critical production systems for Y2K, little has been done to support those systems deemed mission-critical by users. A case in point is the Focus 4GL from Information Builders Inc. (IBI), New York City. Although Focus is installed and used heavily within most large corporations, it has gone largely overlooked as developers have tackled the COBOL backlog.

According to Stephen Brown, senior partner at Pinnacle Decision Systems Inc., Middletown, Conn., "almost 18 out of 20 Fortune 500 companies have Focus in-house, yet these companies put Focus into a different category than their typical production systems." For that reason, the market for Y2K conversion tools supporting Focus has remained wide open.

Y2K and beyond

According to Brown, Pinnacle is seeing a lot of Y2K business, particularly in the Focus remediation effort. The company offers a white paper assessment of the problem, along with conversion and consulting services, training and the PinnPoint+ tool, which is written specifically to automate date field conversions in Focus applications across platforms.

PinnPoint+ is not a change management tool per se, but a remediation and analysis tool that reads in and parses Focus code and massive file descriptions. The tool builds a database of information based on Y2K-related hits and their relationships. The product can then do reporting and exact positioning. "The tool helps people see what changes will make their program Y2K compliant, and it tracks down the type of hit using pattern files," explained Brown. "It has built-in features for Y2K; for example it has a project management capability that tracks who is responsible for changes and where it is in the life cycle."

Typical change management features like version control are not provided by Pinnacle, and according to Brown, Focus does not require that type of tracking because it is a non-procedural language. Brown does not agree that Y2K development will be ongoing much beyond the year 2000.

Beyond Y2K, Pinnacle's customers have found that the product can be used for other types of work including changes within fields. Yet for Y2K itself, Brown noted that the company has already seen a decline in the use of its Y2K offering.

"We realize that Y2K has had its run, so we are now developing newer technologies," said Brown. "Pinnacle's official direction beyond Y2K is the Internet, based largely on Microsoft's technologies. Ninety percent of our customers are with Microsoft technologies or heading that way."

Perhaps no company has been more prominent in Y2K than Phoenix-based Viasoft Inc. Yet the company's tools were helping development teams before attention focused on the new millennium. "We focused on the whole area of maintenance," said CEO Steve Whiteman. "That is what we built the company on." Increasingly, he said, the focus will be on the area of "modernization of code." That is not limited merely to mainframe COBOL. "I've seen people refer to SAP systems as legacy code," Whiteman noted.

Interestingly, there was no mention of Y2K in the recent Viasoft announcement of Enterprise Portfolio Manager -- software that lets management track, inventory, measure and analyze applications. The product lets customers quickly implement ERP and e-commerce solutions, said Whiteman.

What is the future role of change management? It depends on the role of the viewer, said Bryant Macy at Rational Software Corp., Cupertino, Calif. Macy is director of marketing for the firm's ClearQuest change request management system (sometimes also described as a defect reporting system). "A product manager or a project manager would have different views on this," he said. How does he describe an application development manager's view? Said Macy: "They are constantly evaluating software quality relative to release date."

Besides ClearQuest, other Rational tools that straddle the change management space are the RequisitePro requirements manager and ClearCase, a software configuration offering that has carved out a significant share of a software configuration market forecasted to reach $751 million by the end of 1999, according to Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp.

Before the deluge of attention on Y2K, software configuration was often the area most closely allied with change management best practices. In the future, a suite of varied tools may carry the change management concept forward. Speaking to such a concept just last month, Rational announced a suite that links key Rational design, test and development tools with a "Team Unifying Platform." The platform itself combines the Rational RequisitePro requirements analyzer with the ClearQuest defect reporter and the Rational Unified Process for shared best-practices.

War-torn and reborn

There are a lot of positives coming out of the Y2K effort, summarizes Chuck Aquilina, director of the Resolve 2000 practice for consulting firm Keane Inc., Boston. Among these is a better sense of change, process and project management.

In fact, he has seen "Y2K clients" creating programming offices for new tasks based on their Y2K experiences. Y2K, he said, has brought back a lot more "rigor" in how organizations handle assets.

Now that this discipline has been re-
established, it will probably stay. The biggest change in change management today seems to be the admission that the process has to be iterative, and that change itself is truly a constant.

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