Merant Plans ERP Change Management Software

Upgrading or Webifying enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications can be a complex job. One new solution, targeted at Oracle ERP environments, promises to smooth the process.

Windows-based PVCS ERP Change Manager for Oracle from Merant International Ltd. (www.merant.com) is the first in a series of planned products for tracking software changes emanating from ERP. Versions for other ERP packages are in the works.

The product, which is expected to ship soon, will help developers find customizations and other changes made to forms, reports, libraries, SQL scripts, text files, database objects, and database schemas, and determine the impact of these changes on the software environment. Change Manager will be useful to developers trying to Web-enable ERP or integrating systems following a corporate merger or acquisition, says Dave Bevers, director of product management for Oracle applications at Merant.

Bevers expects the product to also come into play when companies are patching or upgrading existing ERP systems or transitioning over to new ERP implementations.

After observing the changes made by ERP systems, companies will be able to decide "which changes to keep, and which to leave alone," Bevers says. The product will monitor the environment for future changes, too, in an effort to eliminate the need for manual version control. Other planned capabilities include automatic installation and generation of Oracle Applications; drag-and-drop of customizations into new modules shipped by Oracle; and the ability to search for objects across an entire application and database.

According to Bevers, the Oracle Applications environment alone contains more than 1,000 forms; 300 libraries; 3,000 indexes; 1,500 tables; 47,000 columns; 2,400 views; 4,000 packages, and three million lines of server code. An Oracle Applications form can include up to 4,000 objects, 35 attached libraries, and 10 other referenced forms.

In many cases, developers who are dealing with change management today are not the same individuals who originally initiated the changes. ERP implementations are often initially outsourced, but companies customize the systems to integrate with their internal systems and partners' EDI systems. Or the systems are later optimized.

"These customizations can be a big enemy in terms of moving into the e-space, with deployment times so critical today," Bevers maintains.

Beyond Oracle Applications, Merant plans to develop change management products for all other major ERP systems. Oracle was selected first because it "has been more upfront with their interfaces," Bevers says. Likewise, Windows NT and 95/98 provide a perfect platform for implementation. Windows is "intuitive for Oracle developers. Oracle's tools are very visual," he elaborates.

The software is based on technology obtained through Merant's recent acquisition of Trillium Software Corp.