As we look at all the emerging trends within the digital business world, there is one which has stood out as a common requirement amongst SAP customers as they look to become more competitive and responsive to changing business requirements.
Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) capabilities have arguably been what have enabled the digitally native organizations to change their systems to rapidly respond to the demands of their customers. In the SAP world, however, this has only started to gain traction as the cultural change required to support these delivery models has become part of the agenda when delivering projects.
SAP customers are adapting to welcome a set of technologies which are set to propel them towards fundamental and competitive changes including things like Blockchain, IoT, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Speaking to a multitude of SAP users over the last few months, there are four themes that keep coming up in conversation with businesses looking to improve the efficiency of their SAP delivery:
1. Supporting a DevOps cultural transformation: It has been said many times that the right culture is critical to supporting the right processes and technologies.
In the Basis Technologies office, we constantly refer to Peter Drucker’s quote “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” and this certainly applies here. For our customers, this means being able to foster close collaboration between IT development and the IT operations, providing a 360-degree view of everything going on within the SAP landscape.
Developers and business users need to be automatically notified of changes that relate to each other. Having a centralized version of the landscape enables multi-skilled teams to work together on certain projects in an agile way.
Typically in the SAP world, IT professionals have been trained to focus on one job at a time, completing one task after another. Nowadays, our customers are looking to encourage teams to do multiple tasks in a team made up of varying skill sets, breaking down the work silos which limited abilities beyond specific roles for specific outcomes.
With greater exposure to different skill sets and responsibilities, not only individuals but entire teams are able to adapt faster to changing business requirements. This has become fundamental in a digital world which is constantly changing and is a crucial step towards CI/CD in organizations big and small.
2. Fail fast and fail frequently: Quality Assurance (QA) is a crucial step in delivering new code for all organizations, regardless of which delivery model they happen to be operating.
In adapting to these new technological trends, the need to harness a wider data platform with multiple sources has had a direct effect on QA and how it is leveraged to support faster, safer delivery.
Now that SAP customers are slowly but surely moving towards the cloud with SAP HANA as the major driver, new agile ways of working are starting to become more effective in supporting rapid development. CI/CD focuses on the principle of iterative development and testing in smaller chunks at higher speed with fast feedback loops to support continuous improvement.
Sitting at the heart of all this is automated testing, allowing delivery teams to release quickly and safely. In this approach, any defects identified in QA tend to be smaller and are fixed and re-tested more quickly saving teams a lot of time and effort usually associated with manual work without automated tools.
The CI/CD initiatives taken on by our customers support the idea that code can be delivered as a constant flow of new changes. Business continuity for them means daily releases of new updates for the business on a continuous basis, delivering value as the clock ticks without risking system stability.
3. Automate everything: As mentioned above, at the very heart of CI/CD is automation of the majority of the development lifecycle to continuously delivery quality and eliminate risk. This applies to all stages of the lifecycle from development to QA to production.
Effective continuous integration requires automating unit tests, code quality, performance and security checks, sequencing, builds and environments to improve quality from the outset. This is known as a ‘ShiftLeft’ approach to identifying issues early as part of the development process.
Automated deep impact analysis ensures that our customers can identify potential missing dependencies and conflicts which would threaten production systems if not identified early. This enables safe, selective deployments to allow our customers to deliver changes continuously rather than be tied to long release cycles. Customers have identified this as being a key requirement for supporting daily releases in SAP.
4. Regression testing: Many SAP users I speak to see regression testing in SAP as a non-value add task, in other words, something that has to be done but doesn’t necessarily deliver that many benefits to the business. On top of that, it can be extremely time consuming and uses a lot of resources, especially when done manually, it is not repeatable and is slow.
As a result, it is one of the most expensive processes while also being the biggest barrier to delivering continuously. Even automated tools have low coverage levels as test scripts are focused on particular outcomes in the user interface layer. The preparation of scripts is onerous and the higher the velocity of changes to the organization, the faster these scripts become obsolete. Not only that, but regression testing is typically done far too late in the development lifecycle.
Customers need a ‘ShiftLeft’ approach to regression testing where developers can test earlier and more frequently. This way they can identify regression issues even before the QA stage. Traditional automation tools still consume resources and time which is why many SAP users are starting to look towards robotics as the radical alternative which could eliminate the need to dedicate time and money on creation and maintenance on test scripts. Robotic Test Automation is being considered as the future of frequent, iterative testing which is central to a continuous integration agenda.
If you want to find out how Basis Technologies help IT deliver value to the business faster and safer by automating SAP processes, get in touch with us for a quick chat.