IT teams are under pressure to increase business agility in turbulent economic times. While there are many tools at their disposal – like ServiceNow for ITSM and Jira for agile backlog management – they’re often disconnected from critical systems like SAP. Without addressing this fragmented toolchain, the IT function will drag down its organization’s ability to pivot strategies at the pace it needs.
SAP’s role in the enterprise tech stack has changed. While it was once the entire wagon wheel, it’s now often just one spoke of the wheel. No one is denying the critical role it plays, but it’s increasingly one of many tools that keep the enterprise running.
The challenge is that SAP software was not originally designed to work with more modern applications like ServiceNow and Jira. Likewise, the teams behind these applications often don’t have significant knowledge of how SAP operates. These two forces work against any of us who want a connected toolchain.
Over the years, we’ve helped many companies align their SAP landscapes with other best-in-breed applications. Let’s look at a few tips we’ve picked up along the way.
An important assumption
The best practices we explore here work under the assumption that you have a technical solution in place for managing SAP releases.
We’ll be referencing ActiveControl as our change management platform because it’s the tool our customers use and therefore where our insights and experience come from.
ServiceNow and SAP integration
Most companies we work with use ServiceNow as an IT Service Management (ITSM) tool. Users come into the system to report that something isn’t working as it should, and that task is sent out to the right individuals at the right time.
Understandably, organizations want requests across all their different systems to exist and be managed in a single repository, but SAP remains an island. Here are a few tips to consider when connecting ServiceNow and SAP change capabilities:
Tip 1: Map out the workflow between your systems
ServiceNow understands what department needs to make a change, what the routing is, how approvals should be ordered, whether a change request should even be actioned at all, and where to assign the work.
However, it doesn’t understand the basics of SAP, like what a transport is. That’s where a change management solution like ActiveControl comes in. ActiveControl is extremely competent in the SAP space, but it’s not designed to fix your laptops.
You need to let each tool do what it’s designed to do. The handover between the systems needs to be mapped out and understood for this integration to work efficiently.
As you can see from the example workflow that we’ve mapped out above, ServiceNow handles the internal approval of the organization to decide: Yes, this change should be made.
It then hands over to ActiveControl, which takes the request and translates it into terms relevant to the SAP environment.
A transport is created, which is put through unit testing and then moved into QA. Throughout this process, ActiveControl relays this information back to ServiceNow and gets approval before releasing to production.
This is only an example workflow. It’s highly variable based on your SAP landscape and how your teams use ServiceNow. But we encourage you to create your own workflow map so you understand what information needs to pass between the systems and when you want it to happen.
Tip 2: Choose the best integration method for your SAP environment
When it comes to creating the integration between ServiceNow and SAP, you have two options. Which one you choose largely depends on the complexity of your SAP environment:
Direct: The direct method is best for companies with relatively simple SAP environments. You just need to download the ActiveControl connector from the ServiceNow store. Implementing the integration like this is the easiest and fastest approach.
Orchestrator: The orchestrator method is best for those with complex SAP environments that need to include other integrations. This method is more challenging to execute but allows you to incorporate even more DevOps tools like Jenkins, Puppet, or Chef.
Currently, most companies we work with tend to take the direct approach, but we expect a gradual shift towards the orchestrator setup as DevOps matures over the coming decade.
Tip 3: Create a separate ticket status for SAP
If you choose the direct integration method, you might find that the niche status updates from SAP clutter the status report on your ServiceNow ticket. For example, the location of a transport often isn’t relevant to the overall business request that was made via ServiceNow.
We recommend that you apply “dual status” to your tickets, so you have one status for SAP change and another that updates progress on the ServiceNow request. This allows you to clearly monitor its status in relation to how it affects the business, while the project manager can drill down into the SAP detail when needed.
Tip 4: Don’t put SAP transport numbers on ServiceNow tickets
You should also avoid putting transport numbers on ServiceNow tickets. Unless you’re using transports of copies (TOC) or a similar technique, you’re going to have to manually change the transport number frequently as they move back and forth through the pipeline.
Not only is this information not relevant to most of the business, but it also opens you up to errors that could have severe financial repercussions in an audit. If you’re in a regulated industry, maintaining an accurate audit trail is obviously a high business priority.
A transport management system like ActiveControl automatically stores the movements of your changes so you can de-clutter your ServiceNow tickets and still generate an instant, accurate audit report when the time comes.
Jira and SAP integration
While there are many similarities between best practices for integrating ServiceNow and Jira with SAP, each tool fulfills a different role in the IT stack.
Jira is largely used to organize backlog and deliver innovation to the business rather than fixing something that’s gone wrong like ServiceNow. The remaining tips focus on how you can ensure the SAP/Jira integration is set up effectively.
Tip 5: Map out a dynamic workflow fit for agile work
Just like with ServiceNow, you need to map out the workflow of how your integration with Jira will work. However, the workflow with Jira will need to be more flexible to account for agile development.
As you can see from the example above, we need to be prepared to reprioritize work, perhaps in-flight and on more than one occasion. This will likely happen as developers readjust the complexity of a task after it’s been assigned to them.
If you’re working in an N+n environment, you may also be releasing into staging or cutover instead of production, and this needs to be reflected in the workflow as well.
Again, the specifics of your workflow will vary, but since there are more potential handover points between Jira and SAP, it’s important to document where they might occur.
Tip 6: Don’t migrate your existing SAP workflows into Jira
When it comes to the integration between SAP and Jira, you also have a choice between direct and orchestrator. Unlike ServiceNow, the most popular approach for Jira is orchestrator due to how many additional integrations are often desired.
Since the orchestrator approach is more manual, it can be tempting to simply take your existing SAP workflows and migrate them over to Jira. We’d actively encourage you not to do this as they can often be outdated and inefficient.
Use the opportunity of the new integration to reevaluate your current workflows in SAP and rework them in an agile manner like we looked at in the previous step. It might be more work up front, but the efficiency gains are worth it.
Tip 7: Align agile concepts of “change” to SAP
Once you’ve integrated Jira and SAP, work’s going to be coming to you in a slightly different way, so take a moment to think about how you want to structure change. Here’s an example of how you might layer your hierarchies of change:
Here, we’ve started with the “Sprint” or “Epic”, which is the overall larger business change that’s required.
Follow this with the “User Story” that describes the specifics of the change. Make sure this isn’t too technical. For example, a good user story would be: I need a new field to define what sales territory a transaction takes place in.
Below this is the most one-to-one relationship in the hierarchy – the Task. This is the specific change the developer is going to make.
There’s no hard and fast rule to follow here but hopefully this example helps you visualize how SAP change can be aligned with agile concepts. And as you can see, an automated change management tool like ActiveControl structures its workflow in a very similar way.
What are the business impacts of integrating ServiceNow and Jira with SAP?
The current macroeconomic situation demands that business strategy is more agile than ever before. If IT teams and enterprise applications can’t support this, they become a detrimental bottleneck.
If you’re able to improve your workflows by building integrations that enable agile development, you can save time, manage resources better, and cut risk while delivering the change your organization needs.
John Deere has used ActiveControl to integrate SAP with their ITSM solution to achieve 66% faster time-to-market and a 32% decrease in SAP developer cycle time. Integrating your tools into a single connected value stream like this drives essential efficiency in a volatile time for businesses.
Watch the webinar on this topic for more information and examples of companies that have successfully integrated SAP with ServiceNow and Jira.