Agile & DevOps

DevOps for SAP – what’s the practical reality?

Whether or not you believe in the value that DevOps can offer to a business – and there’s already plenty of evidence to show that it can deliver major benefits – there’s no doubt that more and more companies are starting to wonder why they haven’t extended this approach to their ERP systems.

Not so long ago I regularly had to explain what agile and DevOps actually meant but nowadays the drive to adopt these approaches for SAP is unprecedented.

So why the change? Transformation is the key. Digital disruption, cloud adoption, technology upgrades and S/4HANA all add to growing pressure on businesses to innovate, deliver value more quickly and increase competitiveness. SAP teams simply have to respond.

The central driving factor is that traditional SAP development processes – the ones most often still in use today – tend to suffer from a very slow pace of change, failure to deliver business needs and high risk of downtime and outages.

DevOps solves many of these issues by supporting application delivery in shorter, more frequent delivery cycles where quality is embedded from the start of the process and risk is substantially reduced.

That’s all great but the challenge faced by even the most enthusiastic organizations is that SAP cannot be managed in exactly the same way as other IT systems. The fundamental requirements for DevOps are the same – we covered some of them in this ebook – but the practicalities are very different. Your standard DevOps tools will simply not support what SAP needs and what’s more, the DevOps experts don’t necessarily understand what’s needed for SAP, while the SAP experts may never have heard of DevOps!

So what is the practical reality? How can companies get up and running with DevOps for SAP? This white paper goes into much more detail, but I’ve summarized the key aspects in the rest of this article.

Impact on the SAP development lifecycle

SAP change processes have always benefitted from tools to enforce governance, audit, workflows, and approvals. But DevOps for SAP is different due to its architecture and generic tools will not provide the means to support it.

An Agile development methodology along with specialized technical automation tooling is required to manage and enable the continuous delivery of change. And these tools need to be integrated to automate the flow of information and to provide complete visibility.

It’s important to understand that DevOps in SAP means different things to different organizations but all parts of the process from development, QA, pre-production, and production can expect to be impacted.

Higher quality development

Delivering at pace requires a robust and flexible development process that combines clear business requirements and constant feedback, with quality shifted left and embedded from the very start of the process.

We need to ensure that nothing leaves development without being fully quality checked, minimizing costly downstream issues, errors and rework. This includes automation for unit testing, code quality enforcement, performance and security checks. Running daily stand-up sessions and peer reviews ensure that we enforce both visibility and feedback.

And closer business involvement ensures that customer requirements are clearly understood and integration with other IT functions like QA establishes an early validation step into the development process.

Low-risk delivery for efficient testing

Continuous integration ensures that changes can be successfully deployed to test, or any other downstream system, without risk. A good cadence of delivery needs the ability to choose what you want to deploy based on business priorities, rather than being locked into long release cycles.

To this end, controls and automation tools are critical to managing risks, so unwanted side-effects and issues can be avoided.

Automated checks for completeness, sequencing, dependencies, risk, and impact removes many SAP delivery issues. This more agile approach accelerates the delivery of functionality – changes can be selectively and automatically deployed on-demand with confidence, rather than waiting for the delivery of a full release.

Don’t break your current system

It’s important to validate that your current systems won’t break when the features are deployed into production. Continuous testing ensures that changes are tested frequently via regression test processes that are robust, repeatable and have the necessary functional coverage.

Test automation is therefore fundamental to ensure that regression testing covers everything the business depends on today. To be safe you need to test everything, every time and for that, you’ll need to look into solutions that employ Robotic Test Automation.

This provides confidence and risk mitigation because any negative and/or unexpected side effects are minimized when changes are deployed to the live system.

Minimize impact on production

There is always a risk – however small – that an SAP deployment can stop the business by disrupting live system operation.

Rigorous controls and automated pre-deployment checks ensure that changes can be safely delivered to production with significantly less risk of system or business process outages.

You should also define a backout plan so that if disaster does strike the impact of change-related downtime is minimized and business continuity can be maintained.

The human impact

The manner in which DevOps impacts the roles and approach of people can be just as important as the changes to tooling and process. Traditional teams based on job function need to be replaced by multi-skilled, cross-functional teams where the business, development, QA, operations and security work together.

Revised roles and responsibilities and a different, collaborative culture are also required. For successful adoption, you need to pay attention to and secure the buy-in of all concerned, rather than imposing change in a top-down fashion.

DevOps benefits and outcomes

Change happens fast and companies need to respond quickly. IT systems must therefore have the flexibility to rapidly change, expand, extend and adapt.

But accelerating delivery cannot be done at the expense of business continuity. Successfully adopting DevOps for SAP combines speed, quality improvements and risk reduction giving companies the flexibility to change their SAP environments at the speed the business needs, with confidence that it can be achieved without compromising stability.

And for that, it’s essential that the impact on processes, people and technology are carefully considered.

To find out more on how to practically introduce DevOps to your SAP processes speak with our experts today. Request your demo here.

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