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Agile & DevOps

Driving Agility, Efficiency and Velocity for Business Applications with DevOps

IDC analyst report examines why to adopt DevOps for SAP

I was thinking about analysts the other day. More specifically, I was pondering a Venn diagram. In one circle is DevOps; in the other, ERP software. Both are pretty hot topics in a lot of big companies these days, so it’s no surprise that analysts tend to have something to say about them.

But I’ve found the intersection between the two sets of content that analysts produce on these topics – the stuff that would address why DevOps should be a consideration in those rather ‘special’ ERP environments, and how to make it a success – to be surprisingly small.

Which is why I was so pleased to see the Technology Spotlight report recently published by IDC, one of the biggest global analyst firms. Entitled “Driving Agility, Efficiency and Velocity for Business Applications with DevOps” it takes aim at exactly the question of why to adopt DevOps in SAP systems, and looks at how automation software can help.

In this post I’ll provide a quick Basis Technologies take on some of the key observations made by IDC analysts Melinda Ballou and Jim Mercer, but if I’ve already done enough to pique your interest and you’d rather dive straight into the analysis, I won’t be offended: feel free to download your copy of the report here.

Speed, flexibility, and resilience

“DevOps provides speed, flexibility, and resilience in support of rapid software innovation and greater competitiveness.”

This statement certainly isn’t unique to SAP. In fact, as the first sentence in the entire report it isn’t even about SAP in particular. But the point is that DevOps can – and does – provide these things for SAP software just as well as it does for other applications.

For example, Basis Technologies customer Interpublic Group (IPG), a global advertising conglomerate, felt that “In today’s world when continuous delivery is the norm for digital platforms, we really have to find ways and methods to copy that approach into our ERP system”. IPG’s solution was to adopt DevOps for SAP, allowing them to move from bi-annual SAP Production deployments to a bi-weekly rollout and support a global network of group businesses more effectively.

Resilience is also a vital keyword. Very few organizations are prepared to sacrifice the stability of mission-critical systems, even to accelerate innovation and competitiveness. Approached in the right way, DevOps helps to improve software quality and related system resilience despite greater change velocity. RS Components, a global retailer, have employed DevOps automation to help them move to daily SAP deployments. Despite this acceleration, they have “had 100% production uptime for over 12 months and counting”.

Not just about IT…

“Demand to scale DevOps is driven by both business and technical outcomes.”

Certainly DevOps enables greater agility within IT teams, which means faster delivery of new software. That’s great, but the ultimate goal is business advantage, since rapid software innovation is increasingly becoming the difference between one company and the next, whether that means rolling out new products or enabling internal teams to work much more efficiently. The IDC report makes this clear, highlighting ‘enhance customer experience’ as the most common driver for scaling DevOps across an organization.

Another Basis Technologies customer, a Senior IT Manager at a major North American bank, echoed this sentiment, saying, “We have to keep up with new technologies to make sure our customers have the latest tools that make the banking experience what they want today … We have to be able to keep up with our competitors. [We need to] make sure that whatever comes our way, SAP can move at the speed the business wants.” DevOps automation is helping this drive to better support the business: “We are going to the business now saying, ‘Okay, we’ve done this. We’re ready for you anytime … please throw more at us. We’ll go as fast as you want, even faster.’”

The C word: Culture

“DevOps adoption often involves changing people’s work habits, tools, and communication methods.”

Or to put it another way, DevOps – whether in SAP or anywhere else – has a strong cultural element. It’s true that automation is a critical enabler of effective DevOps (I’ll talk more about that in a minute), but success also depends on the people involved being fully engaged and empowered to work in a new way. That could mean a different team structure, different responsibilities, or different metrics of success. It almost certainly means different processes, from how to plan change to how it is developed and deployed. As ever, there’s a spectrum here – it won’t be appropriate for every business to go full Spotify, with Squads and Tribes and Guilds – but however small the cultural shift, it can’t be ignored.

Orhan Ozalp from IPG confirms this point, noting that “People think that agile and DevOps are not suitable for ERP. That’s a myth. It is possible [but] it’s a journey. You need to educate your people, you need to educate your business people, and you need to change your business processes. That’s all very possible.”

Technical Challenges

“The automation tools selected to support DevOps initiatives should address the specific technical requirements of core SAP systems.”

A significant portion of the IDC report focuses on DevOps automation, which is no surprise given how vital it is to DevOps success. However small your initial rollout of DevOps, and the associated cultural impact (and we agree with IDC when they suggest ‘begin with a single project’ as best practice for bringing DevOps to life in SAP), you won’t succeed without the right automation. It’s simply intrinsic to the concepts that are part of a DevOps approach.

And as the quote above highlights, standard DevOps tools won’t do the job in complex SAP like ECC and S/4HANA because of the particular technical and architectural set-up of those systems. I won’t get into the whys and wherefores here – there’s plenty more detail in the report and around this website – but in short, this is where Basis Technologies comes in. Our automation solutions – like ActiveControl and Testimony – are specifically engineered to deal with the requirements of core SAP systems and provide the freedom to change SAP systems that businesses need.

Since this is a technical question I’ll leave the last word to the Basis Manager at a global consumer goods manufacturer, who explains the impact of SAP DevOps automation like this: “Thanks to ActiveControl I haven’t touched an STMS transport for years. It’s all completely automated. That provides real value in change management – for business users as well as IT.”

All this and much more…

I’ve just touched on a taste of what the IDC report covers as there’s more than could be sensibly discussed in one blog post. If you haven’t already, download your copy of the report here to get the full picture, and when you’ve taken it all in feel free to get in touch with our team of experts for a deeper discussion of how DevOps for SAP could help your business.

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