Agile & DevOps

Five agile methodologies to accelerate SAP development

Agile can offer faster, more flexible development for your SAP environments. But with so many methodologies for agile, how do you know which one will be the best fit for your business?

I spoke to a customer recently about their shift from a waterfall development approach, to using agile development in their SAP environment. The result was that rather than making two changes to SAP each year, they now modify their environment each and every week.

That’s the real promise of agile ways of working: greater agility that helps you regularly update SAP and keep up with the increasingly rapid pace of modern business.

But with many ways to approach agile development, it can be difficult to know exactly which will be the best fit for your SAP environments and basis teams.

In this blog I’ll introduce five of the most common agile methodologies and look at the kind of organization they might be best suited to.

#1: Scrum

An agile process framework designed to help teams develop software faster and learn more over time, Scrum involves small teams breaking tasks down into smaller components to help rapidly integrate user feedback into a product.

Usually Scrum works like this:

  • Projects are broken down to individual tasks and prioritized as part of the product backlog 
  • A select number of tasks are chosen, with the aim of completing them all in a single sprint (usually a period of two weeks) 
  • Each task is assigned to a team member 
  • Team members report on their progress each day in quick stand-up meetings

All tasks come from the product backlog: a prioritized list of work required to bring a product to life. This list of work comes from both the product roadmap and the product requirements document. As such these tasks are often broken down into smaller user stories.

By breaking down large, complex coding projects into discrete sprints, Scrum helps people work on smaller, bite-sized goals that can rapidly change if a new approach is needed. And because daily Scrum meetings take place, it helps foster a collaborative approach across the team.

Both leading and serving the Scrum team is the Scrum Master. This role helps facilitate Scrum across the organization, from coaching the Scrum team and managing standup meetings and sprint reviews, to advocating the core values of Scrum across other business units.

Scrum frameworks are especially useful if your organization:

  • Wants a structured agile approach 
  • Will benefit from regular chances to review and learn between sprints 
  • Needs to respond quickly to user feedback

#2: Kanban

In the late 1940s, Toyota wanted to improve the efficiency of its main plant machine shop. It looked to an unlikely inspiration: supermarket shelves. Toyota realized that, like a supermarket, the factory could be more efficient if it aligned inventory levels with consumption. By using visual signals, it could ensure it restocked materials right on time, every time.

Over the years, this idea was fleshed out to become Kanban, a subset of Lean manufacturing used in all kinds of organizations today.

One of Kanban’s defining features is the Kanban board, a chart that shows who is working on what, where any bottlenecks are, and how you can clear them. Crucially, work is only put into a Kanban board when capacity is available, not the moment a process is requested.

Kanban boards are typically broken up into various vertical streams. Post-it notes with tasks written on them or tasks on a digital board are moved between streams as they progress.

Kanban can be used on its own, or as part of another agile methodology. For instance, Scrumban combines the sprints and backlog of Scrum with the cycle times and just-in-time task scheduling of Kanban. There’s also Kanplan, another hybrid that uses the Kanban board alongside the prioritized backlog of Scrum—without splitting tasks out into different sprints.

Whether you use it alone or in tandem with other agile methodologies, Kanban can help enterprises that:

  • Want to maximize team efficiency
  • Would benefit from visualizing workloads and tasks
  • Want to adopt a continuous delivery approach

#3: Extreme programming (XP)

XP is a take on agile software development that puts a focus on quality and offering the agility needed to react to user requirements as they change.

Like Scrum frameworks, XP calls for short development cycles to help improve agility. But it also adds in several types of testing and QA to the development process, including:

  • Pair programming, where a second set of eyes reviews code as it’s written
  • Unit testing of all code as it’s committed
  • Avoiding programming any features until they are required 
  • Delivering only simple, clear code to streamline collaboration across developers
  • Frequent communication with users to react quickly if requirements change

Unlike Scrum and Kanban, XP is a more holistic set of rules. With so many moving parts, some organizations may prefer to selectively choose the XP rules that work best for them rather than adopting every rule wholesale. 

XP would be especially useful to organizations that:

  • Want a laser-focus on the quality of their SAP code
  • Have the manpower available to regularly code in pairs
  • Want a holistic set of rules they can follow in their agile approach to SAP development

#4: Disciplined agile delivery (DAD)

Part of the disciplined agile toolkit, disciplined agile delivery is an agile approach to software development that builds on Scrum, Lean and other established agile approaches.

While some agile approaches focus on a single part of the development process, DAD supports the full delivery lifecycle. DAD also differs in that it focuses on delivering full, consumable solutions rather than the minimum viable software products other agile approaches focus on.

DAD is also unique in that it offers a hybrid approach mixing elements of Scrum, Kanban, XP and many other agile methodologies. As such, it delivers a more holistic approach to development.

Another benefit of DAD is that it is designed to scale. While the likes of Scrum and Kanban rely on stand-up meetings and boards that can’t always support larger teams, DAD can scale across multiple groups and business units to bring the benefits of agile to the whole enterprise.

DAD is particularly suited to organizations that:

  • Need to scale agile to larger teams
  • Want to take a more holistic approach to development
  • Are already using Scrum or Lean principles, and want to build on them

#5 Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

Many agile methodologies like Scrum only work within individual teams. If you want to build them out to cover multiple business functions, you need to establish a Scrum of Scrums—a way to manage multiple Scrums together across the business.

The Scaled Agile Framework is one way to manage this kind of agile approach at scale. By splitting Scrums and Kanbans across different levels, it allows you to scale your agile approach across multiple verticals.

A unique aspect of SAFe is that it also integrates aspects of DevOps like Release on Demand to further accelerate development. However, because it incorporates so many disciplines, SAFe can require the business to establish brand new roles.

SAFe works best in organizations that:

  • Want to apply Agile across the entire business
  • Have the headcount to create new roles
  • Are interested in combining Agile and DevOps approaches

To learn more about using SAFe for SAP development, take a look at our recent blog: How to make your Agile Development more SAFe.

Whatever approach you choose, we can help

These five approaches cover some of the more popular agile methodologies, but there are plenty of others out there. Each comes with different pros and cons, and will be better suited to different organizations and basis team structures.

Regardless of which approach you choose, having the right tools and technology in place can help you get more from agile development. 

If you’re working in SAP, that’s where Basis Technologies can help. Our automation software is designed to support agile development for SAP applications, so that you can work more quickly, safely and efficiently—whatever version of agile you choose.

To learn more about Basis Technologies and how we can help you take an agile approach to SAP development, get in touch with one of our experts.

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