Agile & DevOps

How to make your Agile Development more SAFe®

How ActiveControl from Basis Technologies enables agile development by supporting adoption of the SAFe framework

When it comes to the production of software and the associated QA processes, for many years SAP’s approach was to stay close to role models taken from physical manufacturing operations. This was soon referred to as the Run SAP methodology and provided a kind of “operating manual” for SAP. The project approach was very “waterfall oriented”; operation standards were the best practices from the IT infrastructure library (ITIL).

However, manufacturing operations (especially in the automotive industry) have changed. ‘Toyota models’ are often used today – including the concept of lean manufacturing and the ‘pull’ method. These principles are increasingly being applied in today’s software development departments, so more recent SAP procedures include some elements of agile methods and scaled procedures: the Scaled Agile Framework for Enterprises (SAFe), for example.

ASAP to Activate

SAFe is a framework defined by Scaled Agile Inc. that SAP has adapted to support more agile SAP projects. It enables agile procedures instead of a waterfall-oriented approach and provides more transparency than traditional development frameworks.

If you look at today’s SAP implementation methods, you can see that SAP provided the last “Accelerated SAP” method with ASAP 8 and then introduced a more agile method that also provides a means to develop in shorter cycles, in so-called ‘sprints’. This method, known as SAP Activate, relies on some elements of the SAFe methodology so in this piece I’m going to look at SAFe in more detail and explain how best of breed change automation tools – such as those we’ve created at Basis Technologies – can support this approach.

What is SAFe?

Agile development, working with methods like Scrum, has proven to be highly successful in many organizations. But what if you have to coordinate several Scrum teams and want to implement larger tasks (projects and programs)? Then you have to be able to scale and build a “Scrum of Scrums” model. This can be done using the agile approach defined by SAFe.

Why ‘scaled’? And why ‘agile’? Scaled because SAFe projects consist of multiple levels that are intended to support the needs of a large enterprise – a portfolio level (Level 1), a project management level (Level 2) and the implementation of developments and customizing (Level 3) in small agile teams (according to Scrum or KANBAN).

Lean and agile meanwhile, are the key principles which provide the foundational basis for SAFe, though even in ‘Essential SAFe’, the most basic kind of implementation, this is overlaid with the idea of ‘Release on Demand’ enabled by DevOps practices. This combination of lean, agile, DevOps, project management, value stream mapping and more brings with it the need for new roles (e.g. that of an enterprise architect). A set of such roles is defined within SAFe.

How does Basis Technologies’ products support SAFe?

ActiveControl from Basis Technologies is specifically designed to support the adoption of agile and DevOps in SAP environments, so it’s completely compatible with use of SAFe as a way to manage SAP development.

Take a look with me at four functions in ActiveControl which help to enable such an approach.

Tool 1: Team and Roles

Using Customizing, you can define teams in ActiveControl and add required roles to those that already exist. Using roles that you define, for example, as testers or freelancers, ActiveControl finds the right people for the required workflow steps and can send them requests for release by e-mail.

Tool 2: Defining a dynamic backlog for the 3 levels

The backlog of the portfolio level (Level 1) is typically mapped by users in an agile management tool like JIRA. There we use epics or user stories to capture requirements. These user requirements can then be reflected in ActiveControl through automatic creation of ‚Business Tasks‘ within the tool. Information on the portfolio, value stream and responsible people (SAFe roles: Enterprise Architect or Epic Owner) are defined within the Business Task and can also be automatically populated from JIRA.

In addition to JIRA, ActiveControl’s API supports integration with numerous other tools used for backlog management and ITSM, such as ServiceNow and BMC Helix (formerly Remedy).

For the project level (Level 2) projects can be defined with ActiveControl. These can also represent releases or sprints. The projects serve as bundles of multiple Business Tasks and the associated Transport Forms. Among other things, this improves the visibility of the components of a release and improves transparency. Specific developments (Level 3) are of course represented by individual Transports Forms, which are always associated with a Business Task and may or may not be part of a project.

Tool 3: The pillars of CALMR are built into ActiveControl

SAFe is based on 3 primary knowledge areas – agile development; lean product development; systems thinking

While a ‘release on demand’ approach is not essential when adopting SAFe, it is a clearly defined element of the overall framework and is supported by the five pillars of CALMR, which stands for Culture, Automation, Lean Flow, Measurement and Recovery. (CALMR is similar to the more well-known DevOps acronym CALMS, where ‘Recovery’ is replaced by ‘Sharing’ – though arguably we should always consider both of these factors!)

Each of the five elements of CALMR are supported by the features of ActiveControl, which for example allows improved collaboration, enables automated orchestration and deployment of transports, tracks KPIs that help to remove waste, and aids in rapid recovery from production issues (via the unique Backout option).

In turn, the concepts of CALMR underpin an element of SAFe known as the “Agile Release Train” (or ART). The ART is analogous to the perhaps more well-known DevOps ideas of Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD). Since ActiveControl was designed to enable CI/CD in SAP environments, naturally it also supports the ART approach.

You can explore the rest of our website to learn more about ActiveControl’s release automation features, or how it supports DevOps.

Tool 4: What you can’t measure, you can’t control

A key component of a Lean approach – and therefore of SAFe – is continuous improvement. Following the famous quote of management expert Peter F. Drucker (“what can’t be measured, can’t be managed”), ActiveControl provides a wide range of analytics that enable you to track key KPIs and enable continuous improvement in SAP development processes.

The following KPI categories are available:

  • work in progress
  • rework and waste
  • velocity
  • cycle times
  • approval times

Other agile approaches

If you want to set up large projects but at the same time want your teams to work with an agile approach to development, then a more formalized, scalable framework may be a good choice. I have focused on SAFe in this article because some elements of it – such as the idea of backlog management – have been incorporated by SAP into the Activate methodology and it is quite commonly seen, but others such as LESS and DAD are also available. The important point to note is that ActiveControl can provide the automation you will need to be successful with any of these approaches!

In fact, at Basis Technologies we are convinced that the key to safety, speed and quality lies in automation. Our tools give you everything you need for your journey to agile and DevOps in SAP, whatever framework you choose and whatever the business reason for your decision.

Request a demo to speak to one of our experts and find out how ActiveControl can keep your SAP systems SAFe.

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