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How Vistaprint made agile a reality in SAP with ActiveControl

The company successfully adopted agile SAP development as part of a company-wide transformation.

SAP is well-known for the ability to power a comprehensive range of end-to-end business processes. However, the complex architecture often limits organizations from taking advantage of agile development practices and sometimes leaves them lagging behind their fast-moving competitors.

When Vistaprint—a leading e-commerce company—needed to adapt its SAP operations to align with its company-wide agile transformation, automation proved a key part of their response.

We heard the full story of their success in a Basis Technologies webinar where we were joined by two of Vistaprint’s SAP experts, revealing how automation helped their team to enable agile development in SAP and simplify the company’s transition to S/4HANA.

The webinar is available on demand, but for those pressed for time, we’ve captured some of the key points of Vistaprint’s transformation story here.

From startup to worldwide success

Launching as a startup in 1995, Vistaprint has grown rapidly over the past 25 years. In 2019 the company had more than 6,500 employees and €1.5bn in revenue, with e-commerce sites in over 20 locations across the world.

Vistaprint has expanded from its roots as a printing company, too. Now, it is a technology company specializing in the mass customization of products, covering everything from business cards and holiday gifts to digital marketing and design services.

Inevitably, Vistaprint’s pace of change began to slow as the business grew into a global e-commerce brand, with more sites to manage and a large number of processes. That’s why Vistaprint initiated a company-wide agile transformation in 2013—to accelerate development streams, shorten the concept-to-cash process, and become more responsive to its customers.

For a company processing approximately 100,000 orders a day and operating on a just-in-time manufacturing model, the ability to rapidly apply changes is critical. Vistaprint’s SAP team knew it would need to adapt to an agile way of working to continue accommodating this pace, align with the company-wide transformation, and eventually make a smooth migration to S/4HANA.

But given the technical architecture of SAP, the team knew it would be a challenge.

Making agile a reality in SAP

The company’s SAP team employed a clear, three-step plan to support their switch to an agile methodology. This plan involved educating the company’s employees and adapting operational processes in addition to employing the necessary automation.

The first step was straightforward. By the start of the SAP project in 2017, Vistaprint was already four years into its company-wide agile transformation, providing an established roadmap to support cultural change.

Vistaprint began with the idea of splitting their SAP team into different-sized units called squads, tribes, chapters and guilds – an approach originally followed by Spotify – to encourage a shift toward more autonomous working.

In the second step, the SAP team identified how to shift its development process to a two-week sprint cycle—similar to other agile methodologies used throughout the business—allowing teams to fail fast and recover fast.

Finally, the team sought out SAP-specific automation to power the entire shift to agile. Vistaprint required a solution to reduce or eliminate manual effort in the development process, reduce the technical complexity, and create a single source of truth for change management.

“When we adopted agile in our SAP team, we started the same way as the rest of the business—by looking at outcomes, rather than solutions,” explained Mukul Agrawal, Head of ERP at Vistaprint. “We asked ourselves, ‘what are we solving with automation’, and the answers were time to market, and getting value to customers faster.”

Automating in SAP with ActiveControl

Vistaprint’s SAP team used ActiveControl—Basis Technologies’ change management automation technology—to make automation in SAP a possibility.

Automating a significant amount of manual effort in the delivery cycle, the SAP team accelerated development, testing, and deployment of changes. With ActiveControl, transports are deployed to production systems on a daily basis, enabling a continuous flow of new and updated functionality. “Daily releases to production are a blessing,” explained Mukul. “If you miss a testing window one day, you’re not waiting three weeks for the next cycle—you can just deploy the next day.”

Vistaprint’s SAP team also gained greater visibility and control over the entire process, improving confidence across the board. With a single source of truth for the entire organization, individual teams now have more autonomy and less reliance on the central Basis team.

“In my experience with multiple change management tools, ActiveControl is one of the easiest and fastest with regards to the technical setup,” said Mukul. “The tool is very sophisticated, and the learning curve is short. It has out-of-the-box integrations with all types of SAP systems and many of the mainstream ticketing tools like Jira and ServiceNow.”

A seamless migration to S/4HANA

In addition to its shift to agile in SAP, Vistaprint recently migrated from its on-premises ECC to S/4HANA on HANA Enterprise Cloud—and ActiveControl played a key part in the successful brownfield migration.

ActiveControl’s merge feature enabled Vistaprint to automate many of the manual processes typically slowing migration, and helped it make a smooth migration in just eight months. S/4HANA systems were automatically updated when changes were made in the ECC, avoiding divergence and issues after S/4HANA went live.

And, that’s not the end of ActiveControl’s role at Vistaprint. In the future, the company also plans to use ActiveControl to implement SAP’s annual S/4HANA updates more quickly and safely.

Listen to the full transformation story

Vistaprint successfully adopted agile in its SAP teams, reducing manual effort across the development process, increasing autonomy for development teams, and accelerating its time to market—all with the help of ActiveControl.

But that’s just part of the story. Watch the full webinar on demand to find out more about how the global e-commerce company used automation to support the modernization of its SAP estate, or get in touch with one of our experts to discuss the benefits you could achieve through agile SAP development.

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