SAP TechEd 2017: Boldly going where no SAP Partner has gone before

Basis Technologies attended TechEd 2017 to show how DevOps for SAP and Robotic Test Automation (RTA) can help business today, as well as in the future.

“…for every enterprise embarking on a digital transformation journey – “business as usual” won’t do. Trying to fundamentally transform your business without embracing both technology and culture change is a lost cause – you can’t win. In order to succeed, you need to change the conditions across your entire business”

Those were the words of Björn Goerke, Chief Technology Officer and President, SAP Cloud Platform, following his Star Trek-themed keynote at TechEd Las Vegas at the end of September.

It’s a sentiment that resonates with us at Basis Technologies.  We believe that the way SAP systems are managed can and should be transformed through automation, so that businesses can benefit from deployment of changes as soon as they are ready and required.

More and more of the conversations we have with clients are centered around the way our automation tools can support one kind of transformation or other.  That might be transforming an IT platform, transforming their commercial model, or transforming the way they deliver innovation.

That’s why we took the decision to attend SAP TechEd 2017 after a break of a couple of years.  Our DevOps Toolset has advanced rapidly during that time, and with the introduction of our revolutionary new regression testing product, Testimony, just before the event, it was the perfect opportunity to reconnect with the huge number of SAP users who visit the show.

It seems incredible that 3 weeks have already passed since TechEd closed, so now seemed the time to share our experience.  Not everything that goes on in Vegas should stay in Vegas, after all…

Information overload!

This was my first visit to TechEd and the overriding impression – aside from the usual highly-efficient organization by the SAP team – was that there was a lot of information on offer.  There were more than 1300 (!) separate sessions of all types for attendees to choose from across five days, before they even thought about speaking to vendors, visiting the Developer Garage, learning from SAP Mentors, networking with ASUG and actually speaking to the team from SAP.

Information about everything that SAP offers was available, but unsurprisingly a few of the most recent ‘usual suspects’ stood out as key topics.  Fiori, HANA, S/4, SAP Cloud Platform, Big Data and Leonardo were all well represented, along with a decent dash of IoT.

Naturally SAP had some new announcements too, such as a public BETA of SAP Cloud Platform running on Google Cloud Platform (GCP), new Cloud Platform and S/4HANA SDKs, and the incorporation of ABAP into SAP Cloud Platform.

You may be noticing a bit of a cloud theme there.  For full details of what was new, check out Björn Goerke’s wrap-up blog.

Tomorrow, tomorrow, you’re always a day away…

Stuff that’s new or just around the corner is always very interesting and exciting, and is clearly informing the future plans of businesses using SAP.  An increasing number are already adopting the latest tools, technologies and platforms, which have the potential to offer great strategic and commercial value in years to come. However, there was no doubt many of the TechEd attendees have more immediately pressing concerns than their company’s IoT strategy.

As such, our key focus at the show was how DevOps for SAP and the new concept of Robotic Test Automation (RTA) can help businesses today, as well as in the future.  Over three solid days of conversation our team discussed a lot of current challenges, projects and business needs, and while every company is a bit different, some key themes definitely emerged:

  • “The business wants to be more ‘agile’, so we need a way for SAP to support that.”
  • “As an SAP team we’ve got to get value to the business more quickly.”
  • “DevOps is everywhere in the rest of our IT team, so have to figure out how to do it in SAP.”
  • “We’ve got to automate our change management process.”
  • “How can we just get transports through more quickly, and reduce errors?”
  • “Our SAP change processes don’t integrate with our other ITSM tooling, and that’s holding us back.”
  • “We don’t really do regression testing. Doing it manually is too slow and automation tools cost too much to implement.
  • “How can we increase the confidence in the changes we’re delivering? We’re simply not able to test as much as we’d like.”
  • “I need a way to reduce the amount that business users are involved in testing.”
  • “We need a way to implement service packs, updates and upgrades more quickly and safely – testing holds us back.”

Fortunately, these are exactly the kind of challenges that products like ActiveControl and Testimony are designed to address.  It was great to be able to share our experiences and explain how automation enables our clients to address exactly these issues.

The interest in both DevOps and RTA was demonstrated by packed houses at both of the Basis Technologies networking sessions.  In the first, Eric Poellinger talked about how the SAP team at Vistaprint have had to become agile to align with corporate strategy, and how ActiveControl enabled them to do it.  In the second, Gavin Thornton explained how Testimony has already transformed the way that CBH Group think about SAP testing.

Re-inventing testing

On the subject of Testimony, we could not have expected a more positive response to both the new product and the concept of Robotic Test Automation.

It became clear that SAP regression testing is perhaps an even bigger problem in many organizations than we had anticipated, and it was equally evident that it’s a problem existing solutions cannot solve effectively. We heard just about every description for current approaches, from diplomatic (‘risk-based’) to perhaps more honest (‘flying by the seat of our pants’).

What’s more, regression testing is an issue that’s increasingly in the spotlight as DevOps becomes more widespread and the pace of SAP change accelerates.  New solutions are needed today, and Testimony definitely challenges traditional thinking with its radical approach.

In fact, a number of visitors described Testimony as the most innovative thing at TechEd this year, which was quite a compliment for us to hear.  You can find more information about Robotic Test Automation and what Testimony can do here, or check out this webinar for an alternative introduction from our CIO, Craig Oliver.

I always wanted my name up in lights…

OK, so I didn’t get that at the show but maybe having the company name up in lights isn’t a bad second best – it certainly made us easy to find.  Planning and building this year’s TechEd booth was a reminder of how tough it can be to run big events, but the Basis Technologies team pulled together, as always, and I think we can safely say that in the end no-one had any excuse for not realizing we were there!

I’d like to send a massive thanks to everyone who was involved in making TechEd 2017 such a success, and to everyone who joined us there.  We hope to see you next year!

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