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Agile & DevOps

What DevOps professionals need to know about SAP, and why they should care

Bringing SAP to DevOps benefits the whole business. Here are five steps to navigate the unique culture and architecture of SAP—and achieve SAP DevOps success.

DevOps helps many IT functions deliver new deployments faster, more efficiently, and with lower risk. But SAP is often left out of the DevOps fold. Why is this? Why should DevOps experts care? And what can they do to bring the benefits of their methodology to SAP environments?

In our webinar What DevOps Professionals need to know about SAP, we answer these questions, offer practical guidance, and explore the many benefits organizations can achieve with DevOps in SAP.

You can watch the webinar on demand, but in the meantime, we’ve captured some of the key points here.

Why should DevOps professionals care about SAP?

There’s no doubt that DevOps helps deliver more successful deployments faster. The 2019 DORA State of DevOps report found that organizations with a mature DevOps and CI/CD approach benefit from up to 208x more frequent code deployments and a change failure rate that’s seven times lower than with conventional approaches.

But while you may have successfully brought these benefits to many IT environments, you might not have considered bringing DevOps to SAP before. The benefits of marrying SAP and DevOps are many—for both the business and the individual that can make DevOps for SAP a reality. Successful DevOps for SAP delivers:

  • Smoother, more integrated workflows: Automating SAP development, and better integrating SAP teams with the wider IT function makes everyone’s lives easier.
  • Strategic alignment: By building bridges between SAP, wider IT, and the rest of the business, everyone can push in the same direction to drive the business forward.
  • Happier business users: Delivering safer, more frequent updates and changes helps business users work more effectively.
  • More satisfied customers: With more responsive business systems and processes, you can deliver what customers need quicker and keep them satisfied.
  • Improved personal reputation: If you’re seen as the person leading the charge and bringing the benefits of SAP DevOps to the business, you can improve your professional reputation.

What’s different about DevOps for SAP?

With all the additional impact DevOps can have on the business when applied to SAP systems, you might be wondering why it isn’t yet the norm for companies to bring the two together. In large part it’s because of the various ways in which SAP is different to other IT environments. For example:

  • Architecture and technology: SAP code is written in the proprietary ABAP language, deployments are handled through unique ‘transports’, and only one version can exist in a live system.
  • Different development tools: Industry-standard DevOps tools don’t work in SAP or support its unique way of deploying changes.
  • Shared development and code repositories: As all SAP developers have to work in a single development system the risk of conflict is always there, along with the usual challenges of sequencing and dependency management. This can be even more difficult to deal when small, autonomous teams are moving at pace.
  • Risk aversion: Many mission-critical operations depend on SAP, so firms can often be organizationally risk-averse when it comes to SAP systems. Failures have serious consequences and are hard to rectify quickly, leading to a slow-but-steady, safety-first approach. Not very DevOps.
  • Culture: Cultural change is needed in any DevOps initiative but a traditional development culture may be particularly ingrained in SAP teams. This mindset isn’t easy to change.

Some companies try to work at two speeds to overcome these differences—with SAP operating at one pace, while other IT initiatives work with DevOps in the fast lane. But as long as the business still relies on SAP for critical operational processes, this approach will lead to higher costs, delays, and missed opportunities. Simply put, your business can’t be truly agile if SAP can’t adapt at speed.

How to get started with DevOps for SAP

For those setting out on their SAP DevOps journey, we recommend starting with these five steps:

  1. Open a dialogue between DevOps and SAP teams
    By helping your DevOps and SAP teams collaborate more closely, you can help them both understand the barriers to SAP DevOps—and how to break them down.
  2. Start with a small project and evolve from there
    By starting with a small pilot project, you can achieve quick wins and use positive results to secure buy-in for bigger projects down the line.
  3. Bring business teams together around outcomes
    By building teams around specific business areas, you can create diverse, multi-disciplinary groups that can think beyond individual disciplines to achieve a shared business objective.
  4. Get the right SAP automation tools
    Tool selection is critical, as standard DevOps tools are not designed with SAP in mind. Pay careful attention to the functionality different tools can offer, and ensure they’re supplied by SAP experts.
  5. Build an integrated tool chain
    To truly build DevOps into SAP, your tools need to be designed with SAP in mind and ready to integrate with other systems to help you create end-to-end development processes.

SAP DevOps success in action at Ericsson

Our recent work with Ericsson is a great example of how DevOps for SAP can be applied in the real world. 

Ericsson, a global networking and telecommunications provider, was working to automate deployments across up to 15 different applications, including SAP. But Ericsson’s SAP landscape was disconnected from other environments, with its own tools and teams. This meant there was no way to connect SAP with the company’s chosen CI/CD orchestration platform.

To turn SAP from a barrier into a DevOps opportunity, Ericsson started using ActiveControl, a continuous delivery tool designed specifically for SAP environments. With ActiveControl, Ericsson was able to integrate SAP into its CI/CD pipeline and help the whole business respond faster to user needs and changing customer demands.

You can learn more about Ericsson’s story by downloading the full case study.

This is just the start for SAP DevOps

Bringing DevOps to SAP can deliver significant benefits to users, customers, and the business as a whole—as organizations like Ericsson are already seeing. We’ve covered some of the basics in this blog but you can watch the full webinar to find out more about how to bring SAP and DevOps together, or contact one of our SAP experts to discuss the situation in your business.

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