As business leaders strive for competitive advantage, technology trends and the digital revolution are driving major changes to their SAP systems. But why is it such a struggle for many firms to keep up the pace?
“I don’t know what the average is but I guess the average customer is 6 years back … probably more.” In his keynote speech at SAP SAPPHIRE NOW 2019 Hasso Plattner discussed the value of being able to change SAP systems fast and frequently. But he also pointed out how difficult it is for many companies to make significant changes to their SAP systems.
Unfortunately for such firms, more major SAP development projects are on the horizon today than at any time in recent history. Examples include moving to the cloud, adopting S/4HANA, and even just bringing ECC systems up-to-date before the 2025 support deadline. At the same time, the need for greater responsiveness is driving SAP teams to work in a more agile fashion – a significant shift.
So what is holding firms back from embarking on such initiatives? The complexity and difficulty involved in managing parallel SAP developments is often a key issue, whether for major projects like upgrades or across agile sprint teams.
Multiple projects, multiple problems
Parallel development in SAP typically means a ‘multi-track’ (or ‘N+N’) scenario, where independent SAP systems are used to allow teams work on unique and/or complex software developments without risk to the daily business.
But working separately in disconnected systems brings its own challenges. Everything must be kept aligned and, even more difficult, conflicts must be identified and remediated to avoid the risk of disruption when updates are deployed to business-critical production systems.
This complexity – and the manual effort required to manage it – often means that a multi-track approach is at best reserved for major projects. Equally likely, it is avoided completely, in which case projects that add value but are seen as non-essential – like application of ECC Enhancement Packs or new S/4HANA releases – simply might not happen. The resulting opportunity cost could be huge.
Parallel development isn’t just about major projects though. New approaches like agile and DevOps allow firms to respond to the market faster by delivering more small units of change, but require teams to work on numerous developments in the same time period (or ‘sprint’).
This poses a similar question: how can those agile developments – however small – be managed concurrently without sacrificing safety for speed? For some firms, a multi-track approach is part of the answer here, too. One Basis Technologies customer, Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson, employs an N+10 landscape to allow sprint teams to work independently.
But if N+1 projects are so challenging, how can N+10 development even be a possibility?
The answer lies in automation. The right automation removes the manual effort from multi-track development. It means you don’t need to track each change and every potential conflict. Systems are automatically kept in synch – typically over 90% of the time – and conflicts are automatically identified. Testing – often a major bottleneck – also becomes far faster, simpler and more effective.
Every IT leader embarking on, or even considering, major transformation projects like the move to S/4HANA should consider the role that automation can play in enabling those projects to be delivered more cost-effectively, at higher speed, with far less risk.