The disruption caused by Coronavirus (COVID-19) has just begun. Based on the forecast of experts, we are likely to experience a long-term disruption in our lifestyles where social distancing, limited travel, and significant business and economic impacts will continue through 2020. This situation is likely to simultaneously create new and unique requirements, while at the same time forcing a change in the way these requirements are fulfilled.
The response to COVID-19 has already put significant pressure on supply chains, created imbalances in labor supply and demand, and resulted in significant pending regulatory changes. This appears to be only the beginning, as major shifts to business models and practices continue. These rapid and forced changes imply that systems will need to be modified in near real-time to enable implementation at scale.
At the same time these demands are building, the extended teams that are responsible are hamstrung. Co-location, even with local team members, is almost completely off the table. Travel is virtually stopped. Management resources and business owners are in full crisis response mode. Additional funding, attention and support will be hard to come by.
As we look to the months ahead, we realize our customers and partners will need to do more with less and adapt to this new reality, likely through 2020 and beyond. We believe we can help, because as a growth technology business we have addressed similar challenges in building our business, specifically:
- We are a global team with global customers and run our day-to-day business with global dev-ops teams virtually embedded with customers around the world
- As a profitable growth tech business, we are used to working with limited resources
- As a non-incumbent in the SAP space, our programs are based on very aggressive project schedules with limited resources
- We have partnered with many global leaders who are running full agile and continuous delivery programs across their SAP portfolios
With an install base that is generally ahead of the curve in SAP, there are some key best practices we have learned that are worth consideration as companies evaluate their options moving forward.
Best Practice 1: Move toward Dev Ops style teams as fast as possible. The key here with SAP is breaking down the barriers between skills (BASIS, ABAP, functional, infrastructure) and the vendors that are aligned with each. Historically, this has probably been a function of co-location by team; however, with everyone virtualized there is now the opportunity for a virtual daily scrum with everyone effectively equidistant. A daily scrum should consist of reviewing a comprehensive task list to properly synchronize the work for the team. Each team member should answer the three basic questions: “What was done yesterday? What is to be done today? Are there any impediments?” Successful use of scrum depends on the core values of commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect.
- Commit to doing your part to achieve the common goal
- Use courage to do the right thing and work through problems
- Focus on the work to be done
- Be open about all the work and challenges
- Respect each other to be capable and independent
Best Practice 2: Incorporate Agility. In the large enterprise category where SAP exists, business release schedules have typically been limited due to the historical overhead and risk associated with changing systems. A typical large SAP system has 1-2 business releases per year; many of our customers have moved to business releases every 2-3 weeks containing more incremental changes to avoid significant program and QA overhead. Key enablers of this approach are adopting automation to manage change, thus reducing human error, utilizing modern agile project management approaches and technology, and incorporating business and functional resources into technical streams to optimize incremental changes.
Best Practice 3: Leverage the Cloud. SAP programs tend to be fairly single-threaded due to the scale and expense of the infrastructure required. Typical customers have a single production instance with smaller development and test environments. With public cloud providers’ recent support for SAP, this paradigm has changed. It is now possible to easily clone a large production system, provisionally modify, update, simplify or stress test it as required with no dependency on other workstreams. This opens up new use cases where customers can quickly and efficiently try multiple experiments and, by leveraging dual maintenance solutions, promote the ones that work into production releases while inexpensively writing off the experiments that do not work out.
While our customers have had different reasons for adopting these best practices historically, the results have been similar. The majority of our customer base is already running S/4HANA, and the vast majority are on the HANA database platform. Many are now leveraging the public cloud to accelerate their innovation. We believe that COVID-19 will provide a catalyst to mainstream these practices into many more SAP customers, resulting in more speed and agility for all.