Take SAPPHIRE NOW and SAP TechEd in Las Vegas, Bangalore, and Madrid this year talking with customers, partners, analysts, bloggers. Add to it many internal conversations here within SAP. What you end up with is the certainty that there is enormous interest in today’s SAP NetWeaver and the strategy how we evolve it into the realms of In-Memory, Cloud, and Mobility. All the feedback we get leaves you with the strong impression that our innovation strategy resonates very well with our customers and partners, and our products and solutions are evolving in the right direction.
We seem to be addressing the right needs, adoption figures point into the right direction, feedback from customers gives you a great day. How come?
Now while I am not a radical believer that “the right process will yield the right results” by default, you can pretty safely bet a month’s salary on the fact that “the wrong process will rarely yield the right results” — if only for statistical reasons. So besides seeing that apparently we are “doing the right things” for our customers and partners, I am very happy to see that probably this is also related to us in NetWeaver R&D “doing things right” and very differently compared to former times. Actually, I am absolutely convinced about this one. But who knows about this outside SAP?
This is why after being back in the office after “TechEd season” an indefinite and urgent feeling kept creeping up at me suggesting to start a blog around new SAP NetWeaver releases, products and innovations, and how they actually link back into our working mode and processes, how we do Lean Software Development, drive innovation together with customers, continuously improve our internal workings. Hopefully, this will give you some more insights and perhaps even trigger some dialog and discussions about further directions and enhancements.
Three weeks ago there was an event on my calendar that I wanted to take as an opportunity to share some more background information in this first blog post (tada!) with you: We shipped SAP NetWeaver 7.31 into ramp-up as planned on November 21st.
SAP NetWeaver from Inside
What many people don’t know is that we — SAP NetWeaver R&D — went through a massive change in our development processes and methodologies since NetWeaver 7.0 (or 2004s as it was called originally) was released to the market in 2005. In 2008 we started in NetWeaver R&D to completely change our processes towards Lean Software Engineering and adopt Agile Software development methodologies like Scrum, XP, TDD and others. An excellent reading, by the way, and one of our Bibles in this endeavor was “Scaling Lean and Agile Development: Thinking and Organizational Tools for Large-Scale Scrum (Agile Software Development)” from Craig Larman and Bas Vodde (available at your favorite retail bookstore). It was and is a very systematic change that has in the meantime been applied to all of R&D at SAP.
Putting the customer first and having our development processes actually aligned around this has become a primary objective. In order to understand the magnitude of change, you have to know that we talk in my unit alone about 2000 R&D folks working in 7 development locations all over the world (Germany, India, Bulgaria, Israel, US, Vietnam and Norway) not counting the neighboring functions in Solution Management, the Field organization, Support et cetera. So changing towards Lean and Agile has not been trivial and required considering scale and complexity of organization, processes and products from the start.
If I compare, where we were in terms of SAP NetWeaver product itself and our development processes to get to the solution back then and put it in relation to today, we have come a long way: We’ve significantly cleaned up our product architecture and reduced dependencies. We’ve aligned behind a single, simple, agile and still scalable approach to development following Scrum “by the books”. Team empowerment was (rightly) valued over formal micro-management and micro-governance. Customer engagement became central. Continuous Improvement in the Lean sense has become a systematic activity integrated into the DNA of the organization (perhaps I should write a separate post on this one alone). We have a highly reliable release schedule. Portfolio cycles are short and relatively painless. Development phases are tact-based with ongoing integration and “working software each tact” is the ambition as our deliverables are being consumed continously by internal stakeholders or – where possible – validated with customers.
As a result, now we can reliably deliver a new version of the SAP NetWeaver components underlying SAP Business ByDesign every 6 months and we can reliably deliver an Enhancement Package size SAP NetWeaver release every 9-12 months to SAP Business Suite and our external customers. This is indeed a different organization and process behind the SAP NetWeaver platform compared to 2005. I can still remember a several months long portfolio cycle for a 7 months SAP NetWeaver development window, happening once in the darkest of the “old days”: The release was preluded by “shootouts” with our internal stakeholders mainly debating with us for which of their thousands of “high prio” requirements that we couldn’t commit on we hadn’t understood the meaning of “must have” or “showstopper” priority.
The release then ended up in an 11 months development phase with a 4 months delay beyond plan, only 70% of the initially 30% of committed features were finally delivered (what a surprise?), and quite a significant number of them was not even remembered, or needed or “consumable” by our internal stakeholders any more at that time. That’s when you as an R&D organization get the strong feeling that something is fundamentally screwed up and that there must be better ways of doing things. That’s when we started to turn things systematically around. Going back to square one.
Three years later:
SAP releases SAP NetWeaver 7.3 into ramp-up in November 2010. As planned. A smooth ramp-up follows. NetWeaver 7.30 goes Generally Available (GA) in May 2011. As planned. Only 3 months later already 180 customers have gone live on the new release, 2 more months later it is already 350+ live customers.
On November 21st, 2011, SAP releases SAP enhancement package 1 for SAP NetWeaver 7.3 in ramp up, the first Enhancement Package to NW 7.31. As planned.
While it is still too early to declare our NetWeaver transformation as completed, I am confident that we have set ourselves up for the challenges to come. We’re meanwhile working on our JPaaS on-demand platform (sometimes referred to as “Neo”), massively built on open standards and open source, running our own agile software development infrastructure and processes on top of JPaaS itself, “eating our own dog food” so to speak (not literally ;-). We’re releasing it in 3 months release cycles. And we’re engaging with our customers and partners on an ongoing basis and also early on during the design phase.
In retrospective, if you would ask me about three key statements regarding our Lean and Agile transformation in SAP NetWeaver, I would settle on those three:
“I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game — it is the game. In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.” [Louis V. Gerstner, Who says elephants can’t dance?]
Interestingly, I had the opportunity to talk to Sam Guckenheimer and Brian Harry from Microsoft Development Division a few weeks ago discussing development processes and methodologies. It was enlightening to hear of the many similarities that Microsoft and NetWeaver were sharing back in 2005 from a customer base, product history, organizational setup and product creation process perspective and how both our companies tackled them systematically and often with surprisingly similar approaches. There’s a book from Sam that I would like to recommend – in particular chapter 9: “Agile Software Engineering with Visual Studio” [Sam Guckenheimer, Neno Loje] (also available at your favorite retail bookstore). But that topic is probably worth a posting by its own….
I hope you found making it through this blog worth your time. It turned out a bit longer than I originally planned. Sorry about this one. I would be more than happy to get your feedback on Twitter (@_bgoerke) or as comments directly here whether this blog is valuable to you and if there are topics you would like to get more information on.
Björn Goerke | Technology & Innovation Platform Core