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Author's profile photo James Roberts

DevOps for SAP: Laying the foundations for success

A lot has changed in the last 12 months.

With digital transformation projects in the forefront of people’s minds the need to modernise IT systems and processes has never been as critical as it is today.  The speed at which software can change and deliver innovation is now the speed at which the business, and your competitors, can adapt to new market conditions.  There’s immense pressure to change and those who don’t or can’t will struggle to survive.

Businesses are already recognising this need and according to data from Forrester Research presented in a Basis Technologies webinar earlier this year…

“75 per cent of software decision makers surveyed believe that modernisation of key legacy applications is a critical or high priority, whilst 68 percent see the update to a new release of packaged applications, such as SAP, in the same way.”

It’s not surprising then that the number of calls and meetings that fill my week to talk specifically about DevOps has gone through the roof.

In fact, The Right Scale State of the Cloud survey found that over 81% of surveyed enterprises have already adopted DevOps in some parts of their organisation.

What’s happening now is that more and more companies want to talk about applying DevOps to their SAP applications and are genuinely interested in the what, why and how.

So what does DevOps for SAP mean?
For those who are not up to speed on DevOps I’ll briefly explain what it’s about.

It’s essentially a more collaborative method of delivering applications where traditional organisational silos are replaced by cross-functional, multi-skilled teams that are focused around business outcomes.

This, along with the high levels of automation involved in the process, provides companies with the agility they need to keep pace with the changing demands of the business.  In terms of application delivery that means they can achieve a faster time to market, higher quality, and lower costs, whilst reducing risk.

An IBM study found that the adoption of DevOps has been seen to…
Increase software delivery speed by up to 1,600 per cent.

whilst Puppet have stated that DevOps can bring…
60 times fewer failures with organisations twice as likely to exceed their profitability, market share and productivity goals.

But without DevOps, deploying even small changes to SAP systems can take a huge amount of time due to outdated and long release cycles along with concerns about risk and stability.  SAP customers who’ve adopted DevOps ways of working, on the other hand, are now able to deliver in much shorter cycles, which translates to a big leg up on their competitors who are yet to see the light.

The foundations of DevOps
Some companies implement a ‘big bang’ approach to DevOps but it’s also possible to get there step by step.  Either way, there are some core concepts that form the foundation DevOps is built upon.  It’s important to understand them before you get started:

1. Agile Development
The concept of Agile development – where applications are delivered frequently, in short iterations – is vital.  You can adopt Agile for SAP without making the step to DevOps, but DevOps won’t work without Agile.

I’ve talked a lot about Agile for SAP in other posts so I won’t go into details here but feel free to read those to get more of an insight.

Where Agile scores highly is in bringing together development, testing and the business, but there’s a gap if you don’t have the ability to bring automated deployment and automated environment provisioning to the table.  This is where DevOps comes in to add value to the entire process from requirements through to business delivery.

2. Collaborative Culture
You can’t underestimate how important it is to to understand the cultural and organisational changes involved in the implementation of DevOps.

As I mentioned earlier, the biggest change is a reorganisation of teams to move away from the ‘silo’ job functions of development, testing, operations (basis) and security towards mixed discipline teams that constantly work with the business to deliver what it needs.

Management sponsorship and buy-in is vital here to support what may be a challenging transition, so that adapting to new roles feels safe and rewarding.

The roles of pretty much everyone will be affected to a greater or lesser degree. People should be encouraged to take on more responsibility and to blur the boundaries imposed by their traditional roles.

3. The right toolsets
Of course it’s critical to look at tooling to support your DevOps processes and to deliver the levels of automation that bring so many benefits.

You’ll hear people talking about a DevOps toolchain and it’s important to recognise that no one single tool will support all the facets of DevOps.

You therefore need to look at how you’ll manage the key parts of DevOps from requirements through to the processes of continuous integration, delivery, deployment and improvement.

In SAP you need to look at how you can use tooling to support:

  • Automation of unit and regression testing
  • Improvement in code quality
  • Management of the sequencing and dependencies between changes and transports
  • Enforcing risk, quality and impact checks
  • Provisioning environments for testing
  • Automating the deployment of transports and rollback in the case of failure
  • Measuring the performance of development and testing teams

So the need is understood, but what about the reality?  Change can be difficult, particularly in complex, business-critical software environments such as SAP.  Even firms that see the logic of developing and updating their systems may be reluctant to take on transformation initiatives that have in the past been regarded as disruptive projects, potentially loaded with risk.

As one of our customers who have successfully implemented DevOps have said…

“It’s a better way of working. We don’t need any survival anxiety to show it is a better way of working. We know it reduces risk – delivery risk – and we know it increases quality”.

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      Author's profile photo Fred Verheul
      Fred Verheul

      Hi James,

      Thanks for the blog post!

      As a lot of companies are struggling with DevOps, and it appears to be more about organizational/cultural change than having to do with specific software products. So I was wondering: how is the SAP Development organization doing with regard to DevOps? IMO it would be great for customers to be able to learn from their software provider. Also, DevOps is critical to the success of all companies, and SAP won’t be an exception.
      If you could share SAP’s own success story wrt DevOps (assuming there is one) that’d be really nice.

      A second point I’d like to make is that in the past SAP’s track record of delivering tools for automating (unit) tests and doing continuous integration/delivery hasn’t been exactly great. I’m referring mostly to the ABAP-stack, as you might understand. So my question would be: what is SAP doing for customers in that regard?

      Thanks for any answers (or if necessary new blog posts) detailing how SAP is a role model wrt DevOps!

      Cheers, Fred

      Author's profile photo Fred Verheul
      Fred Verheul

      Oops, my apologies James.

      I assumed (wrongly) that you were working for SAP. I've seen so many similar blog posts that always seem to recommend the use of one or the other product from SAP, that I kind of assumed your links also pointed to some SAP products/... . But they didn't, and your profile clearly states you're not at all working for SAP.

      So please ignore my previous comment, as it makes no sense.

      Having said that, you may guess the direction I'm going with this: third-party (mostly SAP partner) marketing content, linking to your own corporate website is also generally not appreciated by the community. I've read several of your previous blog posts, and while they contain truisms that no one can really disagree with, they also invariably point to additional material on your corporate website (sometimes even hidden via URL shorteners, what's the point of that?) that requires registration, and opposes the culture of open sharing that we'd prefer on SAP's community platform.

      If you really care about Agile and DevOps etc, please dig a little bit deeper here on SAP's community platform, and explain concretely how you implemented Agile for your customers, and which non-SAP tools you've used to accelerate time-to-value. I'm sure there's a large audience for your knowledge, and IMHO it would/could even work better as marketing material for your company!

      Thanks, Fred

      Author's profile photo James Roberts
      James Roberts
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Fred,
      Thanks for your feedback. I have a lot of valuable interaction with people on SCN as it's great community resource, so I'll definitely take your comments on board when thinking about future posts.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      I agree with your comments Fred,

      Im also looking for Agile-Devops experiences, To understand how the cultural changes were managed and how-what tools helped to follow the concept of DEVOPS-continuous (code, unit testing, User acceptance test, Regression testing, learning, etc)

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Thanks for sharing this article you have a good command on DevOps. I follow this blog for the future posts.


      DevOps Consult,