SAP Delivery Agility: Applying Essential SAFe to large-scale SAP implementations and operations
For over two decades now, proponents of Agile have had to contend with the myth that “you can’t use Agile for X,” where X represents high-assurance systems, systems subject to rigorous regulatory requirements, cyber-physical systems, systems with known and fixed requirements, systems for national defense and security, big data systems, and so on.
I’ve been around long enough to have a sense of why these perceptions arise, so I always respond by simplifying Agile development down to the underlying iterative process of Plan-Do-Check-Act. I then ask a different question, “in systems of complexity, wouldn’t you always want to manage risk that way?” You’d think the answer would always be yes, and yet …
Perhaps one of the last of these larger myths is that “you can’t do Agile on large-scale ERP implementations.” After all, how can you install half an ERP system, move only half the data, half an employee, half the processes, whatever. I think this has been compounded by the fact that the vendors of these systems have scripted fairly all-in, big-bang implementations with deployment and testing strategies that simply assume “it’s all there or nothing is there.” I’d guess a history of waterfall development drove those strategies, just like it drove the rest of us over the prior 30 years.
Well, now we have help from a source who can put that myth to bed and who has ‘been there and done it’ in hundreds of Agile SAP implementations. In this white paper (which we are also posting as an Advanced Topic article), Accenture’s Malte Kumlehn (Head of SAP Delivery Excellence) describes how applying the ten Essential SAFe elements has given them the tools they need to successfully implement large-scale SAP applications in a Lean and Agile manner. And it works. Benefits experienced in one case study included:
- Implementation defects found in functional testing: 326; introduced into production: 0
- 92 potential security defects found and fixed
- 80% automated product and regression tests, saving 12,000 manual hours
- 50% reduction in following FY testing budget
This is an important read for everyone anticipating a large-scale SAP S/4HANA implementation. SAP has set an end to maintenance support for SAP ERP or SAP ECC software that runs on traditional relational databases like Oracle, DB2, and SQL Server in 2025. At that time, all firms running SAP ERP software will be mandated to migrate to SAP S/4HANA, the newest SAP ERP Suite.
It’s critical that business leaders, specifically CFOs and CIOs, who are involved in future ERP strategies, plan appropriately. Future-proof your organization to adopt managerial frameworks such as SAFe and infrastructure models such as digital decoupling and cloud-based solutions to start building the capabilities to succeed—and manage your businesses in today’s adapt-or-die marketplace.
Really enjoyed your article as its highly informative
Is it safe to say that the lessons learned in the SAP implementations discussed in the paper above extend to other ERP systems also?
Thanks for the question, Steven. Yes, these principles certainly are transferrable to other ERPs. We showcase Malte’s work here as an example of how Lean-Agile principles have been applied to a large solution in just one of many possible domains.
absolutely. See https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insights/technology/agility-age-enterprise-solutions for a POV about that.
Are there any SAP/SAFe customer specific case studies available? Thanks
Hi Matt. I don’t believe any of the current Customer Stories involve SAP. We do have a podcast that discusses SAP and SAFe. You can listen to it here. Hope that helps!
Thanks for sharing this great story to inspire teams to be away from myths. While this is great, taking 1 to 3 Sprints as an example and how value is derived by sharing Stories would really impact. To overcome myths data points at micro level would be of great help. Once again a Big Thanks.
Rama… we have prepared a “Life of a WRICEF” document that would likely provide the specificity you desire. It’s not a public white paper yet, but I’d like to get it there. Come visit the Accenture|SolutionsIQ booth at the 2020 Global SAFe Summit for a discussion – by then I hope to have a target date by which we will have the work published.