On the face of it, Agile and enterprise systems are a perfect fit.
In a competitive business landscape, SAP gives businesses the digital clout to drive agility, efficiency, and to get ahead in an increasingly data-driven world.
This is also the focus of Agile. The methodology enables solutions to be delivered rapidly while adapting to a constantly shifting market. Both are touchstones of a modern enterprise. But as well matched as they are, combining them does come with difficulties.
Enterprise systems are broad, often reaching across the whole of an organization. So much so, it’s easy to assume that the sheer complexity of SAP projects doesn’t marry with Agile’s focus on iterative development. However, while there’re challenges, it’s possible to overcome them and enjoy the benefits that come with simpler programmes.
So in this article, I’ll go over some key considerations when it comes to SAP implementation using Agile.
Before getting started
While the temptation is to get building right away, the complexity of SAP implementation means you first need to do the groundwork.
First of all, your baseline configuration needs to be much more robust than your typical Agile project. This is the framework for your Agile SAP program, and is fundamental to enabling your sprint teams to start developing.
So take your time, raise your key dependencies, and create as solid a baseline as possible.
Also, make sure everyone is aligned on your goals, and what’s needed to achieve them. Define the business case, take training if it’s needed, and ensure there’s agreement on key decisions and dependencies – these are the things you want to thrash out now, not later.
On the topic of key decisions, you’ll likely have many options when it comes to things like the scope of analytics, end-user experience, or defining global standards.
These are big topics – and topics that could define which way the business wants to take the project. They provide clarity, transparency, and the confidence that future sprints can run smoothly – so be sure you give them their proper weight.
Be comfortable with complexity
Complexity is the principle problem when aligning SAP implementation and Agile, so you must be sure you can manage it properly.
There’s no getting around the fact that many SAP systems will take longer than a single sprint – and in some cases, significantly longer. Add to this the list of functionalities that the business deems essential, and you have a lot of work to do.
Agile is all about staying up-to-date, and that needs to be the same for your working priorities.
Be sure you have a comprehensive list of the key functionalities required. Not only that, but make sure the list is up-to-date, and that it’s reflecting the businesses’ priorities and technical capabilities. Be sure too that you’re being fully transparent with what you’re working on, so that the business can feedback and alter the workload if needed.
Setting out budgets and timelines for Agile is tricky at the best of times. But for complex SAP projects, it’s almost impossible to nail them down.
Teams aren’t naturally comfortable with flexibility. But a huge amount of learning comes with each sprint and iteration. The resources needed to deliver a user-centric experience will constantly shift through a project – and that inevitably means timings and costs need to be adjusted.
The reality is a compromise will need to be reached between the go-live date and budget. And while that may not sit well for everyone, it’s a natural consequence of such a flexible way of working.
Perhaps more than anything else though, what’s needed is a change in culture. If you’re used to Agile already, you’ll be familiar with the need to embrace a more organic, evolutionary way of developing. But for complex SAP projects, this is taken to the next level.
Ultimately though, for those prepared to adapt, Agile and SAP are perfectly compatible. It may be a different way of working to what you’re used to. But the business benefits are more than worth it.