Enterprise systems play a pivotal role keeping organizations competitive in an increasingly digital, data-driven business landscape. Meanwhile agile approaches to software development promise rapid delivery of useable, relevant solutions.

Despite this shared suitability, marrying enterprise systems projects and agile is challenging. The broad reach and complexity of enterprise system solutions might, at face value, seem out of step with the iterative approach that characterizes agile.

Agile methods and practices, applied in systems development, meet demands for greater speed, allowing nimble and incremental improvements over time better aligned to user expectations.

What’s the agile upside?

Adopting an agile approach allows you to adapt rapidly to market and environmental changes in productive and cost-effective ways that bring multiple benefits:

  • Early and incremental value. Enabling constant, real-time, roll-out of software, promoting confidence, and allowing business users to draw value early from working components, before the solution is complete.
  • Quality and reliability. Lowering the risk of delayed timelines, because delivery is managed sprint by sprint, with clear visibility as to what is committed for that sprint.
  • Customer-centricity. Promoting communication and a sense of shared ownership between business and software delivery teams, who are equally involved in the development process. Ultimately, this results in an end-product that meets expectations.
  • Increased efficiency. Allowing business users to see the emerging product, respond to it and tweak it as they go; delivering early in smaller increments and getting feedback reduces the risk of building the wrong product or missing a deadline.

Getting agile right for SAP projects

The size, complexity and interdependencies of SAP projects pose specific challenges when operating under an agile framework. Delivery and client teams need to align up-front on what aspects of agile delivery they can commit to and adapt the classic agile model accordingly.

Our success factors for an agile approach to SAP projects are based on over 600 client engagements and the collective experience of our team of more than 47,000 SAP practitioners:

  • Start with a baseline system. Compared to other projects, SAP typically requires more upfront preparation before “sprinting” can begin. By building a baseline, you provide an architectural runway for the agile SAP program and enable sprint teams to start delivering user stories related to system functionality.
  • Do the groundwork. Agile frameworks typically include only light preparation and blueprinting phases. However, from our experience, we know it’s invaluable to set aside time at the outset to define ways of working, undertake training, align on key design decisions and set up the SAP environment.
  • Make key decisions upfront. SAP projects often present many options when deciding on the foundational solution. If you go agile, it’s critical you make key decisions in advance of the sprints. Thinking about these big topics up-front gives the business time to decide the direction it prefers to take.
  • Manage the complexity. Some business processes in an SAP system are extremely complex and take significantly longer than a single sprint to design and build. It’s crucial you have early and ongoing dialogue between the business and scrum teams to stay organized and keep the program on track.
  • Nurture the right mindset and operational culture. To achieve success with an agile approach to SAP projects, you must transition your organization to an agile mindset. Make sure you have agile-conversant people across the board. This requires upfront investment in change management training and significant top-down commitment.
  • Allow flexibility in budgets and timelines. Budgeting an agile SAP project can take client teams out of comfort zones and demand willingness to accept some uncertainty over costs and timetables. Agile programs work best when the budget is focused around funding resources for a certain amount of time, rather than scope and functionality.

Ready to agile up?

Simply stated, an agile approach to software development gives you the power to deliver relevant solutions, fast. SAP implementations, despite the inherent complexity, can benefit from agile, providing certain criteria are met and you follow a well-thought-out plan.

Agile demands many things from your entire organization: commitment to providing tools, training and other resources, nurturing the right mindset and dialogue, allowing for flexibility in timelines and more. Preparation is key, but going agile is well-worth the effort. We’ve seen clients realize the benefits over and over.

Read the full report for more on how we help clients gain agile benefits with their SAP programs.

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