DevOps For ERP: A Step-By-Step Guide To Get You There

James Roberts

Part of the “DevOps for ERP” series

“Why should we adopt DevOps in our ERP systems?”

It’s a fair question, and one I’ve heard a lot since I started talking about the benefits of DevOps some years back. ERP projects might be “too big,” or maybe teams – or even IT leaders – feel DevOps is “too risky for critical systems.”

But times have changed. More and more companies have recognized the business benefits that DevOps could deliver in their ERP landscape – often because those benefits have already been seen in other parts of their IT organization. But why is now the time to make the change, and how can you get started?

Why now is the time for DevOps

This shift from “why?” to “why now?” and “how?” in the ERP DevOps conversation has been driven by three key factors.

First, slow delivery of change has become a business risk. Customers today are simply more demanding than ever. According to Appian, US businesses lost an estimated $62 billion in 2017 due to poor customer service – much of it due to systems and automated processes that either don’t work or are no longer fit for purpose.

Second, the benefits of DevOps are no longer in question. It’s an approach that has proven to be effective in many non-SAP IT systems. A 2018 report by DORA found that the highest-performing DevOps teams have 46x more frequent code deployments, 2,555x faster lead time from commit to deploy, 7x lower change failure rate, and 2,604x faster time to recover from incidents.

Last but certainly not least, tools are now available that accommodate the unique requirements of enterprise-wide ERP systems. Unlike in years gone by, there’s no longer a technical barrier to adoption. With the right tools, you’ll likely even be able to connect ERP systems to cross-application DevOps workflows used in other parts of the business – enabling an even faster and more efficient response to customer demands.

10 steps that can get you started with DevOps for ERP

I’m going to stop here to pose a question. What does a full post-holiday inbox have in common with a DevOps initiative?

Well, in practice the answer is not much, obviously, but there is one attribute that’s shared by both: the fact that getting started can be the hardest part. It’s also often the case that neither task is as bad nor as daunting as it might seem before you get going.

That being the case, we recently drew on our experience of ERP users across the world to create an e-book that sets out some key actions that can help ERP teams get started on the journey from a waterfall approach to DevOps. If you’re considering adoption of DevOps to accelerate change in your ERP systems, here are a few steps to help structure the first part of your journey:

Step #1: Define what DevOps means for your organization

There’s no standard definition of DevOps and no standard method of implementation, especially in an ERP environment. Before you start, it’s important to formalize ideas into a single vision and an agreed roadmap that reflect the journey your business needs to make.

Step #2: Get the right people on board

Cultural change can be one of the biggest DevOps challenges, so it will happen more easily if you find people and teams who are open to a new approach and are willing to evangelize the new model. Use your vision and roadmap to explain what will happen, how roles will change, and what the benefits will be.

Step #3: Build a convincing business case

ERP systems tend to be business-critical, so a move to a different way of working may be seen as too risky and the benefits not worth rocking the boat for. That means you’ll need to convince people of the tangible benefits of DevOps through a business case based on real data.

Step #4: Go agile in your processes

DevOps is rooted in agile principles, so it’s essential to get these in place for your ERP change management and development processes. Adoption of agile development can be a precursor to widespread adoption of DevOps.

Step #5: Start small and build out

You don’t have to change everything at once. An effective DevOps approach is to start with one team in a manageable, low-risk area, and measure the success of the change before extending it to other teams. This is especially true in areas where there may be some skepticism, like ERP.

But these points will just get you started. There are plenty of other things to think about as you attempt to use DevOps to accelerate delivery of value, from organizational design, to ‘shifting left,’ and integration into a wider DevOps toolchain.

Plan your journey to DevOps today

More and more businesses are now coming to understand how DevOps can provide the combination of speed, security, and quality assurance that enables their ERP estate to change from something slow and monolithic into a set of agile systems. But not every team starts its DevOps journey in the same place, and not all of the steps above will be applicable to every organization.

A lot will depend on how widespread and business-critical your ERP footprint is, and how familiar and comfortable your wider IT organization is with DevOps practices. Regardless of your situation today, using steps like those I’ve outlined above should help provide a structured approach that can make it easier to get started on your journey to DevOps for ERP and working towards faster delivery of innovation and business value.

For more on this topic, please read “How to Build a Business Case for DevOps” and “Self-Assessment: Are You Already Doing ERP DevOps?”

If you’re looking to implement DevOps for ERP, download our full e-book for a more complete 10-step guide to getting started.

A version of this article originally appeared on the Basis Technologies blog. This adapted version is republished by permission. Basis Technologies is an SAP silver partner.

James Roberts

About James Roberts

James Roberts is chief technology officer at Basis Technologies, responsible for driving product vision, strategy, and direction across the company’s innovative automation portfolio, and for ensuring that the engineering teams deliver world-class solutions. He has 30 years of experience in the software industry and nearly 25 years of SAP expertise working in a multitude of roles at major multinational companies.