Can the Agile methodology actually work in SAP?
It’s an age-old debate in the technology space, Agile vs Waterfall. We’ve all heard the arguments as to why each approach does or doesn’t work, particularly when it comes to the SAP sector, but is it time to embrace a more Agile approach in a bid to improve project success.
As someone who has been recruiting SAP and Agile professionals across the UK for more than 15 years and can see the value of both methodologies, I’ve noticed it’s a subject that continues to come up in my discussions across the SAP market.
I look around at my clients and very rarely does a project get delivered, on time, let alone on budget. In fact, did you know latest statistics show that projects above £10 million are successful only 10 per cent of the time, 52 per cent are challenged and 38 per cent fail!
Is Waterfall failing us? Are we ready to start accepting inevitable change or are we trying to ignore it?
SAP has traditionally run projects on Waterfall methodologies as we know, generally hybrid versions of Prince2 and there are strong historical reasons for this. During the time of R/3 in the early 90s, Waterfall-based software engineering frameworks were mostly taught to software professionals and subsequently adopted as ‘best practice’. This soon became the dominant way to implement configuration-driven package software.
This position was further entrenched by the release of SAP’s standardised approach ASAP (Accelerated SAP) in the late ’90s, which was adopted as the standard reference framework for SAP.
This started to change slowly after Agile became popularised in 2001 with the manifesto for Agile Software Development , created by frustrated software professionals.
Agile methods, until recently, were seen to be more applicable to bespoke software product development than ERP implementations.Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is business process management software that allows an organization to use a system of integrated applications to manage the business and automate many back office functions related to technology, services and human resources.
However, in the past 15 years or so, a small group of software development professionals found themselves in SAP projects and successfully implemented aspects of Agile techniques such as Xtreme Programming (XP) and Scrum in their SAP projects mostly ‘under the radar’ or hidden within a Waterfall framework, and it worked.
More positive openness towards Agile methods emerged when SAP AG itself started adopting Agile development around 2010, releasing Agile extensions to ASAP 8 as an integral part of SAP Solution Manager.
The feeling across a number of clients we have spoken to said that “There is definitely an element of concern that Agile adoption (at team and business levels) would be costly and take too much time,
“There is still a perception that Agile methods (jokingly referred to as ‘Agile Fragile’) is undisciplined, unplanned and inherently ungovernable because no one delivers any documentation and/or reports.
“This is far from the truth because in reality, Agile demands a lot of discipline, communication and collaboration from both the project management, business and the project team and in addition emphasises strong focus on quality and technical excellence.”
These statements led me to wonder, do we need to educate C-Suite stakeholders? Do companies and PMO managers need to start planning for a change into Agile?
Let’s look at the release of SAP HANA products. The ASAP Methodology in 2015 was transcended and replaced by the new SAP Activate methodology that now has Agile development at its core.
Is Agile SAP here to stay? And if so, as it seems to be, are many businesses putting their proverbial head in the sand?
Implementing and understanding Agile, just like anything else, is not a guilt-free salvation to your problems. Projects are by definition, disruptive, temporary and noisy. Organisations need to realise and acknowledge that whatever transition method they choose there will be disruption.
Agile transformation requires a serious mind-set change and strong focus and commitment. You need to adapt, adopt, use the right tool for the right job,
It seems to me, that as a sector, we need to look at the case job-by-job, rather than bringing forward the thinking ‘it’s the way we’ve done it before, and it’s the way we’ll do it again’.
Would you agree? I am open to hear your thoughts.
Shane Sale is a specialist Principal consultant who also manages, the ‘Agile UK Networking group’, and the ‘SAP UK Networking Group’ Why not drop him a line at either 01189520156 or [email protected]