Harnessing SAP And JIRA Synergy: Digital Transformations With Jira And SAP Cloud ALM


Embarking on the journey of digital transformation with SAP requires a robust project management approach, blended with Agile continuous improvement practices. As the workforce shifts to becoming more Agile and collaborative, tools and processes that empower this transition are increasingly vital. SAP has invested in Cloud ALM as their SAP implementation tool of the future. But for non-SAP applications, Jira is increasingly becoming a standard for many Agile development shops. CoreALM’s Jira Connector for SAP Cloud ALM was designed to enable business transformations using a hybrid methodology.

In this blog, we will use real-world scenarios to explore how the Jira Connector for SAP Cloud ALM brings a practical solution combining the best practices of an Agile methodology with a more project-based SAP implementation approach. This balanced methodology has been proven most effective for our clients’ SAP transformation projects.

The Problem with Agile for SAP Implementations

By now, most organizations have adopted an Agile paradigm. The challenge is that when it comes to running an SAP project, an Agile approach built to support continuous improvements will not provide acceptable results for an SAP project.  Why not?  Time and money.  In an Agile continuous improvement model, the cost for the Agile teams is usually built into the company’s operating expenses.  But a large-scale SAP transformation generally involves a much larger capital expenditure, including teams of external consultants. While it might be acceptable for scrum teams to bump business requirements to a future sprint, the CIO and CFO won’t accept continuous delays and increases to their capital project budget.

For this reason, SAP projects need to be more tightly controlled. The hybrid approach has been proven to excel, because it provides the right amount of structure, but uses Agile principles to ensure that cross-functional teams are collaborating more effectively.  But this is where project management tools often break down. Implementing SAP usually involves building dozens or even hundreds of interfaces to non-SAP applications.  The teams who manage those non-SAP applications often run with an Agile methodology. To be successful, the SAP project management team needs to seamlessly integrate the work items from those Agile teams into their own project plan. That said, asking the Agile teams to change the way they plan and track their work is usually a non-starter.

Real-World SAP Implementation Scenarios and Maintaining the Agile Edge

It’s possible to gain an Agile edge for your SAP implementation project.  Let’s take a look at some real-world scenarios, covering:

  • Requirements Management
  • Work Item Management
  • Agile Project Management and Sprint Planning
  • Integration Testing
  • Transition to Continuous Improvement

Mastery of Requirements Management with JIRA and SAP

The Scenario: A global e-commerce retailer needed to redesign their business process for merchandise procurement. This required SAP to integrate with many other applications (order management, logistics, warehouse management, etc.). To make this all happen, the SAP project depended on Agile teams who managed the changes to those non-SAP applications. The Agile teams ran two-week sprints, which included design, build and testing of small changes, but they didn’t commit to deadlines for future sprints. The SAP project team knew it would take months to design the end-to-end business processes, and they had a strict schedule to maintain. On top of that, the SAP project used SAP tools to track their requirements while the Agile teams relied on Jira.

The Solution: All of the SAP business requirements were loaded into SAP and synchronized to Jira so the non-SAP Agile teams would have full visibility. During the design phase for the project, we assigned “user stories” to the non-SAP application teams. Initially, the “definition of done” for the Agile teams was altered so their only deliverable was to produce an interface mapping document. This generally allowed them to complete their work within a two-week sprint.  This in turn gave the SAP project team the ability to create a longer-term schedule for the integration design work.

The Role of the Jira to Cloud ALM Connector: With the complexity of an end-to-end business design, requirements often shift. Not only can these shifts impact the SAP project team, but also the dependent Agile teams responsible for the legacy integrations. Having a synchronized real-time view of the requirements is critical. If there is a change in requirements, the SAP project team needs to be able to quickly assess the impact to the timeline and budget. The Jira Connector for Cloud ALM offers transparency while allowing teams to use their tool of choice.

Work Item Management in a Digitally Transformed Ecosystem

The Scenario: A grocery retail company wanted to use Cloud ALM as the single version of the truth for status of all project work items.  They wanted to tie work items to user stories and epics. Although Cloud ALM supported the creation of user stories, it wasn’t possible to create an epic as a parent for multiple user stories.

The Solution: The SAP project team decided to use Jira to capture the user stories and epics, which supported the parent-child relationship. This meant that each work item in Cloud ALM would need to be cross-referenced with the Jira user story and epic.

The Role of the Jira to Cloud ALM Connector: The Jira Connector for Cloud ALM was used to automatically cross-reference between the Cloud ALM tasks and the user stories and epics in Jira.  This way all status reporting was synchronized in real-time, and Cloud ALM was used to produce all of the project status reports.

Sprint Planning Aligned with Agile Methodology and SAP

The Scenario: At some point, most SAP projects bottleneck on a few keys resources.  This is natural when designing an interconnected system as only a few people will have enough knowledge and experience to identify gaps in the end-to-end process. Most Agile teams run fairly autonomously. But in order to avoid bottlenecks and delays for an SAP implementation project, it is critical to have a detailed daily plan with target end-dates for every task. Even with careful planning, some delays will occur.

The Solution: When delays do occur, the SAP project managers need to update the plan. Agile teams generally don’t replan within a sprint, so it’s critical for the SAP project leaders to maintain an overarching sprint plan with completion dates for all future work items.

The Role of the Jira to Cloud ALM Connector: The Jira Connector for Cloud ALM will give the SAP project leaders an accurate status for all work items. When there is a blocker or delay, they can take action quickly by reassigning resources, escalating decision-making, or replanning the future work items. All changes in the plan are immediately visible to the SAP and non-SAP Agile teams.

Refining Integration Testing Across Agile and SAP Fronts

The Scenario: A global technology service company was approaching the integration testing phase of their global rollout. They had a tightly controlled list of requirements, but they didn’t have traceability of those requirements to test cases. This made it hard for the QA team to validate that the system was functioning as expected.

The Solution: Requirements traceability is critical for an SAP project. It’s a good idea to think of the test cases as a contract between the business and the project team as to what will be delivered. Cloud ALM provides a repository for test cases. Those test cases need to be linked to the user stories or epics defined in Jira.

The Role of the Jira to Cloud ALM Connector: Using the Jira Connector for Cloud ALM, requirements in Cloud ALM can be linked to user stories and epics in Jira. This way, all test cases defined in Cloud ALM can be linked back to the original user stories and epics defined in Jira. Since Jira and Cloud ALM are both web-based applications, users can navigate between test cases in Cloud ALM and requirements in Jira just by clicking the link. For our projects, we build requirements traceability reports to ensure that all requirements are covered by the test suite.

Enabling Continuous Improvement in Process Design

The Scenario: When the SAP system goes live at the end of the project, most of the project team rolls off the project. But there are often business requirements that didn’t get addressed during the project that still need to be delivered.

The Solution: After the go-live, the SAP team needs to shift into run-state mode. The SAP support team will be a lot smaller than it was during the project, but the deadlines won’t be as tight. This is a good case for Agile, but it’s important to maintain the requirements and business process documents in Cloud ALM so they don’t decay over time. Jira is well suited to manage the backlog of business requirements, and the test cases defined in Cloud ALM can be used to validate the changes made by the Agile SAP teams against the requirements. Cloud ALM can also be linked to automated testing. If automated testing is in place, this can reduce the regression testing effort and increase the speed of introducing new SAP changes.

The Role of the Jira to Cloud ALM Connector: By synchronizing data between Jira and Cloud ALM, the Jira Connector for Cloud ALM allows SAP support teams to maintain linkages between requirements, process documentation and test cases. This way companies can protect and maintain the assets that they built during the project, and gain efficiencies as they continuously improve their SAP processes.

Conclusion: Boosting SAP Project Management with Agile Integration

The most successful SAP projects maintain a balanced project management approach, boosted with Agile integration. This ensures timely and cost-effective outcomes, but increases the collaboration across SAP and non-SAP teams. The Jira Connector for SAP Cloud ALM enables this integration, giving teams the flexibility to use their tool of choice, while maintaining the structure required for a large-scale business transformation.

Although every project has its own unique challenges, we see common issues relating to requirements management, sprint planning, integration testing, and the transition to continuous improvement. The Jira Connector for Cloud ALM was designed based on the need to solve these challenges for our clients. It allows our customers to seamlessly integrate two cloud-native applications, and blend a traditional project management approach with the more collaborative Agile tools.

If you are preparing for an SAP business transformation, or looking to improve the speed of innovation for your existing SAP implementation, Agile is an imperative. But a balanced approach leads to the best outcomes. Have you experienced challenges adopting Agile for SAP?  We’d love to hear your experiences and what you’re doing to overcome.  Reach out using the Talk to an Expert link below, and we’ll be happy to share our lessons learned.

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