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Ray Gardner

Five ways COVID-19 is impacting SAP technical teams
Ray Gardner SAP Digital Platforms Lead | July 31, 2020

COVID-19 has shown that workloads will be anything but predictable, at least during 2020. In fact, the days of having a fairly static business and IT roadmap, set annually, may be numbered. Therefore, as with so many other aspects of our lives, technical teams will have to be ready for a ‘new normal’ in how we plan and deliver our current project work.

Although it is still early in assessing the full impact of COVID-19 on technical teams, I’ve made some initial observations below on how the workforce management is shaping up. In this blog, I will share some thoughts on how teams are updating their ways of working and discuss how HCL is approaching new engagements with both existing and new clients, including some where we’ve never actually met the clients face to face!

My top five areas being impacted by COVID-19 are:

  1. Improved Remote Working

    Remote working has been the norm for many in the SAP development area, especially when dealing with offshore delivery teams and global/regional roll outs. However, this has often been balanced by having a co-located core team and/or in region teams to run complex developments on-site directly with business users.  Architects/developers themselves also worked ‘face to face’ and were a focal point for overall management control and status reporting tied into the wider on-site project delivery teams.

    The real change has been that these too are now being run remotely. To address this shift, teams now need both remote working practices and specialized tools that can support remote concurrent working, ideating, collaboration, and status reporting/visibility.

    This means considering richer tools than just the standard virtual meeting apps, shared repositories, and instant messaging for remote working.  

    For example, we’ve used Miro and Confluence –  true joint working apps that feature  virtual whiteboards, allowing the use of joint working templates, options to give wider feedback with improved status and task visibility, and the ability to transfer this into delivery tools such as Jira.

    Our experience has been that adding this extra level helps build interactive joint working beyond just the sharing of work and chat/video functionality – definitely an improvement on the earlier ways of remote working and workforce management.

  2. A move away from cloud-based standardised processes

    Process standardisation and efficiency were often a key driver of the adoption of automation and cloud-based standard functions and services.  However, responses to COVID-19 and its direct and indirect impact are now forcing significant changes to ways of working, business processes, and associated data needs.  For example, businesses now need to understand everything from workforce exposure and risk through to possibly dealing with disrupted supply chains or new routes to end customer delivery.

    This means that standardised processes will need to be changed. Technical teams will need to respond more rapidly to process changes, organisation changes, and new ways of working and also support accompanying data and reporting needs. 

    Solutions will now need to be capable of managing teams, tasks, or roles while giving visibility of new risks, procedures, or controls for COVID (or any future pandemic) risk.  This may mean layering new data, processing, and reporting needs on top of current solutions i.e. adding in COVID attributes and data processing options for now.   Looking ahead, this could also lead to much wider business changes in sourcing, manufacturing, maintenance and workforce management processes, to name but a few.  

    So one lasting effect is that business process management and the ability to tailor processes or build new ones may well become a new driver in some key areas, moving against the recent turn toward the direct adoption of cloud-based standardised processes.

  3. A need to build capacity and flexibility for new initiatives and innovation 

    Delivery teams will need to have the capacity to deliver new and potentially unexpected business initiatives or innovation. Teams will need to have more capacity for changes and innovation; being able to multi-task more, and be more dynamic in adopting and adapting delivery. The majority of time spent on supporting existing solutions or completing large programmes of change over long timeframes will likely come under pressure.

    On-going change and development will likely become significant drivers for solution teams.  Expect that more responsive and rapid delivery will be required for new, changed, or innovative solutions, and teams will need to have the flexibility to react quickly to rapidly changing business needs even as work is being built and deployed.

  4. Maximize return on current investments

    Fast and focused business cases for solutions will need to ensure maximum financial return and the effective delivery of business needs.  They will potentially need to include a higher flexibility to account for change, yet be simpler to support/extend.

    At least initially, solution delivery will have to maximise what companies have made available to them directly in terms of using the available landscapes and solutions.  Longer, strategic solutions will also need to be addressed, but the first priority will be on immediate demands and the use of available landscapes and solutions to drive benefit.

  5. Become smarter in IT delivery

    Generally, existing teams and resources will have to cope with significantly more than was expected before, and key resources and innovators will have to provide thought leadership, vision, and delivery. There will be greater pressure to come up with practical and rapid delivery of solutions to the business and end customers of our systems.

    This means teams will need to seek effective and intelligent solutions to address the potentially large volume of business changes that is likely to occur until a new norm is (eventually) found. 

There are, I am sure, lots of other things to consider, but the above are some of the key themes have I started to see in our recent work. While we are aiming to include these into our work more generally, for me a key area of interest is how SAP clients are, by necessity, also becoming more cloud native in their approach to design and development and, as such, how the above themes will impact us as Cloud Native  concepts become options to help address these challenges.

I would be interested to read comments from others to see if these are common topics and/or if there are other areas of interest that should also be considered  and to hear people’s views of the challenges ahead.

If you are specifically interested in how this affects SAP development, please check out my other blogs , Cloud native brochure and download my eBook “A Practical Guide to Starting Cloud Native Journey with SAP ” which are available on the HCL public website