Automation is the key to unlocking maximum benefits from SAP on Azure

delivering maximum benefits from SAP on Azure

The days of talking about if companies are going to migrate and operate their SAP workloads on Cloud are far behind us. The discussions are now fully focused on how quickly they can achieve operational excellence in the Cloud, and how it can be achieved at least cost, with least disruption and least risk.

The maturity of the SAP on Cloud market in-terms of experience, skills, knowledge, tooling and orchestration (and Cloud technology) means that all aspects are now far advanced, leading to migrations in weeks and month, utilizing proven patterns and methodologies, alongside the insights of 0000s of SAP customers that have gone before them. It’s now regarded as the norm!

But with maturity, brings wisdom. And that new understanding is enabling SAP customers to realize the full value of operating their workloads on Azure. Let’s focus on two of the key learnings:

  • The common assumption is that the hardest part of the journey to SAP on Azure is the migration when, in truth, the real challenge lies in the operate phase as this is where all the benefits are realized
  • To realize full value, you need to Automate! Automate! Automate!

Putting your SAP systems in the Cloud is just step one in your digitalization journey. Step two is the integration and automation that unlocks the real value.

But typically, what are the benefits that are being delivered as a result?

  • Cost reduction of up to 50%
  • A team focused on new value and innovation as a result of automating repetitive tasks
  • A more motivated team as they are doing less repetitive and more exciting/challenging tasks
  • A happier and more successful business as they have more reliable systems – they also see the tangible results from your team driving and enabling innovation
  • There’s more time to focus on the future and not maintenance
  • Ultimately, you’ll have SAP behaving like any other modern application – easy to change, integrated, accessible, etc.

Let’s explore those two key learnings in more detail…..

Embedding SAP on Azure operational excellence from the very beginning

The important point to remember is that operating in the Cloud is a continuous improvement journey, not a single destination. However, it is essential even in your earliest planning stages, that you always consider how SAP (and non-SAP) workloads will be managed post-migration, alongside the resources, technology and ways of working that will be required.
Making a technology infrastructure change is one part of a successful transition to operating SAP on the Cloud; aligning people, processes, technology and culture to new ways of working on an enterprise-scale are fundamental to delivering substantially higher benefits.

Where companies are failing to fully realize the value of Cloud, we typically see/hear:

  1. It’s all about the project and that thinking dominates the migration approach itself. Repeatedly, companies put insufficient thinking into how they will support the systems post go-live.
  2. There’s a lack of vision and understanding as to how operating SAP on Cloud can be different and better. This means that you end up with essentially the same operating model as you had before, resulting in many unrealised benefits.
  3. The people factor is ignored. As with any change, there’s usually internal resistance to changing the as-is. Existing teams and ways of working are assumed to be best, and adoption of the Cloud is expected to conform to these.

However, with the right vision, tooling and alignment of people you can achieve so much:

    • Better services to the business – innovation, provisioning
    • Less mundane activities through automation
    • Digital service delivery and self-service

Finally, it’s a great opportunity to be truly innovative in SAP operations. Cloud ways of working and progressive automation means you can truly deliver a different type and level of service. Opportunities include replacing manual effort with automation, self-service, and new ways of working that enable near-zero downtime operations.

The three As of SAP on Azure – Automate! Automate! Automate!

Adopting automation in both the migrate and operate phases is absolutely essential to be able to realize the significant benefits from SAP on Azure.

Whilst automation in the operate phase will deliver long-term value, Cloud migration automation will also deliver reliable, repeatable results across multiple environments to accelerate and simplify the migration process. Lemongrass Cloud Platform (LCP) has over 300 patterns to automate both migration and operations. This minimizes risks and costs, as well as accelerate the return on investment for SAP customers. Automation also enables near-zero downtime migration and minimizes business disruption.

There are three things to make automation come to life:

    • A good approach to automation and tooling to make it happen (such as LCP)
    • A structured view on your service catalog
    • A target operating model that is organized around that catalog

To automate and integrate SAP systems is more than just switching a few services on. You must look at how you do automation, in terms of your tooling. You also have to look at the service catalog that you want to automate, and then you have to look at the Team structures you’re setting up in your operating model to ensure that they align with the services.

The world of tooling and orchestration is becoming more open and available, but that can mean that there is more to consider. Equally, the scope, quality and sophistication of the tools are also increasing. Many will be familiar with TerraForm and Ansible, but Microsoft also has a wide range of solutions, such as Microsoft Sentinel and Microsoft Defender for Cloud.

Of course, the Cloud is more than just system operations. You’ve also got financial operations, security operations, and data operations as different areas, but they all fit within your service catalog and these are cloud-native and potentially cloud-specific capabilities. SAP customers wouldn’t have those on-premises, so it’s really important that the catalog covers not just the things that they’re doing today, but extends into the things that you will need to do properly on the Cloud to be successful.

So, in conclusion, to gain the greatest value from migrating and operating SAP workloads on Azure, our recommendations are:

  • Have a clear understanding of a SAP cloud service catalog and digitize it. You are adopting Cloud because you want to do something differently – quicker provisioning, more innovation, better reliability, whatever. Set this out in a Cloud Service Delivery Catalog (SDC). Don’t just use the same old catalog! Then work to digitize it.
  • Orientate around Service Teams. Once you understand the digital SDC, orientate delivery around Service Teams. These become experts in the SDC items they own – how you deliver, what SLAs, what tools but more importantly how they evolve the service and innovate
  • You need to drive innovation as well as Business as Usual. By adopting automation and new ways of working, you’ll open your Enterprise up to a world of innovation, driven both by the capabilities provided by Microsoft Azure and a more emboldened and unrestricted business. Harvest that innovation to generate further value from your SAP and Cloud investments.
  • You will need some new skills. There are some basic new skills that you will need – new infrastructure, OS, DBs of course but also as alluded to earlier, Fin Ops, Cloud Architecture, Automation etc.
  • It’s about automate, automate, automate. Hopefully, you’ve taken from this article that we’re strong believers that you only get the benefits of Cloud through automation, so you should adopt a general ambition of automating everything and you’ll need the capabilities to do that.

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