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Organizations must respond rapidly and robustly to business agility nowadays, increasing pressure on corporate IT. ERP systems have been so far developed traditionally due to their size and complexity. Still, strategic decisions by software providers such as SAP are increasingly leading to the need to develop these systems in an agile manner. In agile software development, the importance of automated software testing is significantly increasing. This is crucial for accelerating the rollout frequency, increasing quality, and reducing transaction costs. A prerequisite is an agile scaling framework with a suitable Architectural Runway. This forms the necessary technical and architectural basis for orchestrating and further developing automation approaches in all areas. This article will present the decisive importance of Architectural Runway as a technical-architectural basis for automation in all areas and the benefits it can offer to companies.



SAP is moving towards Cloud-first, and SAP HANA-related services represent the fastest-growing segment. At the same time, large-scale SAP system implementations are influenced by constant changes in technology, systems, employees, and business requirements and models. An Architectural Runway is a vital prerequisite to succeed with Business Agility.

Market developments and impact on the ERP ecosystem of companies

Most organizations have experienced the challenges and disadvantages of a classic Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) implementation in the past. Despite this, transitioning to a more scalable agile delivery is still rare. Research by Gartner shows that senior management often has limited knowledge and experience in applying lean-agile principles and practices to implement and operate ERP solutions [GAR17].

Building this capability is, however, essential for survival to overcome the challenges mentioned above.

The following practices have been particularly proven to be best for the successful implementation of large-scale lean-agile ERP implementations [Acc17]:

› Plan and organize the work for the delivery within a regular development cycle. At this cadence, cross-functional, capable teams, scaled for efficiency, reduce handoffs and improve productivity.

› Visualize work and dependencies, focusing on limiting work in progress (WIP) to reduce delays and improve productivity by reducing task changes.

› Accelerate automated testing to reduce transaction costs and improve quality.

The following section will focus on the third point, acceleration, and elaborate on the influence of the Architectural Runway.

Lean-agile development approach – the SAFe®-Framework

SAFe® offers an operating model to enable lean-agile transformations of large enterprises and provides ten critical Agile Release Train (ART) success factors [SAFeARTSF], which will allow complex and large-scale enterprise solutions to contribute to continuous profitable growth that matters. The ART is a permanent team of agile teams that, together with its stakeholders within a value stream, incrementally develops, runs, and deploys one or more solutions wherever possible.

SAFe®s ten critical ART-success factors

All ten critical ART-success factors from Table 1 are highly relevant to quality management. This article highlights the importance of success factor # 9- Architectural Runway, which is usually underestimated as an acceleration factor for testing according to the third critical practice from the above list. A detailed description of all ten success factors adopted to SAP Implementations can be found in the white paper [Kum19].

# 1 – Lean-Agile-Principles# 6 – System Demo
# 2 – Real Agile Teams and Trains (ART)# 7 -Inspect and adjust
# 3 – Cadence and synchronization# 8 – Innovation- and planning iteration
# 4 – Program Increment Planning# 9 – Architectural Runway
# 5 – Customer focus, DevOps, and Release on Demand# 10 – Lean-Agile-Leadership

Table 1: The ten critical ART-success factors of Safe® [SAFeARTSF]

Success factor #9 and its influence as an accelerator for testing

“The Architectural Runway is used for short-term implementation of features. It consists of existing code, components, and technical infrastructure that can be used without excessive redesign and delay for implementing these features.” [SAFeGl]

The term Architectural Runway in the Safe® Framework is based on an analogy for aviation. If the Architectural Runway is too “short” at the beginning of a Program Increment (PI), the corresponding features can’t be done, and the ARTs cannot “land” the PI successfully. This means that the respective PI Objectives cannot be achieved. A PI, like an airplane, needs a runway. The analogy also means that the larger and faster a system flies, the more runway it would need for a safe landing. [SAFeAR]

The Architectural Runway supports a continuous ” value flow” through the CD pipeline by providing the necessary technical basis. Therefore, from our point of view, the Architectural Runway is the most important instrument in the SAFe® Framework for implementing the agile architecture strategy.

Image 1: An automated product pipeline is the core of the quality funnel and an essential lever for reducing transaction costs Image 1: An automated product pipeline is the core of the quality funnel and an essential lever for reducing transaction costs

A feature in this context represents a service that meets the needs of a stakeholder. Each feature contains a benefit hypothesis as well as acceptance criteria and is so small that it can be delivered by an ART within a Program Increment (PI). The maintenance and development of the Architectural Runway through continuous investment in “Enabler Stories” supports a stable velocity across all teams. The larger the IT system to be developed and the more innovative the technical platform (e.g., SAP S/4HANA), the greater the importance of the Architectural Runway since several ARTs with little experience in the new architecture are involved in the system development. [SAFeAR]

The speed of innovation and the ability to react quickly and efficiently to changes decides who thrives in today’s market. Built-in quality, one of the core values of SAFe®, is an integral part of the creation of the Architectural Runway, as it can ensure system quality, execution speed, and predictability. This requires a combination of technical practices, processes, and a suitable business culture.

Architectural Runway – a prerequisite for DevSecOps

The Architectural Runway also forms the necessary basis for any kind of DevSecOps approach and intensive use of test automation, as represented in Image 1.

DevSecOps bridges the gap from the development environment to productive operation by providing automation-, integration-, security-, measurement- and recovery capabilities. It helps various departments involved in providing a solution to align toward a common goal. The introduction of frequent integration and “shift-left” testing methods breaks down the silos and drives early error detection and cost reduction [Acc17].

Lean engineering, quality assurance-led processes, and an automated pipeline form the core of the quality funnel and are the landmarks of agile quality management. New automation functions enable higher quality and agility of software and process implementation, which automate regression testing and even the testing of an SAP S/4HANA implementation. [Acc19]. As represented in Image 1, the transformation from the traditional world to a lean-agile requires an Architectural Runway as an enabler.

Although the agile manifesto states that “the best architectures, requirements, and designs come from self-organizing teams” [MAN], this does not mean that “[…] you should never spend time on architectural decisions in advance.” [Mar09]

It is a good practice to make relevant Key Design Decisions (KDDs) for SAP implementations before implementing the basic architectural runway to avoid an expensive redesign at a later stage.

The automation of most of the manual processes represents the realization of SAFe®’s first Lean-Agile-Principle: “take an economic view”. This enables a significant reduction of effort and transaction costs associated with the changes.

Image 2: Accenture case Study – benefits of SAP S/4HANA Automation based on an Architectural Runway 

Image 2 shows possible results of a consistent implementation of the “take an economic view” principle. The S/4HANA implementation has successfully gone live in production with 0 errors by consistently implementing all the above-mentioned principles and recommendations. A key success factor for this was the automation rate of over 80 percent in product- and regression-testing across all test stages. As a positive side effect, the testing budget could be reduced by 50 percent in the following year, despite investment in the Architectural Runway, due to significantly lower transaction costs.

A detailed description of how exactly the benefits could be achieved can be found in the white paper “Applying Essential SAFe® to large-scale SAP Implementations and Operations” [Kum19], as this would by far exceed the scope of this article.

Architectural Runway – An economic necessity in the age of digitalization

In summary, agile software development leads to the increasing importance of automated software testing, as this is crucial for accelerating rollout frequency, increasing quality, and reducing transaction costs, which are critical prerequisites to achieving business agility. In addition, the high (time) pressure generates errors in manual testing, follow-up, and error costs. Test automation, therefore, helps to avoid these problems.

A suitable Architectural Runway is thus a necessary prerequisite for this. This forms the technical-architectural basis for orchestrating and further developing automation approaches in all areas.


This article was initially published in German in the German Testing Magazin.



› [Acc17] [Acc17] Agile for SAP Solutions, Accenture, 2017, refer to:

[Acc19-a] Test Automation, Accenture, 2019, refer to:

[Ber20] T. Bergander, J. Prumann, DevOps und SAP – Wie passt das zusammen? in: German Testing Magazin, 2/2020

[Gar17] Gartner, First Steps in Applying Agile and DevOps to ERP Support, 2017

[Kum19] M. Kumlehn, SAP Delivery Agility – Applying Essential SAFe® to Large-Scale SAP Implementations and Operations, Whitepaper, 2019, refer to:

[MAN] Manifesto for Agile Software Development, Juli 2019, refer to: http//

[Mar09] R. C. Martin, The Scatology of Agile Architecture, Clean Coder, 2009, refer to: