Unit4 delivers full Azure cloud benefits to customers through DevOps

Posted by  Ryan Gloeckler

Unit4 recently joined forces with partners Microsoft and Chef for a DevOps Hackfest, to accelerate its Azure cloud adoption. During the Hackfest teams jointly worked with Unit4’s Business World On! solution and its components to better apply DevOps practices at an enterprise level. Unit4’s goal was to use the Microsoft cloud and optimize code and deployment to support it, to ensure Unit4 is fully “Microsoft cloud ready,” both from a development and operations perspective.

A few months after the initial meeting, the joint team convened at Unit4’s office in Oslo, Norway, for a value stream map workshop. This allowed us to capture how Unit4 conceives ideas, makes user stories, develops new features, tests new code, and ultimately deploys solutions to different environments. It was important everyone was aligned on the processes around the Business World On! solution and what the major building blocks are.

The Hackfest gave us the chance to get a mixed team with varying skills together to help us optimize the processes involved in delivery to customers. The roles involved ranged from Product Management, Engineering (R&D), Operations and Product Services (R&D). Given the success of Unit4 SaaS we had a desire to decrease the time between the inception of an idea and having the resulting capability available to our customers. Since Unit4 operates on a global scale, the solution to this challenge had to work for both Microsoft Azure and non-Azure data centres (regions where there are no Azure data centres).

Aleksandar Dordevic, member of the Microsoft team said: “It was wonderful to see and contribute to Unit4’s pursuit of more agile ways of developing and delivering software. In addition to the passion shown by the Unit4 technical team, it was clear that Unit4’s executive committee cared about the DevOps transformation and the business benefits that can be achieved. The high point of the engagement was the opportunity to demonstrate our achievements to Unit4’s product board, which includes several Unit4 executive committee members.”

The Hackfest delivered some clear results. Unit4 is able to release new innovations to customers faster, more reliably and more efficiently than ever. This is extremely important at a time when technology and business is constantly changing at a rapid pace. The reduction in time to delivery is extremely important as Unit4 can deliver both new innovation as well as updates to existing solutions quickly and reliably. This results in small deliveries rather than large, big bang updates that have plagued ERP solutions in the past.

As a result of this Hackfest, Unit4 has improved its innovation delivery process and we are pushing updates to parts of our SaaS solution on a weekly basis. This is done using an automated delivery pipeline to ensure reliable and safe updates to these Unit4 SaaS capabilities.

All in all, this was a terrific initiative that shows our commitment to innovation and delivering that to our customers as early as we can. The Unit4 People Platform team has now implemented full end-to-end DevOps processes based on the experiences from the Hackfest. Both Unit4 and its customers are benefiting!

For the more technical among you, here is Aleksandar’s more detailed write-up about the event and the outcomes delivered. He concludes: “All of this was possible because of teamwork and great people. We successfully delivered all must-have milestones, and most nice-to-have milestones. The credit goes to each involved individual who made this happen—thank you, team!”

Ryan Gloeckler

Ryan Gloeckler is Principal Cloud Architect, Unit4 R&D. He is passionate about all things cloud and focuses on providing technical leadership and guidance to the markets served by Unit4. Ryan has been with the company since 1997 with various roles in North America and Europe.