SAP TechEd 2022 – With SAP, users can be devs too

SAP’s release of the Business Technology Platform (BTP) is all about becoming an enabler for flexible, adaptable digital business processes. The platform can be used in a myriad of varied ways to extend, integrate and improve business solutions, and thereby ultimately create added value for the business itself. One of the keys to achieving this is the recently announced low-code/no-code platform “SAP Build”: the new platform is designed to facilitate businesses users to become devs.

Plattling, January 24, 2023

The "lobby" of the SAP Build Platform; Source: SAP

The "lobby" of the SAP Build Platform; Source: SAP

“SAP Business Technology Platform is THE choice” – SAP CTO Jürgen Müller wrapped up his keynote speech to this year’s SAP TechEd (the SAP technology conference) with a resoundingly clear claim: SAP BTP is the right tool for anything and everything related to SAP technology. However, SAP’s focus at the conference was not the technology in itself, as the conference themes and pre-event publicity made clear. The emphasis was always on the added value that the technology can offer for business.

The most important announcement made during the conference was the launch of SAP’s new low-code/no-code platform “SAP Build”. SAP had already made clear during the past year that they were working on developing solutions to respond to the growing demand for apps and digital tools, which is compounded by a shortage of professional software developers. SAP Build has three components:

  • SAP Build Apps: This is the former AppGyver platform, which has now been acquired and renamed by SAP. It can be used to build simple apps without writing a single line of code, providing there is a suitable backend service available. One new addition to this component is the tool “Visual Cloud Functions”, which can be used to model data structures for custom data management.
  • SAP Build Process Automation: Formerly known as “SAP Process Automation”, this tool has been given a new name and integrated into the Build Platform. It can be used to automate processes using RPA bots (Robotic Process Automation), automated workflows and business rules.
  • SAP Build Work Zone: SAP’s SuccessFactors Work Zone is already familiar to many as a full-featured digital workplace and employee experience tool, which can be used to build an extensive range of portals, including content management and collaboration. It used to be possible to combine it with the Launchpad Service to create a simple centralized start point for the various Cloud and on-premises SAP solutions. Now, the new “Work Zone Standard Edition” replaces the Launchpad – not without some major improvements and additions. For example, it's now possible for business users to set up entire business sites, and offer app functionality directly on the portal homepage using UI Integration Cards.

A lot of the new package comprises functionality that already existed, but has been restructured and renamed. However, there’s more to the new release than just rebranding. SAP Build has brought the services together in a single integrated package that can be used by business users to develop much more complex business cases, while still never writing a line of code.

ABAP Cloud – A classic, refurbished for the future

ABAP has been the SAP programming language of choice since as early as R/2, and has carved out its own niche in the software world. It is particularly powerful for stability and ease of development when it comes to extending and modifying ERP processes directly “in the kernel”. Now, SAP has updated ABAP for the networked future – with ABAP Cloud. The new runtime and programming model can be used even in a public cloud and meets all the requirements of modern development. Of course, some dead wood has been pruned away, too: the new ABAP can no longer be used to develop Dynpros or Web-Dynpros, or to modify standard apps and tables. On the other hand, “Clean Code” provides access to all approved functions and data structures and can be used for developing extensions directly in the core system to meet individual customer requirements. What’s more, the process is standardized in S/4HANA, whether you’re working on-premises, in a private cloud, or even a public cloud. Customers and partners can use it to develop stable, future-compatible add-ons for all S/4HANA variants, providing all they need is close integration with ERP data and process. For scenarios that require more than just ERP interaction, SAP continues to recommend “side-by-side development” using the BTP. ABAP is also available in the BTP, via the BTP ATAP Runtime.

Modern app integration with APIs and events

“Intelligent Enterprises are Integrated Enterprises” – SAP’s catchphrase emphasizes the importance of integrating as business applications into an organization wherever possible. We’re not just talking about SAP’s own apps – third-party apps can also come into play here. It’s key to realize how the emphasis is changing in the technical world: traditional file-based integration or EDI scenarios are gradually being replaced by event-driven architectures and API-based integration. And SAP is fully on track with this trend. The vendor now offers a wide selection of APIs and Business Events for all its solutions – the list can be found on the API Business Hub at New SAP products typically require an “API-first mindset”. After all, the right API makes it much easier to develop individual apps and processes using the low-code/no-code platforms, which can easily interact with suitably designed APIs.

AI, collaborative ERP, and analytics

Planning and forecasting functions, extracting data from unstructured documents and other AI scenarios have become standard components of modern ERP suites. SAP has been continually expanding the AI functionality in S/4HANA for some years now, and it already includes more than 130 AI tools. In the future, it will also be possible to make use of Google’s AI services for document recognition and processing, which will offer extended capabilities including, for instance, handwriting recognition.
In addition, SAP is also working with Google on a “Collaborative ERP”. For example, by integrating with Google Workspace, organizations will be able to edit ERP data using Google Sheets. This kind of integration was implemented some time ago for Microsoft Office 365 and Teams, with use cases such as integrating Fiori apps into Teams channels.
Meanwhile, the HANA Cloud database, used for data management and analytics, has a rapidly growing user base and there is currently significant development work going into upgrading and extending the system. SAP is also working on innovative analytics UIs: “Unified Stories” combines analytic and transactional functionality – for instance, it will become possible to present business KPIs in the form of brief “TikTok-style” videos.

This year’s TechEd once again emphasized that SAP has passed several major milestones and continues to systematically pursue its strategy of establishing BTP as a centralized technology platform. The objective is by no means to establish a technology monopoly. SAP’s objective is to provide the best possible support for business requirements and, ultimately, to contribute to generating added value for businesses. And that’s exactly what SAP BTP achieves, as an enabler for innovative business processes within the SAP standard and beyond.

Let's get in touch.

Norbert Kytka, Headquarters Plattling