SAP held its annual TechEd event for developers this past week. SAP Chief Technology Officer and Executive Board Member Juergen Mueller even said every company is becoming a tech company. While it’s not a new phrase, Mueller is correct: Even the most analog businesses have a foot in the digital world, and that creates both a problem and an opportunity in every industry.
Mueller’s point is rooted in the fact that every business, regardless of size, industry, local or other factors has an inherent need for a diverse set of tools and applications to meet its needs. And often businesses create custom applications or build their own custom extensions to commercial applications.
This creates a problem, and in some cases a good problem, that software companies like SAP are hoping to address: No business has enough developers, software development has a high learning curve, and the competition to hire developers is fierce and expensive. In his keynote, Mueller noted that the U.S. alone is projected to have a deficit of roughly half a million software developers by 2024.
This has led the established business software platforms like SAP to embrace the old proverb “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” At TechEd, SAP announced a unified low-code/no-code development experience that allows professional and citizen developers to fill their own needs for business applications and digital workflows.
It runs on SAP’s Business Technology Platform (BTP), where users can use the AppGyver development environment and SAP Business Application Studio to build out business software. BTP is SAP’s platform where customers can extend their SAP applications and create custom integrations with third party applications. It spans database and management, analytics, application development and integration, and intelligent technologies such as AI.
Low-code/no-code is not a new concept to the industry and several tech players have implemented their own approach to it: AWS has Honeycode; Microsoft has its Power Platform; Zoho has Qntrl, and there are many others. So it’s not unexpected for SAP to have its own low-code no-code development experience on its platform, and it’s better late than never to reduce software development skill gap in software development.
AppGyver is SAP’s development platform for web and mobile applications. Web and mobile applications are just as important for development as legacy desktop applications, since hybrid workflows are a common among digital businesses. Employees who use these applications need web and mobile applications to complement their legacy desktop applications.
SAP Business Application Studio (SAP BAS) is a development environment for the desktop that consists of high-productivity development tools. No-code/low-code development in SAP not only lowers the skill gap for citizen developers but it also frees up professional developers to create more complex systems, speeding up innovation across the enterprise.
Alongside these low-code/no-code development experiences on AppGyver and SAP BAS, SAP launched a preview of its Process Automation solution which is not generally available yet. The SAP Process Automation includes no-code automation on the SAP BTP allowing business users to automate tasks, filling a role that is usually left to IT departments.
SAP says the Process Automation includes libraries of prebuilt process packages that are designed to work with SAP Ariba and SAP S/4HANA. Putting the automation process in the hands of the users who do a recurring business task is more productive than leaving it to IT. SAP described the process as having a drag-and-drop user interface to make it easier for end-users. This process adds more value to SAP’s S4/HANA and Ariba solutions.
Free tier model for SAP BTP
On top of lowering the skill gap of software development with no-code/low-code solutions, SAP is offering its free tier model of SAP BTP with individual developer access that includes SAP S4/HANA Cloud and SAP Integration Suite. It is also shifting its free tier offering toward a pay-as-you-go service like what we see with other cloud services. The goal behind the free tier offering is to open up the development process and SAP BTP to SMBs with the hope they see a simple entry-point to the paid tier later. SAP says that shifting from free to paid production requires no additional contract, and customers can transition to the production environment without duplicating development effort. Adding value to the free tier, I think also adds more value to the Pay-As-You-Go for SAP BTP and Cloud Platform Enterprise Agreement (CPEA).
I agree with SAP’s Mueller that every company is becoming a tech company, and I think it’s something we should embrace. Just as businesses grew and transformed on the Web in the last two decades, the low-code/no-code development tools for business software will no doubt transform the way every company does business. SAP is lowering the skill gap for its customers by making it easier for companies to create the software they need to be more productive.
Once more, it is also adding value to its free tier with induvial developer access which includes SAP 4/HANA Cloud and SAP Integration Suite. SAP is smart to include developer access in its free tier because it should lead to an ever-larger community of developers who are familiar with its applications and ecosystem. Time will tell if it pays off.
Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.