Following suit of all conferences this year, SAP TechEd 2020 was held virtually. Attendees were treated to a more casual but robust experience, which included a number of announcements around new low-code/no-code tools, updates to the SAP Business Technology Platform, and access to services designed to make a developer’s—regardless of level—working experience easier.
“Last year, I shared with you that the intelligent enterprise program is the largest engineering program we have at SAP,” said Juergen Mueller, executive board member and CTO at SAP, during his keynote. “That is still the case today. We can probably look back at all our achievements this year, but we also know that there is still work to be done.”
He added, “From a developer’s perspective, there’s still too much complexity in the system. It’s a roadblock for you. We are not yet the most developer-friendly company and we want to change that.”
Know Thy Developer and the Tools They Need
Announced during Mueller’s keynote, attendees learned about enhancements to the SAP Cloud Platform Extension Suite, which was designed to empower developers to build and extend business applications, processes, and innovations with “clicks or codes.”
“When we talk about developers today, it's not just one persona,” he said. “A developer can be a cloud-native developer, a data scientist, an enterprise architect, an application developer, an integration developer, or a UX designer.” Even with all these different types of developers, Mueller noted, “One thing they all have in common is that they are makers. They make things. And we want to create a future where SAP caters to all these developer roles. We want to help you to get your job done in the most productive way. And we have different approaches to help you get there.”
During a panel discussion following the keynote address, ASUG CEO Geoff Scott noted, “I love the conversation about personas because it connects the real people doing all this incredibly important work behind the scenes every day.”
“The conversation I think we need to have has to do with the role of the citizen developer—or end user—and how do we empower that person to use and access all of the great SAP technology,” Scott continued. “We need to enable our end users to understand what they're doing a little bit more, and how they can put all of this technology and data to work in their day-to-day jobs and really help drive even more value for their enterprise applications.”
SAP introduced three complementary and integrated process-automation tools designed to help any developer—regardless of skill level or automation scenarios they are building for—get the job done more easily and efficiently.
Hey Low-Code Developers: This One’s for You
The SAP Cloud Platform Workflow Management tool, which was designed specifically with low-code developers in mind, allows both developers and business experts to gain end-to-end process visibility, while also being able to configure and automate enterprise workflows. The management workflow tool includes new predefined content packages and an integration with Qualtrics XM solutions.
Leading up to SAP TechEd, I had the opportunity to speak to Sabastian Schroetel, VP and head of intelligent robotic process automation (RPA) at SAP, to dig in a little further on the importance of this new workflow management tool.
“This is our strong workflow backbone,” he said. “When developing this, we had in mind our core integration capabilities and the developer persona of someone who has a little bit more experience.” He added that customers will be able to digitize workflows, manage decisions, gain end-to-end process visibility, and configure processes in a low-code approach and without the involvement of the IT department.
To No-Code Developers: We’ve Got You Covered, Too
For those busines users who have no coding experience, SAP Ruum allows you to create departmental processes in just hours. Still only available as a beta program, there currently are 50 SAP customers and partners taking advantage of the tool. “This was developed with lightweight workflow project management and collaboration in mind,” Schroetel said. “Those in the beta program have the business units themselves—those who know best how to automate and structure their work—build their own process automation.”
The business users can build, run, and manage department-level processes without compromising IT security, but at no point are required to enter a single line of code. This is a new era of IT—one that has been in the calling for a while now. ASUG’s Scott wrote about this very topic earlier this year when he called for IT to bring down those walls and let the users in. He noted, “We need to let the users inside the gated walls of the IT department, grant them a seat at IT’s table, and take advantage of new methodologies and tools to deliver software with greater speed and transparency.”
Automating Repetitive Tasks Made Easier
The third tool announced during the keynote was SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation 2.0, which was specifically designed to allow all developers to automate repetitive, manual tasks with software bots. The tool includes pre-built bot templates to drive efficiencies with SAP S/4HANA and 12 LoBs. There will be a limited edition of SAP Intelligent RPA included in every SAP S/4HANA Cloud subscription beginning January 2021.
“Intelligent RPA was launched at SAPPHIRE NOW 2019, and Intelligent RPA 2.0 now offers a citizen developer a low-code option to develop their own bots,” Schroetel noted. “Of course, low-code/no-code is a continuum, so you can build a simple RPA bot without a single line of code, as well.”
Extending the Free Tier Model for SAP Cloud Platform
Mueller also announced the launch of a free tier model for SAP Cloud Platform in 2021, which will provide extended access to developers for the SAP Business Technology Platform’s integration and extension solution. The news resonated with attendees. It will allow everyone from customers, partners, and developers to learn, develop, and implement integrations and extensions in one account.
In a conversation I had with Thomas Grassl, VP and global head of developer relations and community at SAP, he explained the significance of the announcement. “We recently extended the current SAP Cloud Platform trial from 3 months to 12 months, which will allow users more time to explore what is available,” he said. “The free tier model is more than just a trial; it is a separate sandbox environment to fully explore and build applications and then transfer them to production when you’re ready without having to rebuild the content.”
According to Den Howlett of diginomica, “This news should be counted as an important step forward for a community that has been rightfully vocal in its frustration at SAP's glacial pace in both acknowledging and acting upon the problem. In the interim, the 90-day limitation has been extended to 365 days as previously announced, which gives SAP ample opportunity to get this important work completed.”
Access to Learn, Use, and Develop Made Simple
Another big announcement made during the virtual conference was that SAP TechEd 2020 attendees will receive free access to SAP Learning Hub, event edition for SAP TechEd. Those who take advantage of this offer can tap into learning journeys to upskill on SAP Business Technology Platform and additional courses that lead toward SAP Global Certifications.
Mueller touted the SAP Business Technology Platform as a single platform designed for extensibility, integration, and data-to-value. He explained how it was the foundation of SAP’s intelligent-enterprise vision and technology strategy, providing developers with future-proof resilience. He also introduced SAP Cloud Platform, ABAP environment multitenancy, showing how partners can easily extend SAP and non-SAP solutions using the platform. “We know that not all developers are ABAP experts,” he said. “But with this, we can enable cloud-native developers to build extensions for more of our products, including SAP S/4HANA, SAP SuccessFactors, and SAP ECC.”
The news of free access and learning resources on how to best utilize the platform, and it’s updates were well-received. One attendee tweeted, “I don’t think SAP has any idea how big of an impact this free SAP TechEd with full access to all material will have on the ecosystem.” Another added, “My biggest takeaway from SAP TechEd keynote: Free Tier + Free Trial + Free Learning Hub. This is a huge push for adoption!”
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