Dhe software company SAP wants to turn its users into developers. With software that is not intended to be like classic software, but like a colorful moving program, with graphic elements and simple set pieces that users can then combine to form new applications using “drag and drop”. Similar to the case of the PowerPoint presentation program, not only developers, but every knowledgeable user should be able to create something new. “This is a giant step for us and our customers,” says Chief Technology Officer Jürgen Müller in an interview with the FAZ
According to Müller, all companies will become software companies in the future, whether they want it or not. The need for experts is increasing accordingly, but they simply don’t exist at the moment. “All the universities and further training measures in the world cannot generate so many studied developers.”
Germany currently lacks 100,000 IT specialists, and the global gap is estimated at four million by 2025, says Müller. To eliminate the bottleneck, there is no other way out than such solutions, which experts summarize under the slogans “low code” or “no code”: programming platforms on which programs can be developed with very little or no IT knowledge .
According to Müller, SAP sees itself at the forefront of development, as one of the first large companies to provide a comprehensive low-code offering. This Tuesday, the group officially presented its package at the TechEd developer conference in Berlin under the name SAP Build. A test version of it should be automatically available to all customers, regardless of whether they use the group’s classic corporate management programs, bought-in solutions, those that still have to be installed in the classic way, or those in the cloud. With this free version you can test and learn the possibilities. According to Müller, if you want to use SAP Build permanently, you have to pay.
IT departments should be relieved
With the new offer, SAP is addressing a much broader group of users. Above all, those professionals who are familiar with business processes, who know how procurement or human resources work. In this way, processes would not only be accelerated and improved, but the IT departments would also be relieved.
At one of the first test customers, the DHL postal group, a non-professional “programmed” an app for the daily delivery of parcel vehicles, which every employee could use on their smartphones. As with Power Point and Excel, you have to deal with the new possibilities, but you don’t have to be an expert. “A lot of complex things happen in the background of SAP Build to make it look simple up front,” says the SAP CTO.
Müller does not see any problems with the “SAP ecosystem”, i.e. the many service providers who install and maintain SAP programs and tailor them to individual needs. On the contrary: “Even there, everyone is overwhelmed. A lot of work is already left undone today because there is not enough capacity.”
Low-code processes would help even experts to do some things faster. In addition, a whole new circle of possible employees is opening up for service providers, one that goes far beyond highly specialized IT specialists. Müller assumes that half a million new jobs will be created in the SAP ecosystem over the next three years. The group itself wants to train two million of its users by then, primarily with online learning programs.
Müller also makes it clear that SAP can sell more standardized programs more easily in this way and no longer has to respond to every individualization request itself. Depending on its success, a low-code wave could actually change not only SAP’s business model in the long term. The applications would then no longer be in the foreground, the large providers would instead concentrate on the platform and the basic functions.
According to Müller, the group is already asking its customers to use the so-called standard functionalities in the cloud if possible. The group can then update the basic functions for all customers quickly and inexpensively in the cloud without having to take special applications into account. All customers are then up to date. The self-programmed extensions get their “own life cycle”, as Müller said.
The basis of the new offering is the Group’s “Business Technology Platform”, which was launched a few years ago under his leadership as Chief Technology Officer, the foundation for all SAP applications, so to speak: with ready-made interfaces to connect third-party software. The platform also serves to integrate the 60 companies that the group has acquired over the past twelve years. And it’s supposed to ensure that all these programs run stably under one user interface, and users only have to log in once. The development of the platform was “so to speak, the largest program in the last four years,” says Müller. The new programming offer for dummies should now be based on this.
Müller did not say how much money the development of SAP Build cost. In any case, a five-digit number of developers were busy with it. In total, about a third of the 105,000 employees are involved in “research and development”. According to Müller, SAP only partially developed the new offer itself. A larger part comes from the small Finnish software company Appgyver, which was taken over a year ago – a pioneer of the low-code idea. The company has been providing a development platform since 2010 on which interested parties can program games or applications without specialist knowledge.