Potential of Low-code/No-code in the SAP Community
70% of those surveyed by Bitkom assumed that this shortage would worsen in the future. At least in the case of this latter assessment, agreement has probably fallen by several percentage points in the meantime. This is because after the figures for the Bitkom survey were collected, the company OpenAI made its generative artificial intelligence ChatGPT available to everyone - and thus called many things into question. For example, whether software can really only be developed with the help of programming languages. Or whether this is not simply possible with natural language. We are convinced that in five to ten years' time, everyone will be able to be a developer. Programming skills will then only be required for very complex cases. If at all.
Transformation boost with no-code/low-code
Until then, no-code/low-code platforms are an excellent bridging technology. They cannot be used quite as unconditionally as we expect for generative programming AI in the future. However, the platforms already enable business users to create software themselves with the help of a visual programming interface that meets the requirements of corporate IT in all aspects. This is likely to result in a significant transformational boost that will finally digitize processes that should have been digitized long ago.
There is now a wide range of low-code/no-code platforms that are tailored to different use cases and technologies. SAP Build and the Mendix platform play a key role in this. Both technologies are a solid foundation for SAP user companies. Which is the better choice depends on individual requirements, goals and the existing technological landscape.
SAP Build and Mendix
SAP Build (as part of the SAP Business Technology Platform, BTP) is - unsurprisingly - characterized above all by its deep integration into existing SAP system landscapes. Users have the option of adapting already implemented SAP solutions to their individual requirements and extending them with workflows, applications, RPA routines and entire portals. However, SAP Build is only suitable to a limited extent for the development of software without an SAP connection. The situation is different with the Mendix platform: This can basically be used to develop software for any technological environment - with the content strengths lying in the areas of workflows and process automation, customer experience apps and cloud migration. The strategic partnership between Mendix and SAP also ensures deep integration into existing SAP system landscapes. This makes the technology particularly attractive for companies that rely on business IT from SAP on the one hand, but also use applications and systems from other providers to implement use cases on the other.
In addition to SAP and Mendix, a number of other established players have positioned themselves on the market. These include Appian, Microsoft, OutSystems and ServiceNow, for example. And even more companies offer specialized platforms - and the number is constantly increasing.
The potential of the no-code/low-code approach has been recognized not only by providers, but also by user companies. Many of them are currently exploring the various possibilities. However, very few companies have yet established systematic use. They should change this as quickly as possible - because in future, how well companies and their employees can handle the new programming technologies will be a critical success factor.
The associated costs may prove to be an obstacle to the systematic use of a low-code/no-code platform. These must be justified to the company management in a meaningful way and differentiated from the costs of conventional software development. A total-cost-of-owner-ship analysis usually shows very clearly that costs directly caused by the low-code/no-code technology - such as expenses for licenses, training and setting up the organization - can be compensated for in a short period of time through acquired expertise, reusable architecture and software solutions and the roll-out of software throughout the company.
Process integration and agility
A holistic definition of the organization and processes is required for the calculation to work and for low-code/no-code platforms to really be used systematically and thus create value. This is the only way to support the agility of low-code/no-code development on the one hand and to meet the requirements for quality, security and compliance on the other. With this in mind, when introducing low-code/no-code platforms, it makes sense to set up a central, responsible point of contact commissioned by the CIO as a Center of Competence (CoC). The CoC coordinates the various internal and external stakeholders and organizes training, creates a suitable technological framework (e.g. in terms of infrastructure, APIs and data) and drives the further development of the platform components after the launch.
In addition to a CoC as an actor, the introduction of a low-code/no-code platform requires clear guidelines in terms of IT governance. These should be formulated in close cooperation between IT experts, business developers from the specialist departments and company management - guided by the Center of Competence. This should ensure that technical requirements and corporate objectives are taken into account equally.
Training, clear communication and opportunities for participation are crucial to familiarize everyone involved with the guidelines and the resulting development and deployment processes and to ensure that all governance aspects are actually taken into account. This is especially true because people without an explicit IT background are not operationally involved, but are the focus of the entire initiative. Based on continuous monitoring, the organization and processes can be adapted to the changing framework conditions in an agile manner.
Technical integration and security
In addition to the organizational and procedural integration of low-code/no-code organization, technological integration is of course also important. The aim here is to create a scalable infrastructure that not only fits seamlessly into the existing landscape in terms of functionality, but also meets the established requirements for security and data protection. On the one hand, this requires standardized APIs that are tailored to the respective data and solution architecture and thus enable the low-code/no-code applications to interact smoothly with existing systems and data sources.
In addition, a robust security architecture is essential that encompasses both the low-code/no-code platforms, the applications implemented with them and the existing landscape. Such an architecture should definitely also include components for encryption, access control and authentication. Once these components have been properly implemented, they can be reused as basic modules when developing new applications. This also results in synergies that reduce costs and ensure standardization in the architecture. The basic prerequisite for technological integration is the provision of flexible and scalable cloud environments that enable the immediate implementation of digital solutions in the company in the first place.
In addition to the systematic establishment of low-code/no-code platforms, companies are currently also faced with the question of whether they should integrate several platforms and, if so, which ones. Each company can only find an answer to this individually for itself. And it does so by making a series of decisions in the context of various aspects. For example, the existing IT landscape, the current and future requirements of users and the different application options offered by the various platforms should always be taken into account.
Spoilt for choice
Justifying the decision made in a comprehensible manner is absolutely critical to success. After all, for a low-code/no-code initiative to really be a success and have a relevant impact on the company, it depends above all on the commitment of the employees - much more so than with pure application software. They themselves must have the desire to become software developers, at least to some extent, and see the realization of digital solutions as an integral part of their jobs. With this motivation and successful organizational, procedural and technical integration, the foundation is laid for another digitalization driver.