SAP BTP Roadshow in Switzerland speaking about Low-Code
At the beginning of April, I had the pleasure of being part of SAP’s Low-Code No-Code roadshow. We took our program to four different cities in Switzerland – Zurich, Bern, Lausanne, and Basel – where we had invited interested IT and other business professionals to join us for lunch and for an introduction to our low-code / no-code offerings. – And when I say “we,” I want to be sure to acknowledge the rest of SAP’s LCNC roadshow team, which included:
- André Borchert, VP, Head of Product Success, SAP Process Automation, Product Management
- Robert Kehrli, Head of Platform & Technologies Switzerland (SAP)
- Beat Küng, BTP Innovations Executive (SAP)
- David Stepanov, Solution Advisor (SAP)
- Mike Schiebel, Senior Solution Advisor (SAP)
- Simon Kessler, Senior Presales Specialist for BTP (SAP)
- Christian Messerli, Innovation Architect (SAP)
- Steffen Weissbarth, Head of Platform & Technologies MEE (SAP)
- Cédric Rippstein, Senior Marketing Expert (SAP)
We were joined by two special guests who presented their organizations’ experiences using SAP low-code / no-code technologies: Christoph Hofmann, Integration and Technology Services team leader in the Canton of Zurich’s Office of Technology; and Mihai Marinescu, an IT architect from CC Energie, a Swiss energy distribution company.
About 30 people attended in each location – quite a good turnout, considering that this was the first live event for many of these people since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic (it was my first time as well). Most of the attendees had heard a little about SAP’s LCNC offerings already and all of them were interested in finding out more. We presented some facts about the growing need to turn process experts into “citizen developers”—for example, although some of our attendees were aware of the real and predicted shortage of IT professionals (and in fact, some were present precisely because their own companies are feeling the effects of this shortage), most were not aware that Gartner and other industry analysts anticipate that by 2025, 70% of all new applications, and specifically applications designed to automate business processes, will be developed using low-code or no-code technologies.
What is driving this trend? As I mentioned, there is a significant shortage of IT professionals, and that shortage is only going to intensify as time goes on. Further, companies need to be able to react more quickly to changing market conditions, and that kind of flexibility and reactivity absolutely requires being able to automate as many processes as possible. Another critical factor is that many companies have already invested in many different kinds of applications and other IT systems, making for increasingly complex IT landscapes. Keeping track of and finding ways to best leverage existing software to drive innovation and automation is challenging, especially when you take into account customers’ increasing expectations for better products and faster services.
I think it’s fair to say that most attendees were a bit startled to learn that industry analysts assert that with the right tools and training, about 1 out of 3 non-technical employees can become productive low-code no-code citizen developers. Just that fact alone can spur a lot of serious reflection about how to harness that kind of untapped potential!
Our roadshow consisted of two basic parts: SAP colleagues presenting information and demos about our low-code no-code products, followed by our guests sharing their organizations’ experiences deploying one or more of SAP’s products to streamline their business processes.
As a brief reminder, SAP offers several powerful Low-Code/No-Code tools:
- SAP Process Automation, which brings no-code process automation to the next level. (SAP Process Automation is closely aligned with Business Process Intelligence to provide “insights to action.”) It combines capabilities from Workflow Management and intelligent Robotic Process Automation. The intuitive citizen developer experience allows to automate workflows and processes using visual features that require no coding experience.
- SAP AppGyver and new functionalities in SAP Business Application Studio, which enable the entire developer continuum – from novice citizen developer to highly experienced professional developers – to accelerate application development. SAP AppGyver allows citizen developers to build highly sophisticated standalone applications or extensions without writing a single line of code. SAP Business Application Studio provides a simplified, low-code application development journey to help speed things up for professional developers.
- SAP Work Zone, SAP Launchpad Service and SAP Mobile Start enhance users’ digital experiences, help drive employee productivity, and facilitate making newly built apps available to everyone in the company.
Informing current and potential customers about SAP’s enhanced or new product offerings is important, of course, but one of the key benefits to SAP from this experience was the opportunity to get first-hand feedback from our attendees. Accordingly, we asked them to fill out a survey, and here’s what we learned:
- Almost half (so 40%) of customers are either already engaged in LCNC activities or planning to do so.
- “Speed and agility of development” is considered the main benefit of LCNC development followed by “ability of the business to deliver solutions.”
- When thinking about LCNC development, most participants are concerned about security, followed closely by governance (in other words, IT oversight).
- The wide variety of responses to the question about which business areas attendees see as the best fit for LCNC in their companies made it clear that essentially all lines of business, from Human Resources to Export Activities, from Sales Purchasing to Invoice Processing, from IT to Finance, and any industry can benefit from one or more of SAP’s low-code no-code offerings.
All in all, I’d say that our roadshows were successful in generating interest in low-code / no-code development and in getting some key players in a variety of Swiss companies and organizations to start (or to continue) thinking seriously about where and how this kind of technology can help enhance their productivity and profitability.
For us at SAP, we came away with a better understanding of some of the roadblocks and challenges we face as we try to put our low-code / no-code products into the hands of more and more customers. One thing I think we learned is that we need to communicate better how SAP views the role of IT professionals in providing oversight and governance. LCNC does not mean that an individual or a department can “go rogue” and invent and impose new apps, but clearly that is a concern or misunderstanding that we need to address more cogently.
We at SAP also need to acknowledge that adopting LCNC technology is not an overnight process. Successful rollouts require preparation and training, and such preparation and training takes time (and thus costs money, even though there is a lot of good free training available, https://learning.sap.com/). There really aren’t any shortcuts, as inadequate preparation and training leads to frustration and failure, particularly for non-technical people who are trying to reach their potential as citizen developers. But while we need to be more up-front about the costs, we need at the same time to emphasize that the experiences of our business partners prove that the investment in time and money more than pays for itself in a relatively short time.
In short, I think it’s safe to say that our first SAP Low-Code/No-Code Roadshow series was a win-win for all involved.
Finally, let me end by briefly relating a story that two of our special guests, Juerg Kasper and Christoph Hofmann, shared. Before the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Canton of Zurich generally received about 10 requests for public assistance per month. Once the pandemic was in full swing, those requests skyrocketed to 30,000 requests per month! Manually processing such a number of requests was absolutely impossible, considering that it usually takes 25 minutes to manually process just one. But thanks to hard work, the adoption of digital forms, and the use of SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation (now part of SAP Process Automation), it took Christoph and his team only two weeks to implement an automated solution in which a bot could process and handle a request in just 30 seconds, ensuring a timely payout of more than 1.4 billion Swiss francs (more information blog post).
I don’t know about you, but I was certainly impressed by what a big difference low-code / no-code development made in tackling such a huge challenge. Imagine what could happen if all organizations adopted the power and potential of LCNC! It’s precisely this kind of vision that took us on the road in April and will undoubtedly take us on the road again.