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The State of Application Development
Among SAP Customers


Research from ASUG and SAP reveals that organizations are doubling down on application development and are likely to embrace low-code/no-code tools in the coming years.

SAP customers are embracing application development and are looking to create rich digital experiences. Successful digital transformations improve user experiences, increase productivity, and allow organizations to be more flexible. In fact, research from ASUG and SAP found that more than two thirds (68%) of SAP customers are planning to enhance or extend SAP applications, with a heavy focus on improving and optimizing business processes (77%), improving user experiences (72%), and increasing productivity through automation by eliminating repetitive manual tasks (70%).

SAP customers from technical job functions are looking for connectivity and a low-code/no-code environment, while those from business job functions are looking for cloud-native development environments. Most SAP customers are using traditional ABAP for application development. More customers, however, are adopting modern approaches. For example, 54% are using open-source programming languages. Even though only 30% are using low-code/no-code application development tools right now, that number will grow because 38% are interested in using it.

C-level executives (45%) are primarily responsible for application budgets. But, when it comes to selecting the applications organization will use, IT teams (31%) or a committee of representatives consisting of IT, C-levels, and departmental staff with equal input (38%) are relied on most. Alignment between C-level executives and IT is especially important in developing a cohesive application development strategy.

Implication: Align IT and C-suite for Greatest ROI. Most SAP customers are planning to invest in application development. It is critical that organizations build a bridge among C-level executives, those who control budgets, and IT to ensure they get the most out of their investment. When it comes to application development, the top benefits SAP customers are looking for include secured connectivity to SAP applications (77%), open connectors to integrate access to data from any source (55%), and a low-code/no-code development environment (40%). Finding a trusted partner who can help you flesh out your application development strategy is key.

Application Development Challenges and Benefits Among SAP Customers

Although interest in expanding application development is high among SAP customers, there are few obstacles they must overcome. Research from SAP and ASUG shows that organizations need help as they expand their application development environments. Almost two thirds (57%) are struggling with a lack of employee skill sets to use latest technologies. A quarter also are challenged by development frameworks that are not ready for enterprise- grade applications (24%) and rigid proprietary standards and lack of interoperability (24%).

Application development challenges are compounded when examined by business and technical functions. Business and technical users both agree that a lack of skill sets to use the latest technologies is their largest concern, at 30% and 65%, respectively. Respondents who work in business roles cited more challenges with the development framework not being ready for enterprise-grade applications (30%) and too much time being spent on evaluating new open- source technologies (20%).

Respondents who work in business roles cited more challenges with the development framework not being ready for enterprise-grade applications and too much time being spent on evaluating new open-source technologies. Despite these challenges, respondents are still quick to invest in application development. Things like secured connectivity to SAP applications (77%), open connectors to integrate access to data from any source (55%), and a low-code/no-code development environment (40%) are among the top benefits organizations are looking to receive.

Implication: Take a Strategic Approach to Application Development. SAP customers need assistance to fully realize their application development plans. Business and technical users both say organizations are plagued by insufficient work processes and siloed processes and data. If organizations hope to achieve the top benefits of creating a rich digital experience, they will need to seek help as they bolster their environments. Finding a trusted partner to create an application development strategy is critical to breaking down siloes and helping employees whose skill sets are lacking.

The State of Automation Among SAP Customers

Automation is top of mind for SAP customers, with a whopping 78% currently using (45%) or are planning to use automation (33%). These customers hope that automation will embolden their businesses by eliminating manual, repetitive work so employees can focus more of their time on innovating. In fact, most SAP customers either do not have an automation strategy in place (46%) or do not know if their organization has one (31%). Only 24% of SAP customers say they have a specific automation strategy in place, which they are using for transactions and order processing, finance and accounts payable, and human capital management systems.

For the quarter of SAP customers who are not planning to use automation (22%), most say they do not feel it is currently needed at their organization. Others cite a lack of in-house knowledge or resources to devote to automation and/or their plans are at a standstill until their business processes are refined. These customers also need guidance on how automation can improve their organizations. “We want to use automation but finding the time to implement it is a challenge. In particular, we are concerned about making sure the security and application is supported by the SAP technical team for entering data into SAP,” one SAP customer said.

Implication: Ask for Help to Understand Automation. Most SAP customers—regardless of whether they’re implanting automation—need help to fully understand its benefits and develop organizationwide strategies. Automation can deliver greater value by extending capabilities through process automation and robotic process automation (RPA). RPA is extremely useful for automating tasks and user interaction. Furthermore, process automation tackles and extends structured and dynamic processes. Organizations also need help process mining so they can achieve optimization and continuous improvement. Finding a trusted partner with a proven automation track record can help you achieve results with greater ease than doing them on your own.

Automation Challenges and Benefits Among SAP Customers

When it comes to automation, SAP customers typically anticipate challenges being more severe than what they actually experience. That said, half of SAP customers struggle with the time required to build and maintain systems (54%), integration with existing business processes (51%), and identifying the right areas eligible for automation (46%). The top areas where challenges were more severe than organizations anticipated include specialized skills required to build and maintain systems (37%), inflexible architecture (27%), and complex code (24%).

More than a third of SAP customers (34%), however, have neither a positive nor negative impression of automation. These customers will need more information about the benefits of automation before they embark on digitally transforming their organizations.

Automation is an essential component of pulling off a successful digital transformation for SAP customers. Virtually all these customers (85%) say that simplifying processes is a requirement for an effective digital experience, which is followed by delivery of modern user experiences (68%) and leveraging mobile capabilities and experiences (44%). Automation is the key to navigating these changes and building a more cohesive digital future for your organization.

Implication: Fill the Skills Gap with a Trusted Partner. SAP customers need help overcoming automation challenges—even when they are not as severe as they originally anticipate—to reap the top benefits of this cutting-edge technology. Organizations told us they are embracing automation to create free time for employees to work on more important tasks (71%), reduce manual and low-tier work (69%), provide cost savings (69%), and improve efficiency (67%). These benefits, however, cannot be achieved alone. Because organizations have difficulty identifying what to automate and often lack the skill sets in house to pull off these projects, seeking a trusted partner who can guide you through your automation journey is paramount.

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