How to Streamline SAP Automation with Low-Code Application Development Platforms


Making actionable decisions based on mission-critical business workflows and automation

Data volumes are exploding. As a result, many businesses use SAP, a platform for enterprise resource planning (ERP), to manage their separate systems in a single location, ranging from systems for customer relationship management and business intelligence to resource planning and supply chain management. SAP’s flagship ERP offering or SaaS solutions like SuccessFactors or Ariba are highly flexible and are mission-critical software for many businesses that use it, but it can also be exceptionally difficult and costly to work with and customize.

In fact, SAP business workflows are so complex that in-house SAP support is no longer an option for many organizations. Even though SAP is meant to make wrangling multiple systems more efficient, accessing data from SAP and getting into the right people at the right time is still challenging and time-consuming. As a result, decisions are slower and less-effective, causing the business to suffer.

Many organizations are embracing low-code application development platforms with intuitive drag-and-drop elements to create custom applications that automate SAP business workflows and extend them with new capabilities. Such low-code platforms empower businesses to create any business app they can imagine across roles, departments, data sources, and processes. Self-service SAP app creation gives business users easy access to the data stored in SAP and other business-critical systems, which will support them in making faster and better business decisions.

This guide will explain:
  • The major challenges of working with SAP.
  • Why hand-coding SAP business process solutions is not a workable solution.
  • What is low-code application development.
  • The benefits of low-code solutions for SAP business process automation.
  • What to look for when choosing a low-code software vendor.
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The Problems of SAP Business Workflows

SAP applications are central to how most enterprises manage financials, logistics, human resources, manufacturing, and other line-of-business (LOB) systems. SAP’s flexibility makes it a powerful tool for meeting business needs, but it can require extensive support to implement effectively. Productivity can be slowed down by time-consuming and expensive customizations, especially when trying to integrate SAP with other mission-critical systems.

LOB managers don’t care if the data is on-premises or in the cloud; they want to access from anywhere—home, work, mobile, vacation. They also expect workflows across multiple systems to be seamless, without requiring a heavy lift from a time and resource perspective.

LOB managers don’t care if the data is on-premises or in the cloud; they want access from anywhere—home, work, mobile, vacation. They also expect workflows across multiple systems to be seamless, without requiring a heavy lift from a time and resource perspective.

IT teams have the nearly impossible task of trying to meet the needs and expectations of business users in the face of serious SAP business process challenges.

Top 5 Business Process Challenges

1. Complexity / Lack of Agility

When organizations need to implement change quickly, SAP’s complexity impedes agility. Many organizations use SAP to store mission-critical info that can feed into dozens of different business processes. When customizing SAP apps, it can be difficult to access and use this information, making app development more costly and time consuming.

2. Complicated User Interface (UI)

SAP is known for its complex UI. For many users, searching for information using the SAP UI is difficult and time consuming, if not sometimes downright impossible. Business apps that require access to SAP data can run into similar inefficiencies, especially if the development platform uses the native SAP UI or makes multiple connections into SAP for the same data. An inefficient SAP integration can make it difficult for business users and business apps to access critical information from SAP production systems.

3. Technology Silos

Even when organizations are standardized on SAP for the bulk of their business processes, they inevitably still keep data in other systems. Non-SAP solutions can be overlooked or forgotten, creating technology silos that hamper efficiency. When integrations are attempted, many business apps fail to provide an easy and consistent user experience across the various connection points between SAP and other solutions.

4. Custom Apps are Resource Intensive

Because SAP is so complex, building custom business applications can be expensive and take too long to implement. IT managers and developers often feel like they no more than get an app working than the business user changes the workflow, cycling the process back to the beginning. What’s more, the underlying data in SAP systems is still tough to integrate with other data sources and line-of-business applications.

5. Security / Slow Approval Cycles

SAP is often used to store an organization’s mission-critical information. Governance and compliance protocols often require lengthy approval cycles that can decrease productivity. Business applications designed to improve efficiency can easily fall short on basic security measures like tracking and auditing, while a sole focus on securing the data can make it difficult for users to navigate heavily governed processes.

Ways to Optimize

Ways to Optimize SAP

SAP is powerful, yet complex. Business applications can help enterprises navigate the complexity to get the most out of their SAP data, but hand-coding SAP workflow customizations is expensive and time-consuming, for both IT departments and the LOB managers left waiting for enhanced solutions. IT teams need to find ways to optimize SAP without labor-intensive hand-coding.

SAP Business Process Automation with Low-Code Apps


Low-code platforms for building business applications make it possible to simplify and extend SAP at a fraction of the cost.

What is Low-Code?


Low-code application development are similar to website builders in that they give you an intuitive, drag-and-drop interface, except instead of building websites, you can build applications for streamlining business processes, from leave requests to sales quotes to reporting. Low-code platforms make it remarkably easy to assemble and implement applications to handle a wide variety of business processes. In place of labor-intensive coding projects that spread IT resources thin, organizations can respond quickly to changes in business or the market by making and editing SAP apps on demand.

See it in Action

When most people think of SAP app development, they imagine needing a developer to write the code. Low-code platforms with a drag-and-drop designer not only enable IT to build business apps faster since minimal coding is needed, but “citizen developers” (a.k.a. less-technical users outside of IT) can also solve their own process problems by creating workflows for themselves. Enabling business users to develop their own apps helps reduce the IT bottleneck, while allowing IT departments to retain the option to conduct final review passes and ensure quality control.

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The Value of Low-Code Software for SAP Apps

The Value of Low-Code Software for SAP Apps

Complex enterprises buy SAP to deal with complex business processes. Low-code business application platforms help organizations make the most of their SAP investment.

Maximize SAP

SAP often houses data that is difficult to access. Low-code SAP apps enable you to deliver SAP data to decision makers at the moment they need information to make data-driven business decisions. Also, making the most of SAP means designing business workflows that integrate SAP with other line-of-business services, such as SharePoint, Salesforce and Oracle. Easy integration eliminates data silos and allows enterprises to design processes to how people work, instead of changing how people work to match software limitations.

Increase SAP User Adoption

Low-code SAP apps increase user adoption by stripping away the complexities that make SAP so challenging to use. By providing a simple and intuitive user experience, low-code apps bridge the gap between SAP data and users, enabling users to work with information that may be stored in SAP without having to go into SAP and navigate through multiple screens to get it. This also allows businesses to continue to access data without needing to buy hundreds of SAP licenses, since data stored in SAP can be surfaced directly in business apps.

Innovate Faster

Even the most technical users appreciate working in a familiar environment. For example, developers who use Visual Studio will be more efficient in making new SAP apps if they can use visual drag-and-drop tooling from within Visual Studio. Developers get the benefit of a familiar and more efficient development environment without extensive coding.

Scale Innovation

Turn users into problem solvers by enabling them to build process applications with a low-code, visual-design platform. Building low-code SAP apps are easy. Even non-technical users can drag and drop the components they need with no coding necessary. Instead of a developer hand-coding a new app, a business user with an immediate problem can assemble an app to meet their own needs. The IT team retains oversight of newly created SAP apps while reducing their overall workload.

Reduce Costs / Faster ROI

Inaccessible SAP data is a hidden cost for enterprises. Users spending countless hours looking for the right data wastes resources. Decisions based on incomplete or out-of-date data can lead to large direct and indirect expenditures. Then, of course, there’s the direct cost of hiring full-time employees to manage SAP and code custom apps to make it work. A low-code business application platform is the quickest way to achieve business value. With a low-code visual designer, SAP apps are easy to create and rollout, users easily find the data they need to make data-driven decisions, and IT can either develop more quickly themselves or oversee citizen developers.

Increase Business Agility

Traditional custom workflows for SAP are created by specialized developers at great time and expense. Changing these workflows is equally slow and costly, hampering business agility. A low-code platform with the right process automation capabilities allows organizations to rapidly respond to changing business needs and circumstances with easy, click-and-drag SAP app creation. SAP business process automation allows organizations to quickly test, learn and pivot. Solutions can be delivered in hours or days instead of the weeks and months required for hand-coded apps, resulting in immediate feedback from customers, partners, and employees.

Manage Risk

A mature application development platform will make it easy to maintain regulatory and compliance standards while automating SAP business processes.

What to Look for in a Low-Code Process Application Platform

What to Look for in a Low-Code Process Application Platform

When choosing a low-code platform to help you automate your SAP workflows, make sure to keep these things in mind:

Broad Integration

The right application platform should be able to integrate with all major on-premise and cloud line-of-business systems outside of SAP, including Microsoft SQL Server, SharePoint, Dynamics CRM, Salesforce, Oracle and more.

User-Friendly

Choose a platform with an intuitive, easy-to-use interface. Users should be able to access SAP information through environments they already use and are familiar with, like Microsoft Dynamics CRM or Salesforce. All integration points should look and behave in the same way to make it easy for users to access information from any system. Users should be able to easily add, retrieve, and update information from wherever they are working in the system.

Workflow Automation

You should be able to quickly automate workflows to access valuable SAP data and ensure that information is delivered to the right people or into the correct system of record at the right time. To eliminate manual processing errors, link forms and reports to enterprise workflows that span people, systems, and departments.

Visual Editor

Creating new apps should be easy and intuitive with visual drag-and-drop design tools that require no coding.

Development Velocity

Ideally, application designs and interfaces should be reusable across multiple applications. As technical assets are developed and added to a library of reusable components, applications become faster and easier to build.

Single SAP Integration Point

A low-code platform should allow you to create and store a single SAP integration point. Every time a new SAP app is created, use the same integration point for easy access to information stored in SAP production systems.

Build Apps in Familiar Environments

In addition to accessing SAP data from within familiar apps, a great application platform will also give developers and business users the option to build applications from within applications they already use and are familiar with, such as Microsoft Visual Studio or SharePoint.

Cross-LOB Workflows

Make sure the solution supports creating complex workflows that span multiple systems across various roles, departments, data sources and processes.

Device Agnostic

End users should be able to view, submit or approve information from any laptop or handheld device. Create workflows, check statuses and view process analytics reports from anywhere, at any time — even when you’re offline.

Visibility

Look for a dashboard that allows you to review, analyze and approve information across lines-of-business and across systems. Use drag-and-drop visual tools to create ad-hoc forms and reports as needed, then monitor those reports from the dashboard to gain visibility into business processes.

Security

Security and compliance must be maintained, so choose a low-code platform that has put as much thought into security as it has into its visual editor. You should be able to speed up approval cycles while maintaining governance and compliance. You must have the ability to stay within the security parameters established by each system. Look for an easy and intuitive change management system, as well as integration with an email client(s) to ensure that approving, rejecting or requesting more information can be done from a single click within an email. You should also be able to build applications with auditing and tracking capabilities to ensure all data movement conforms to governance protocols.

Customer Spotlight

“Whatever the business needs and whatever new acquisitions we make, I know that we can create the workflows required using K2.”

– Krzysztof Wykręt, Business Information Solutions Manager, Sanofi Group, Poland

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What to Look for in a Low-Code Process Automation Platform

Enterprises need to streamline SAP business processes as well as integrate with non-SAP line-of-business systems to stay agile.

With K2’s low-code digital process automation platform, you can develop and deploy SAP applications quickly and at scale across your organization. Whether you want to automate departmental workflows or streamline enterprise-wide systems as part of your SAP strategy, K2 offers both cloud-based and on-premises solutions to build, empower and control your business processes.

K2 Highlights


Intuitive visual design tools and wizards let business users easily create apps that meet their needs while requiring little or no programming.


Patented business integration technology, called SmartObjects, that makes connecting to SAP or virtually any of your line-of-business systems quick and reusable.


Pre-built apps (called SmartStarters) help you jumpstart your SAP process automation. Choose from out-of-the-box apps or use our three-step app creation wizard.

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