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Side-by-Side Approach to Simplifying ERP App Development

Feature Article | September 27, 2017 by Uwe Schick

As many SAP partners and customers will already know, an SAP solution checks all the boxes when it comes to developing new, customized, and seamlessly integrated apps.

So far, however, the threshold has been high for large sections of certain industries. In combination with SAP Cloud Platform, the new SAP S/4HANA Cloud software development kit (SDK) is opening up new possibilities that make app development, data integration, and quality assurance a great deal simpler.

SAP partners and customers can now start profiting from the unparalleled flexibility and openness the SAP S/4HANA Cloud SDK provides by enhancing their installations of SAP S/4HANA with tailored, innovative apps. This is possible no matter whether they run their ERP suite on-premise or in the cloud.

SAP itself uses the initial range of apps that are already live today, which include SAP RealSpend, SAP Financial Statement Insights, and SAP Cloud for Real Estate. The last of these provides an overview of corporate real estate and integrates seamlessly with SAP S/4HANA. It also simplifies management by including details on global property portfolios, surface area usage, building costs, and financial performance. The SDK makes it possible to develop special apps like these by offering tools that cover the entire development cycle.

Simpler Solution Design

Before experts start creating cloud apps with the SAP S/4HANA Cloud SDK, it’s important that they understand the principle of cloud development. This is where step-by-step tutorials offer user support, along with self-explanatory conceptual tools that aid in visualizing user interfaces.

A series of further tools help programmers develop, test, and publish their apps. These include a Java library, project templates and platform abstractions for the cloud, a virtual data model for SAP S/4HANA, preconfigured scripts that facilitate rapid installation, and a continuous integration framework for smart development processes. The SDK also specifies best practices for every stage of development.

In addition, SAP provides access to comprehensive project templates for app development in the cloud through GitHub. There, developers can view projects, collaborate, and expand their knowledge.

The sophisticated methodology and array of templates available enable any SAP partner or customer to add to their expertise in cloud development and drive digital transformation. For every phase of the development cycle, they can access helpful tools and support from the experts at SAP.

SAP Partner Builds App for Insurance Companies

Until recently, msg systems AG only offered on-premise solutions to its customers, which hail from a variety of industries (including insurance). The SAP partner has since made the leap to cloud development: It is now poised to add a fully integrated reinsurance solution to its portfolio – one that would have required a great deal of effort to implement in an on-premise format. This app puts the focus on the individual user-department employee. In doing so, it provides process support from a very early stage, namely the financial planning of a typical insurance company.

To take just one example of the integration the solution features, underwriters can already factor various aspects of reinsurance into their considerations when providing quotes on industry insurance products – even in real time while speaking with customers. The solution is undergoing constant enhancements, and msg is already receiving ideas for new apps from insurance companies and members of other industries.

msg got involved in the development of the SAP S/4HANA Cloud SDK early on in its beta phase. “SAP’s side-by-side approach presents a great opportunity to enhance existing applications and industry solutions,” says Helmut Königseder, a solution architect at msg systems.

Through the company’s close relationship with SAP’s experts, Königseder was able to put forward some of his own ideas and preferences. “The SDK gave us an ideal chance to implement our reinsurance solution in the cloud and take advantage of new possibilities there,” he affirms. “Plus, I never felt like we were on the short end of the relationship. SAP was really open to our feedback and definitely enabled us to have an impact.”

Among the factors helping the SAP S/4HANA Cloud SDK succeed, Königseder points out that the kit supports the entire value chain – from tutorials that help users hit the ground running all the way to project templates, integration, implementation, and monitoring. “The best practices in the SDK made it really easy for us to make the right decisions,” he adds. “We no longer had to spend so much time figuring out the best approach.”

Changing the Customer Mindset

msg systems AG firmly believes that the SDK and SAP Cloud Platform can open the door to new business potential.

“These days, anyone who designs software systems using conventional methods often winds up with a different shade of what they already have,” explains Andreas Weiss, head of product management at the company. “Customers today don’t actually need every function under the sun; they want apps that solve their specific problems. That’s what’s possible in the cloud, which is why I see such tremendous potential there.”

SAP S/4HANA Cloud SDK at a Glance

SAP Cloud Platform provides an environment in which experts from SAP, its partners, and its customers can use the SDK to develop apps that serve as custom enhancements for SAP S/4HANA.

This benefits SAP partners and customers in many ways:

  • Efficient app development (including quality assurance)
  • Rapid updates and new features
  • Faster responses to the latest trends
  • Easier access to new markets
  • Greater differentiation from the competition

The product management director sees the SAP S/4HANA Cloud SDK as the catalyst of a potential paradigm shift. This is why Weiss is no longer engaging just with the IT divisions of msg’s insurance industry customers, but with their user departments, as well. He offers them a teaser that quickly enables them to experience the SDK’s advantages: A graphical visualization offers an entry point into process planning, which requires neither training nor significant IT expertise. Every step is easy to understand, and the increased efficiency and other benefits are immediately apparent.

“There’s a lot of interest out there,” Weiss reveals. He also expects to see synergy effects for other industries in which custom apps with direct ERP integration could make life easier. This is precisely where the future is headed: SAP S/4HANA is the digital core with which custom apps can interface once they are developed with the SDK.

In addition, Weiss believes that the development and operation of these cloud-based applications will account for a growing share of his company’s revenues.

The SAP S/4HANA Cloud SDK was unveiled at SAP TechEd, being held this week in Las Vegas. It is available through all of the usual channels. Tutorials, project templates, and a technical blog provide developers with quick access to the information they need.

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