For SAP customers, a key component of keeping
up with business environment changes is moving
to SAP S/4HANA, which advertises upgrades
such as faster processing time, a simplified inmemory database, embedded analytics, scalability, and
simplified infrastructure. In fact, there has been a recent
spike in SAP S/4HANA go-lives, jumping from 3,000 in
May 2019 to more than 10,100 in October 2021, according to SAP’s Mary Sibley, Head of the North American
Center of Excellence for SAP S/4HANA.
User Experience: A Foundation to SAP
During SAPinsider’s Finance and SAP S/4HANA virtual
conference at the end of 2021, Sibley further observed
that the “rules of business success are changing.” She
noted that organizations are looking for flexible infrastructure to respond to volatile markets and supply
chain disruptions. Younger employees are mobile
savvy and want to contribute to society. Customers are
demanding unique and personalized experiences.
Jens Strandbygaard, Senior Director of Product
Management at ServiceNow, agrees with Sibley’s observations about the changing rules of business success.
He tells SAPinsider that there is also a “strong demand
from employees to make their work simpler in ways that
resemble how they use social media and the internet.”
Strandbygaard was formerly CEO and co-founder
of Gekkobrain, a Denmark-based enterprise software
provider acquired by ServiceNow in 2021. ServiceNow
expects the acquisition will help the company better
serve its customers that run enterprise software,
specifically ERP systems like SAP. Strandbygaard says
that younger employees are “mildly shocked when
they encounter SAP for the first time. Most people can
pick up an iPhone or log into Facebook with immediate
use. With SAP, user training is needed. If you don’t use
SAP regularly, your abilities falter, and even mundane
tasks take longer than necessary, and you make more
He explains that the SAP Fiori user interface was
launched to address some of these challenges and
obstacles, but improving user experience needs to
span all systems — especially to ease the move to SAP
S/4HANA — leaving SAP users looking for other options.
What does Strandbygaard recommend?
■ Clean systems of customized code
■ Modernize the user interface
Senior Editor, SAPinsider
NEW ERP APPROACH
DIGITAL LEADERS NEED A
This article appears here with permission from SAPinsider. Copyright © 2022 WIS Publishing. All rights reserved.
■ Optimize diverse ERP processes and shift some workloads outside of SAP
■ Empower citizen developers with low-code development tools
Cut the Code Clutter
Over the years, many organizations have hired developers and consultants to customize their ERP code to provide specific functionality for their business and industry,
creating a lot of code clutter.
“Change then becomes very difficult. Every time you
change one element, there are ten more that you didn’t
know about. They pop up amid everything, delaying the
project and putting everything at risk,” Strandbygaard says.
It’s essential to clean your ERP system of custom code to
improve performance and pave the way for SAP S/4HANA.
“The cleaner the core is, the better it will run today and
when you move to SAP S/4HANA. It will be easier to make
changes and react to changes in the market. The less
clutter you have, the less expensive the upgrade to SAP
S/4HANA will be and the less risky it will be,” he says. One
way to cut code clutter in SAP and other ERP systems is
to use low-code app development tools, which increase
agility and remove complexity. Low-code tools help your
“citizen developers” — creative employees without the
technical skills of specialized developers — reduce the
amount of code used in making applications. These tools
can also help companies reduce the expense of hiring and
maintaining specialized developers as well as the risks that
these developers might be in short supply in the future.
To help reduce code clutter, ServiceNow can evaluate
the customer’s business processes in SAP, analyze how
the processes have been customized, and assess the
implications. ServiceNow uses an automation-driven
solution that first analyzes how customers use and have
customized their SAP systems and then allows for refactoring of customizations with minimal investment at considerable speed. Once ServiceNow has performed the
analysis, it determines if the process could be upgraded
by a more effective low-code/no-code app, which can be
prototyped and connected to SAP quickly and turned
from prototype to productive app in a matter of days.
“If it passes, the old code can be decommissioned, and
ServiceNow takes over the process,” Strandbygaard says.
Modern Experiences Needed
In addition to clean data, organizations need to deploy a
modern user experience to adequately address today’s
customer and employee expectations. A modern user
experience is designed to fit the needs of the employees
and is tailored to their workflow, says Strandbygaard.
“Most employees will need to log in to multiple systems,
copy/paste, export to a spreadsheet, import from a
spreadsheet, rendering the workflow cumbersome and
slow. In a modern platform, everything the employee
needs to fill in or read out from systems of record are
readily available, and the workflow is tailored to meet
the needs of individual employees, making them more
productive,” he adds.
Strandbygaard shares an example of a customer that
was having trouble paying invoices on time. After analyzing its procurement process, the ServiceNow team discovered that only a few employees were late with invoices.
They were casual SAP users, didn’t know the system well,
and were uncomfortable with the SAP user interface.
Casual SAP users “log in infrequently and can cause
issues for SAP system performance. Once logged in,
they start looking around with mild confusion like a new
tourist coming to town. They spend too long performing
their tasks, and they make too many errors,” he explains.
The ServiceNow team created a simple, user-friendly
web interface where the employees could log on, type
in the required information, and generate the invoice
without SAP expertise.
“One of the things ServiceNow is good at is providing
a beautiful user experience that’s intuitive and efficient
and works across multiple systems of record. We make
it easier for the employees, even the casual SAP user, to
get work done, which increases both employee satisfaction and efficiency while reducing errors,” he relates.
Optimizing ERP Processes
Optimizing diverse ERP processes is also essential for
performance. “ERP systems have been shaped in the
old-fashioned way, the monolithic way. That means that
changes to processes have often been put into the very
core of the ERP system, making it complex and difficult
to maintain,” Strandbygaard observes.
Modern ERP systems should be more modular and
served by best-of-breed functions, says Strandbygaard.
In an April 2019 blog post, Duncan Jones states that
the “ERP model of a single integrated suite to handle
every process for every division within the enterprise
did not work, for many reasons. Instead, application
development and delivery (AD&D) leaders need a new,
eclectic strategy based on a handful of modern, open,
smart, flexible SaaS platforms.”
To address this ERP trend, consider shifting some
workloads outside the SAP system to improve efficiency,
and feed the result into SAP, advises Strandbygaard.
Such workloads typically revolve around non-core functions, reports, or cases where manual processes could
be automated, he adds. Strandbygaard cites an example
where he worked with a dairy organization that built an
SAP process for paying farmers for milk. The price was
calculated based on the quality of the milk, the day and
time the milk was purchased, and the volume of milk.
The organization could check the quality of the milk
with its existing process but not create a purchase order
based on milk quality and volume.
“Instead of rethinking this process, they’ve added to
the program over the years, and it costs them millions
of dollars. Now, the process is like a mountain standing
on its summit — very unstable. Nobody dares touch it
because the risk of something going wrong is enormous.
That process should have been developed outside of
SAP,” Strandbygaard says.
He explains that the only way to solve the problem
was to develop a custom program outside of SAP to
calculate the payment based on quality and volume for
Evolving Role of Citizen Developers
According to Gartner®, by 2024 80% of technology products and services will be built by citizen developers and
other non-IT professionals.
“Growth in digital data, low-code development tools,
and artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted development are
among the many factors that enable the democratization of technology development beyond IT professionals,” said Rajesh Kandaswamy, Distinguished Research
Vice President at Gartner®. (Gartner Press Release,
Gartner Says the Majority of Technology Products and
Services Will Be Built by Professionals Outside of IT by
2024, June 14, 2021. GARTNER is a registered trademark
and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates
in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with
permission. All rights reserved.)
The ServiceNow platform, Strandbygaard says, is
designed to be a platform of platforms. “We can connect to any system of record across the enterprise and
empower people from the business to develop robust
business applications. ServiceNow’s App Engine Studio
is designed with citizen developers in mind.”
With the Gekkobrain acquisition, ServiceNow has
“unprecedented insight into the technical layer in SAP to
help SAP customers benefit from our leading platform,”
ServiceNow unifies data experience across silos to
drive process efficiency and resilience, he says. The
platform can rapidly digitize new business services,
provide modern user interfaces, and enable customers
to scale and manage apps across business units.