The easier way to SAP extensions that are fit for the future

Timo Rüb

August 23, 2023

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How the SAP Application Extension Methodology supports developers

A standard off-the-shelf solution or a system tailored to your own needs? For SAP, this question has not been posed for a long time. Instead of “either…or,” Walldorf says “both…and”: Because SAP’s “Keep the Core Clean” paradigm consistently separates customer-specific extensions from core functionality, uniting the best of both worlds. On the one hand, there are no modifications or extensions to the core, which drastically reduce the risk of problems that can occur in classic upgrade, update, or migration projects. On the other hand, companies can make adjustments that set them apart from the competition and implement innovations in an agile and on-demand manner.

Orientation in Extensibility World

The SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) plays a special role in this. This platform not only facilitates the integration of applications, but also offers a well-stocked toolbox for development and operation of so-called “side-by-side” SAP extensions. In the light of the continuing “cloudification” of companies, these will become increasingly important in the future. SAP BTP is the tool of choice, especially for the expansion of SAP cloud solutions, for it enables custom-tailored development of loosely coupled but seamlessly integrated extensions, which can be operated independently of SAP S/4HANA Cloud Operation and Lifecycle Management. But on-premises applications also benefit from the side-by-side concept: After all, updates in “clean core” standard systems can be implemented much more easily, faster, and thus more economically.

SAP BTP provides two programming models for the development of application extensions: The ABAP RESTful Application Programming Model (RAP) and the Cloud Application Programming Model (CAP). Both enable the development of cloud applications and provide all the services, tools, and environments needed to do this. Simply put, RAP supports the classic ABAP world, complemented by features and tools for cloud applications. CAP, on the other hand, uses Java or JavaScript and tools from the open-source world. SAP provides BTP Cloud Foundry, Kyma, and ABAP as environments.

SAP BTP offers pretty much everything a developer’s heart desires. Navigating the SAP Extensibility World requires extensive expertise. The SAP Application Extension Methodology (SAP AEM) provides useful help here. Its structured, technology-agnostic approach helps define an organizational expansion strategy. The methodology helps enterprise architects assess their use cases for SAP extensions and develop a targeted solution in a structured and formalized manner. The SAP AEM provides an overview of possible technical expansion modules – and thus valuable assistance with deciding on the future expansion architecture.

Three steps to the perfect solution for extensions

That’s why it’s all the more surprising that SAP AEM is hardly known to SAP customers and partners and therefore is rarely used. After all, this simple, structured, template-supported methodology offers valuable guardrails for the development of a tailor-made expansion strategy that is fit for the future. But what does this mean in concrete terms?

Roughly speaking, SAP AEM consists of three phases:

1. Evaluation of the use case

The first step is to evaluate the individual extension use case. Based on the business context and the respective requirements, the basis of the use case in a defined area is described in concrete terms. The aim is to present the system context in a transparent and comprehensible manner. SAP AEM supports this process with appropriate templates.

2. Assessment of the technology

The second phase involves the introduction of various terms and concepts. These include extension styles, extension tasks, and extension domains. They provide an overview of various expansion technologies, so-called technical extension building blocks. Together with the extension tasks defined in the first step, the building blocks help to translate business requirements into technical requirements.

Here’s an example: Let’s say a company wants to extend its SAP S/4HANA system with a user-specific interface. SAP BTP provides various technical expansion modules for this purpose. These range from SAPUI5 freestyle to low-code/no-code to analytical user interfaces. Which best meet the individual needs of the company can be specifically explored within the scope of extension technology mapping.

3. Definition of the target solution

Based on the overall requirements and the technological assignment, the technical building blocks can then be assembled precisely for the desired target solution and further optimized using additional tools and resources. For example, white papers and the SAP Discovery Center missions also provide valuable help. The visualization of the desired target solution comes at the end of the third phase – for example in the form of a diagram – with which the implementation can be prepared specifically.

SAP AEM can be an important element in developing a company-specific expansion strategy and thus a prerequisite for an efficient transition to SAP S/4HANA. After all, existing in-house developments are among the biggest hurdles for many companies in their SAP S/4HANA transformation. At the same time, innovative system extensions and individual process variants offer the opportunity to achieve a competitive advantage through differentiation. It’s high time to get the SAP Application Extension Methodology on the radar. It enables companies to control, take advantage of the diversity in the area of extensibility and offers an easier way to develop SAP extensions that are fit for the future.

Side-by-side extensions with SAP BTP

Are SAP system extensions and process adaptations a topic for you? In our expert talk with Timo Rüb (valantic) and the IT-Onlinemagazin, you will learn how and with which tools…

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