This fall, we surveyed Business Experts in the SAP Community about the tasks the perform and the tools that they use. This blog post is a report on the survey results.
SAP application implementation teams are composed of folks with a mix of skills. Developers are present, to be sure, but these teams also traditionally include functional business experts. These business experts provide knowledge that is essential to a successful implementation.
Earlier in the fall, we ran our first Business Experts survey. That survey is an offshoot of our annual survey of developers. We have consistently uncovered useful information through the developer survey and we were curious if we could find actionable insights about business domain experts.
We ran the survey for four weeks in September and October. We had 1,333 respondents. Of those, approximately 670 completed all questions in the survey.
We asked questions on a variety of topics: the tasks that business users perform, and the tools specific to such tasks. Data analytics and business process modeling were two such focus areas. Since this audience also might also be users of Low Code / No Code (LCNC) application development tools, we asked a series of detailed questions to respondents who said they’d been users of such technology.
Among the results we found most interesting:
In the past, our team’s external research has focused on professional developers. A major part of that research has been invested in the annual SAP Developer Insights Survey (2023 report link)
With the introduction of the SAP Build portfolio in late 2022, SAP’s technology focus related to application development expanded to include support for Citizen Developers – folks completely outside Customer IT organizations and Partners. This expansion shifts the line where developer tools are relevant and it motivated us to explore LCNC products as part of this survey.
We asked respondents to tell us about their relation to SAP. We use that in our analysis to help identify patterns. Customers, Partners, Freelance Consultants, and sometimes SAP employees all are represented in this report in different contexts. To be as clear as possible, we will include a legend to show which subgroups make up each chart’s source data.
SAP Community is composed of people from different organizations: Customers, Partners, and SAP employees all participate. We asked about this relationship:
For the remainder of this report, unless we state otherwise, employees of SAP will be excluded from all reporting. Excluding SAP employees from the same question gives us an idea of the external constituent groups:
From this we see that Customers make up about a third of our external community.
We also asked about the industry of their employer:
We asked about their age. We have no industry data applicable to business users to compare here, so we can’t draw any conclusion about the relative age of SAP business experts.
A breakdown of geography is consistent with our past surveys of SAP Developers.
Early in the survey, we asked a series of questions exploring the tasks performed as part of the respondent’s job. Within the survey, this task inventory was formulated in this way:
This series of questions listed thirteen task areas:
Creating Business Cases
Documenting User Stories and Use Cases
User Acceptance Testing
The questions were composed to provide a simple gauge whether a task might be part of their role. We didn’t expect particularly accurate results if we asked a respondent to estimate the actual time or percentage of their work devoted to each task, so we limited responses to “significant”, “sometimes”, “rarely”, and “never”.
We guessed that responses from Customers might be different than from Partners, so we plotted each group independently:
The differences in these two charts are not dramatic. Some tasks that might be related more to consulting do appear more prevalent for Partners: Requirements Gathering, Creating User Stories or Use Cases, QA, UAT.
There’s an opportunity for deeper analysis here. For example, we might look at the tasks performed by specific job roles (we asked about roles later in the survey). Such analysis remains to be explored but, for now, what seems plain is that no task dominates when we group all business folks together.
From this point in the survey, we branched out into three distinct lines of questions. For those that said Data Analysis was part of their work, we asked about the tools that they use. We did the same thing for Process Modelers. And, since Low Code / No Code (LCNC) application development might be performed by anyone, we asked everyone a series of questions about their familiarity and use of LCNC application development products.
We composed a list of common tools representing a range of sophistication. Everything from basic tools like Excel to more elaborate, data science-oriented tools such as Python and R frameworks appeared in our list of choices. Respondents we asked to select all that they had used in the past year.
S/4HANA and ECC appear prominently in these results, as does SAP Analytics Cloud, and Business Objects.
As with Data Analytics, we chose a list of popular Process Modeling tools with a range of capabilities. Everything from Visio and Lucidchart – limited to visual mapping and flowcharting – to SAP Build Process Automation and SAP Signavio. We also included platform-specific offerings for comparison: Salesforce, and ServiceNow.
Visio comes in first, which might demonstrate that there’s an opportunity to convert such users to true automation tools. SAP tools figure prominently in the results, too. SAP Build Process Automation is not far behind Visio, in fact.
As follow-up research, it might be interesting to explore any overlap between those using simpler versus more automated tools: to what extent are folks using both? And – if so – why?
We started with a basic question: does the respondent know what the terms Low Code / No Code mean?
So, 83% of our external audience have at least heard the term. Only half, though, feel like they completely understand. That’s an opportunity for education.
Of that 83%, we asked more questions. Do they think these tools might be relevant to them – or perhaps they have already jumped in and developed an application – here’s the breakdown:
There’s two points that stand out in this: first almost 60% of respondents express interest in these tools but have not yet explored them. Clearly that’s an opportunity to engage. Also, only 10% of the audience has actually developed an application (and that number is lower still when you consider that this is among the ~80% that said they’d been exposed to LCNC app dev, at least conceptually). Moreover, we are asking about LCNC app dev in general here. Given that LCNC application development tools have been in the market for quite some time, this calls into question how universally useful LCNC tools might be to business users.
For those stating that they had developed one or more applications, we asked a longer series of questions: How many of these applications have they developed in the last year? What tool did they use on their last project? What was their motivation and general experience?
LCNC Applications Developed – All non-SAP Respondents
Close to half the people in this group responded saying they had developed four or more applications. That’s an unexpectedly large number of applications per person. We are considering both Customers and Partners/Freelancers here. What if we just consider Customers?
LCNC Applications Developed – Customers only
So, Customer business experts are generating fewer applications in the same time span. That makes sense.
What about the most popular tools for Low Code / No Code application development?
SAP Build Apps comes in at the top by a comfortable margin. The ”Other…” response appeared prominently here and respondents were permitted to specify the unlisted tool. Those responses were:
SAP Analytics Cloud 2
Neptune Software 1
CAP (not an LCNC tool) 1
Another aspect worth noting is that the list of popular products was short. We had selected a list of thirteen candidate products to appear in the survey: most highly rated by analysts. Only four products appear more than once in the responses: SAP Build Apps (14), Microsoft Power Apps (3), SAP Analytics Cloud (2), and Mendix (2). Given the relative maturity of the LCNC product category, we would have expected more diversity in this list.
Many LCNC Tools provide out-of-the-box support for mobile phone or tablets. Was that a consideration here?
So, the answer is probably, “yes” – over half the apps were developed to target mobile phones. Significantly, tablets were a target over a third of the time.
We were curious what factors motivated folks to develop their own app. We asked this question a couple of ways. First, we asked for the top three factors. We then asked which of those was most important. The most important factor stacked up this way:
In corporate settings, users sometimes are restricted to choose from a list of products that have been formally evaluated and pre-approved for use. We were interested in knowing if that was the case for LCNC app development products. We asked the folks who had developed an application:
Almost half said, “yes”. It’s a bit funny that almost a third reported that they were unsure if the company maintained such a list.
To be successful, reports from several industry analyst groups suggest that Citizen Developers will require active support and perhaps even some level of governance from traditional IT. We wondered how much this was happening and asked a few questions along these lines.
Finally in this line of questions, we asked whether the application builder felt the project was worthwhile:
Are there clusters of roles for Business Experts within an organization?
We asked each respondent to select the part of the organization where they work and the role within that organization. Here’s a breakdown. There’s probably a more detailed analysis that we could perform here. For example, you can see that Consulting Services and IT roles appear frequently. As we include Partners in this table, that is maybe no surprise.
Project Management Program Manager 4 Project Manager 3 Other 3 Project Analyst 3 Project Engineer 2 Project Coordinator 1 Finance and Accounting Other 13 Financial Analyst 8 Finance Manager 4 Accounts Receivable/Payable Clerk 3 Accountant 1 Payroll Specialist 1 Consulting Services Functional Consultant 72 Technical Consultant 54 Project Manager 12 Business Process Consultant 10 Other 9 Consulting Services Manager 7 Management Consultant 6 Business Development Consultant 3 Business Strategy Consultant 1 Information Technology IT Architect 44 IT Specialist 42 Software Developer 32 IT Manager 18 Other 17 Systems Administrator 7 Research and Development Product Developer 3 R&D Manager 1 Other 1 Sales and Marketing Other 5 Sales Manager 3 Marketing Manager 2 Sales Representative 1 Procurement and Purchasing Procurement Analyst 5 Procurement Manager 3 Supply Chain Analyst 3 Other 3 Human Resources HR Specialist 6 Other 6 HR Manager 4 Production and Manufacturing Other 8 Production Manager 2 Manufacturing Engineer 2 Production Worker 1 Supply Chain and Logistics Other 9 Supply Chain Manager 5 Logistics Manager 2 Warehouse Supervisor 2 Inventory Specialist 2 Security and Compliance Security Manager 1 Administrative Services Administrative Assistant 1 Office Manager 1 Quality Assurance and Control QA/QC Manager 1 Quality Improvement Associate 1 Other 1 Strategic Planning Management Consultant 2 Customer Service and Support Support Specialist 3 Help Desk Technician 1
This is our first iteration to survey this group within SAP Community. The response rate was good – primarily driven by web site intercepts. We called out several interesting patterns in the results and there are probably opportunities for both deeper analysis of this year’s data as well as opportunities to go deeper in future surveys of this same group.