App development with the No-code platform AppGyver


In this year’s SAP TechEd (2021), a lot of topics were about the Business Application Studio (BAS) and how to accelerate application development with low-code and no-code solutions. For example, Fiori elements, SAP Workflow Management and even SAP BTP (Business Technology Platform, SAP’s cloud environment) itself can be gathered under those low-code solutions. However, the no-code solution AppGyver was the talk of the town.

In the beginning 2021, SAP acquired AppGyver, which is a no-code platform that supports React and React Native apps for Mobile and Web. It uses a web-based tool called ‘Composer Pro’ to visually drag and drop your app together, without any coding experience.

This acquisition gave SAP an addition to its cloud portfolio to deliver a full range of integrated development tools which serve different kind of customers and developers.
Since the COVID pandemic, every business needs to be able to go digital. When we can’t go physically shopping or eating, companies are forced to go online. But who is going to help those companies in the scarcity of (good) professional developers? Which developers are going to create that digital transformation?

The idea to create apps, dashboards or other solutions without deep coding skills gives rise to another set of developers, different team structures and different companies. AppGyver, among other low/no code solutions, is offering that.

The low-code/no-code paradigm

If we look at the history of programming, it is about democratizing code. It is about enabling people to do more with less, adding layers of abstractions so us developers do not need to worry about zeros and ones. Low-code or no-code is not about the amount of code, it is about democratizing, giving more people the ability to create. For example, the language Python is low-code, Kubernetes is low-code and their successors will probably be even lower-code.

Excel is a very good example of a no-code solution, which gave a very large base of people the ability to create simple calculations, format tables, with no prior coding experience. It is very important to notice that all these solutions rely on large amounts of 'traditional' code. A lot of the low-code and no-code solutions rely on standard forms, templates and components, which especially is seen a lot in the business intelligence area.

For example, Mendix (SAP partner) provides non-coders with visual coding solutions to create very different types of apps in a templated approach. The Mendix site says it all: “Anyone with an idea can make powerful apps”. It sounds very promising and it would sound seem very logical to focus completely on no-code. However, low- or no-code platforms have their limits. On the surface these platforms like AppGyver, Mendix, OutSystems etc. look very customizable, but the possibilities ultimately are finite, based on the functionality the platform offers. That is… unless you are going to code. Doing more with less is something everybody likes. But doing more with less doesn’t always mean just using drag & drop or using templates. That limits the possibilities to solve a problem. There are still complex problems that need to be solved via traditional code, a need for building new tools, connect tools and glue everything together. Hence, the requirement of the expert coder. Due to this, these low-code and no-code demands will likely increase the amount of work for programmers rather than decrease.

AppGyver vs. Mendix vs. your Application landscape

Back to AppGyver. As stated before, AppGyver is a no-code platform that supports the development of apps for Mobile and Web. AppGyver is now available on SAP BTP and with that, adding no-code as a service to SAP’s Cloud portfolio. This acquisition makes a lot of sense when you look at the future of no-code. No-code has huge growth potential and analysts at Gartner predict that: “By 2023, over 50 percent of medium to large enterprises will have adopted an LCAP (Low-Code Application Platform) as one of their strategic application platforms.”

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AppGyver allows you to drag and drop components or controls together for style, logic and mobile native functionalities. Combined with extended theming and you can create a lot of different apps with very easy integration with modern API’s. The app can be deployed on different devices: mobile, web, desktop TV tablets, etc. Next to that, AppGyver is a professional platform and with that it offers enterprise grade tooling, like pipelines, debugging or security. According to SAP it enhances both professional coder and citizen coder as it is best of both worlds and helps developers to do more with less.

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So why did SAP acquire AppGyver when they have the partner Mendix and how does this fit in an SAP application landscape?

First we have to look at low-code vs no-code. In general, we have two categories in coding: frontend and backend. Backend focuses on how and where to store the data, make it secure and give access to that data in a correct form, whereas frontend focuses on the user interface and the necessary workflows. AppGyver (no-code) focuses on frontend to easily make good looking designs and workflows, but still needs the backend developer. AppGyver relies on ready to consume services. Mendix (low-code) focuses on building both backend and frontend for their application. Which sounds more like a low-code-fullstack developer platform.

AppGyver creates apps that consume services that are already present (Does any particular ERP system comes to mind?), where Mendix creates apps that can be fully stand alone. Although they have overlap, they both need different developers, have different dependencies and therefore solve different use cases. A lot of the BTP, or SAP offerings in general have some overlap. Looking at the Business Application Studio with Fiori, UI5, SDK's for iOS and Android, CAP etc. they all overlap at some point.

AppGyver really fits the "Keep the core clean" message SAP is promoting with S/4HANA, which SAP customers are rapidly migrating toward. It can also connect with SAP’s other Cloud services like Concur or SuccessFactors, using workflows and AppGyver, all through the BTP services. And if you don’t want to add all data to that BTP platform and share it with different solutions, maybe a standalone Mendix app would suffice. There are still questions and subjects SAP needs to work on. For instance, how does AppGyver fit with the Fiori theming and guidelines? A clear guidance on what to use and when to use. With great portfolio comes great responsibly one could say…

We have seen the rise (and still rising) of cloud software and the challenges that companies face during times like COVID. Digitalizing your business is essential and SAP is offering BTP with its services as an answer to these challenges. There will be a shift in teams, team structures and ideas on how to deal with the digital problems companies need to solve. There will be a shift in developers. These platforms, like BTP, enable a lot more employees to create apps and add value to their business, allowing the expert coders to focus on solving problems with code, maintaining code and probably enhance or improve the low-code and no-code solutions. These shifts are empowered by or maybe even require these platforms.

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Erik Leemans

Erik Leemans is a Senior BI & Innovation consultant at Expertum. Erik has more than 6 years of experience in SAP consulting. Erik specializes in designing and realizing a technical solution by combining his functional SAP knowledge with his technical background.

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