Build, Run & Innovate: Embrace Mendix Low-Code for Your S/4 HANA Transformations


Over the past few decades, the power of SAP R/3 and its ability to maintain the standard code along with customizations gave SAP customers a tremendous advantage. But as we gear towards the concept of the intelligent enterprise with S/4 HANA, the vision of customizing and/or extending enterprise applications is changing.

Now, customers feel the need to be lean in order to adopt innovations faster, respond to changing business needs quicker, reduce long upgrades, and achieve full-scale digitalization. The customizations and extensions crucial for the competitive advantage should now be manifested with in-app and/or side-by-side extensibility on the extension platform.

As you might expect, the extension platform is the new playground where IT experts will extend and customize their applications. Therefore, as we step into this new concept of ‘core and extension’ a discipline is essential to:

  • evaluate and decouple the customizations from core onto the extension platform.
  • avoid the extension platform from growing into a new technical debt difficult to maintain later.

Traditional application development and delivery (AD&D) through coding, manual governance, and processes may again result in the mesh of complex customizations that we witnessed in the era of core systems. If we want to be agile and lean in the new world, it will be naive to expect a different outcome with same traditional ways.

In a nutshell, you cannot win this new game if you’re playing by the same old rules and using outdated tools.

Why Adopt Mendix?

SAP and Mendix partnered in 2017 to enable the enterprise to quickly create and improve mobile and web apps, and the partnership has continuously evolved. Mendix is now tightly integrated with BTP and supports full solution and extension development for intelligent enterprise. Besides, Mendix is also the platform for extension of the SAP Marketing Cloud replacing the previous SDK.

Our customers Cosun, Van Marcke, and Lamb Weston went low-code for their S/4 HANA transformations, demonstrating the growing synergies between Mendix and the SAP product portfolio.

Success stories from their journeys, the pitfalls in traditional coding, and the challenges faced — especially in SAP development — reinforces the absolute value the Mendix low-code Platform provides in the complete lifecycle of SAP development and S/4 HANA transformations. 

Build: The Enterprise Applications

Thanks to the years of customization and the complexities it produced, we all know that the majority of an IT team’s time is spent on maintaining systems, significantly limiting the transformation opportunities. SAP landscapes with complex integration of SAP and non-SAP systems complicates the development and often keeps us hooked to a technology (BAPIs, IDOCs, SOAP, OData, JavaScript etc.).

Further, shadow IT, siloed operations, and lack of reusability frequently created enormous clones of standard objects adding to the debt. With limited resources (time, budget, and personnel), new development and transformations through this traditional (coding-focused) way will be a tall challenge and, likely, only yield the similar mediocre results.

Mendix’s low-code Platform focuses on the core tenets of reusability to improve a developer’s productivity, enabling IT teams to achieve more with limited resources and support a faster time to market. Its template-based approach (e.g., the starter Fiori 3.0 UX template, blank app template, mobile Fiori template (roadmap), etc.) can accelerate the AD&D timeline. Data Hub, a data discovery tool, ensures actionable insight and reusability from a data source and avoids clones. The complete vision of AD&D with build, test, data management, process automation, and ability to work with “Any API” relieves architects, IT managers, and developers from the needless technology emphasis and facilitates focus on the business value.

Synergies with SAP products offer one-click deployment to BTP with a seamless integration into Fiori Launchpad to provide a consistent UX to the end users. This template and widget-based approach, OOB SAP/non-SAP connectors, and lifecycle management in line with SAP development provides customers a unique option to fulfill their transformation needs.

Run: Govern the Enhancements and Extensions

For organizations who are on S/4 HANA or on ECC and planning for S/4 HANA, any change suspected to be a technical debt should ideally be taken to the extension platform. For such custom development and future changes and enhancements, it is important to remove the element of developers’ subjectivity to avoid coding issues. Traditionally, organizations have governed custom development and enhancements with stringent quality checks — like peer review, code review, coding standards, etc. — but code quality has always been an issue and often resulted in free-form app growth. Unfortunately, the consequences of this must be faced while we address custom code issues during our S/4 transformation.

Low-code takes a different approach and addresses the element of subjectivity by following the visual development model. Whether you are enhancing the application with a small custom code or a tactical workflow, Mendix low-code provides a connected, single (visual) programming experience throughout development and change. By design, visual framework is self-documented to ensure guided development and sound governance. In addition, the framework provides a standard hook for writing the custom expressions/logic, much like the in-app extensibility points for side-by-side extensions. With its full solution extension ability, this guided approach not only minimizes QA, testing, and KT efforts, but also ensures code readability for easier maintenance later.

Innovate: Mendix Enables Change

Business leaders want to deliver a new product, enter a new territory, and deliver enriching customer experience, but IT may not be able to keep up with this pace, because of:

  • the growing backlog with continuous evolution of business models/changes
  • a widening skills gap; enabling our SAP (ABAP) developers with Fiori, UI5, HANA, node.js etc. is a huge challenge
  • how much longer change management takes when technology is rooted in solutions

Agility is the only way to effectively deal with the changing circumstances. Disruption, changing business models, and market trends, will only add to the growing problem of uncertainty. Traditional approaches focused more on siloed planning than the collaboration. A part of it was to do with the growing gaps between IT and business where business was centered on outcome, but IT was restricted by the technology capabilities. As a result, time and time again, for rapidly changing circumstances, we will run into the challenges of slower turn-around time, uncertainty, reskilling workforce (learn-upgrade-relearn), growing backlog, and longer and intensive change management.

The Mendix low-code Platform leads a technology-agnostic approach focused on delivering business outcomes. The technology abstraction is very convenient for current SAP developers to learn low-code (compared to SAPUI5, HANA, Node.js etc.), making it possible to deliver enterprise-grade and consumer-grade apps. This will allow IT teams to break away from the learn-upgrade-relearn cycle. Common issues of continuous change, fit-for-purpose product development, and visibility can be efficiently handled by the Sprintr platform that bridges the growing gap between business and IT. Sprintr is an exceptional tool that brings much-needed business and IT collaboration to provide visibility, avoid information gaps, and keep business and IT informed throughout the product development.

All things considered, Mendix’s cloud native credentials, deployment options of choice, and strong SAP partnership makes it a brilliant choice for SAP customers to start the development while on ECC, structure a robust foundation, and scale as you move to S4 HANA. Using Mendix for this evolution will allow IT to focus on business transformation and realize maximum value.

As recognized by The Forrester Wave™: Low-Code Development Platforms For Professional Developers 2021 report, Mendix continues to set the pace and new benchmarks for the low-code market. Mendix is also able to credibly execute on its vision of one platform for development and collaboration between business and IT.