5 tips and pitfalls to avoid when developing with the SAP Business Technology Platform

As SAP is moving towards keeping the core clean and doing custom developments in the Business Technology Platform, you may be asking what it’s like to work with it, what are some tips and common pitfalls to avoid? With over 6 years of experience in developing for the platform, let us share our view.

1. A big move from the world of ABAP

You have been doing most of your customization and custom developments in ABAP. From the ABAP world, BTP is a big jump as the recommended language to develop in BTP is Java and JavaScript. If you’re an ABAP programmer looking for a change, that means learning a totally different programming language from scratch. If you’re a company looking to expand your expertise, that means hiring new programmers who know how to code in Java and JavaScript. None of this is plain sailing.

2. Easier for those fluent in Java and JavaScript

If you are coming from a Java and JavaScript programming background, you’ll find it much easier to get started with custom developments in BTP. The platform’s documentation is good, and with an initial learning curve of a few months, you’ll find yourself being productive with the platform fairly quickly. Other challenges may include getting familiar with HANA, as it’s the recommended database for the platform.

3. Be prepared for version changes

The biggest change since we started using BTP was the transition from Neo to the new Cloud Foundry environment. Neo is still going to be there and be supported for a while, but for actively maintained systems, the transition should be worth considering. Generally, CF is much more flexible, both in technology and license wise, and HANA management is much better in it. It’s also the direction in which SAP is going with BTP.

Another thing to note is the HANA version changes, which are usually scheduled at least once every half a year. Even to migrate to CF, you’ll need to upgrade to HANA 2 first.

4. Challenges of transitioning from Neo to Cloud Foundry environment

If you’ve decided to port your project to CF, be prepared that depending on the size of your project, you may be in for anything from 10 to 100 days of development. Not all the services you may be using have their pairs in CF, so you may have to look for substitutes. You may be using certain libraries (I.e user management) in your back-end, which also have to be replaced in CF. Then, there may be changes to be made on the client’s side as well, for example with file uploads from browsers.

For bigger databases, you’ll have to be prepared for some manual work as well: you can only download a big database in split parts from Neo, while CF has an object store from where you can easily download the whole thing.

5. Should you be using no-code or low-code tools?

AppGyver, Business Application Studio, SAP CAP. In our experience, for small projects, no-code or low-case tools may come in handy. But once you get into more complex use-cases you can easily find yourself in deep water, where it would have been easier if you started from scratch initially. Portability is also an issue – you have to ask, for such cloud technologies, do you want to lock yourself into the SAP ecosystem, or should you try to maintain portability in case your client decides it would be better to re-implement the application on another platform? With CF comes easier portability and the need to consider that question more seriously.

+1. Bonus tip: BTP is more than just a platform; it’s a set of incredibly valuable tools. Should you want to integrate data coming from sensors in your project (SAP IoT Platform), should you need some machine learning to solve a problem, or if you could use some RPA or other intelligent technologies like chatbots, BTP has it all, right at hand.

Overall, during the past 6 years, we’ve had some good experience with BTP with minor challenges, and we’d definitely recommend using it for future projects where SAP is involved. There are a lot of possibilities and use-cases within this platform waiting for you to explore and build on.

Since many SAP partner companies haven’t built the required in-house resources to develop on BTP yet, we are offering our services as a subcontractor or resource pool. If you have any current or future projects where BTP may be involved, we would love to help you to explore the possibilities and find the best solution for your needs. Contact us if you’re interested!

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