SAP development is generally a complex and challenging endeavor. But as three customers recently explained, there...
are SAP development tools that can make life easier.
Two of these products are Gold Client, a data management product from Attunity, and Planet 8, a low-code, rapid application product from Neptune Software. Users talked about their experience with these SAP development tools at the recent SAP TechEd 2018 conference.
Gold Client gets fresh data to developers and testers
The SAP environment at Medtronic, a medical device manufacturer based in Minneapolis, had become complex since being deployed in 2004, with many acquisitions constantly adding to the intricacy. Because of this, the development environment had grown stale with old data, and meaningful testing was difficult, said Andrea Belz, SAP environment manager at Medtronic.
"You can't refresh development. You can't stop what you're doing and replace your development with a copy of production for many reasons," she said. "We were trying to solve the stale development environment and also just data movement in general. We do a whole refresh for production to copy for a QA [quality-assurance] environment, so we started looking for some tools to have data movement [and provide] the freedom to have that data moved around."
To accomplish this goal, Medtronic implemented Gold Client from Attunity, based in Burlington, Mass.
Gold Client can copy data from SAP system to SAP system, and it's used for testing and data management, said Matt Hayes, vice president of SAP business at Attunity.
"If you need production data from a production system, you can copy or replicate that data into a development or nonproduction system," Hayes said. "You can obfuscate sensitive data. So, if you have customer or employee data that you don't want exposed in the development system, you can copy the employee record, but change the SSN [Social Security number]. So, you can test with the actual data without exposing the data."
Gold Client provides Medtronic with a better way to test applications, said Tim Boos, Medtronic's senior IT manager.
"We wanted to provide our organization with a robust master data set in our [development] environment that aids in the testing so that we don't end up pushing bad code into QA again and again," Boos said. "Our goal was fewer defects, fewer iterations, [and to] try and catch it in dev before it moves out."
Medtronic used Gold Client to move all of the stale production system data into the development environment in a "big bang" project, and it uses it for ad hoc tasks. One of these tasks resulted from a production support issue that came up with a production order that contained 10,000 items, according to Belz.
"We had never generated an order like that in any of the testing cycles," she said. "We were able to take that order and move it into dev or QA and debug it there, rather than scrambling around and trying to ... open up production for debugging."
Tim Boossenior IT manager at Medtronic
It has been difficult for the Medtronic team to determine the ROI on Attunity Gold Client, but there are tangible benefits from having a modern development environment.
"If you just ask people, they'll say it helps a lot, because they don't have to spend an hour setting up that data. They can either ask for it, or it's already there," Boos said. "Ultimately, it came down to the fact that we're a $30 billion company doing $20 billion in revenue each year, and we didn't have a strategy to put data in our [development] environment. It just seemed silly that we couldn't write code and test it in our environment -- we had to transport our code in order to test it. So, it came down to best practices and what we wanted for maturity within an SAP operations organization."
Planet 8 provides low-code development
Planet 8 from Neptune Software, based in Oslo, Norway, provides a low-code, rapid application development environment specifically for SAP.
Planet 8 has been a valuable addition to the SAP development tools landscape at Johnson & Johnson, according to Aravinda Boyapati, IT applications services supply chain manager.
"We started working with [Neptune] in 2015 when we started to move into the mobility journey," Boyapati said. Johnson & Johnson looked at several low-code platforms to aid in SAP development, including Kony and Capriza, but decided on Neptune Planet 8 because it uses SAP Fiori.
Boyapati explained that, compared to many SAP development tools, Neptune Planet 8 helps coders save time developing SAP supply chain mobile apps.
"With the standard SAP tool set, you need more time," he said. "We have to go through a lengthy testing process when we are upgrading systems. But, with Neptune, you just install an add-on and in 30 minutes time you can start building your apps."
A feature of Planet 8 for SAP developers is it's built on SAP ABAP source code, which means programmers can take advantage of their existing SAP environment and should not need to perform further integrations, said Martin Beringer, CEO of Neptune Software North America.
Planet 8's environment lets developers create connections to back-end systems and code snippets. From there, developers use drag-and-drop functions to build SAP mobile apps.
This approach allows the company to build apps more quickly than with other SAP development tools, said Tim Hughes, director of SAP technology and architecture for Discovery Communications, which also uses Planet 8.
"We built Fiori apps with every option you can build them on. I started with Web IDE and Master-Detail Templates, [ABAP Core Data Services] CDS views, Fiori Elements, and we've built them with Neptune, and Neptune is so much easier," Hughes said. "It leverages the [ABAP] skills that I already have in-house, and they use the same SAP UI5 libraries. These are very well-documented on the internet, but it's hard to figure out about all the methods and events or how they work. And all that stuff is exposed in Neptune."