SAP Build was introduced at the TechEd in 2022 by Juergen Mueller. Being relatively new, and hyped by SAP, I was curious to learn more. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes struggle to start with totally new environments. In those cases, it is nice to have a small push. So as a SIG-lead Custom Development for the Dutch Usergroup VNSG I decided to organize a SAP Build Codejam on Tuesday, June 27th.
About the workshop
I had a wonderful day at the iTrainee offices where the codejam was held. iTrainee kindly supplied us with space and welcomed us with good food, such as the famous “Bossche Bollen”. The participants were eager to learn, and the instructors Daniel Wroblewski and Ian Thain were ready to guide us and explain all about SAP Build.
The day started with an introduction about SAP Build, explaining the three pillars of Build:
- SAP Build Process Automation
- SAP Build Apps
- SAP Workzone
The codejam was very nicely prepared. You could find all the links using a small URL: bit.ly/buildcodejam. This Github-page gives an overview what to expect, where to find the instructions, and where to find additional info. The instructions are available on the developer-tutorials as well: the SAP Build Process Automation, the SAP Build Apps and the SAP Build Workzone.
SAP Build Process Automation
SAP Build Process Automation is the tool in which you depict processes and model the (work)flow of these processes. Previously SAP had related tools like SAP RPA. The SAP Build Process Automation was also our starting point for the Hands-on part. With SAP Build Process Automation we created a process to (auto) approve sales orders. Some statuses were sent by email, telling us the sales order was rejected.
SAP Build Apps
Having created and tested this process, we were introduced to the wondrous world of SAP Build Apps. This suite was originally the AppGyver application, which still shows in the interface. More about the interface later.
Using drag-n-drop you can create an user-interface, and bind (OData)-models to a context (called Data Resource). Finally you place a button on the screen, which starts the process you created with the SAP Build Process Automation.
Finally, the last part of the day was SAP Build Workzone (formerly known as SAP Work Zone and Launchpad Service). By using some kind of “guided development” and adding widgets, you click your landing page or portal.
My personal thoughts on SAP Build and its current state
I was happy to see and touch SAP Build during this workshop. As always, there is not enough time to see all of this relatively new package in just one day, especially since it used to be three different products (SAP RPA, AppGyver and Work Zone or SAP Jam).
SAP Build suite
But it feels “off” to me, as I don’t see how the WorkZone fits in this picture. In my opinion it is used to create a portal-like website in which you combine widgets, information, roles and other user interactions. SAP Jam was aimed at collaboration and integration of various information flows. The people maintaining SAP Jam are, in my opinion, not the citizen developers that will want to work with Build Process Automation or Build Apps. If I try hard, I can see a link of Workzone with Build Apps, but not Workzone with Build Process Automation.
On the other hand, I can say the same about Process Automation being the odd one; as both Build Apps and Workzone are aiming at user interfaces. Still, I don’t understand the coupling of Workzone in the Build-package.
The different parts of the Build suite are different services in the BTP, and hence have different costs. With this separation in costs & services, I decided the Build-term is more a marketing term combining three solution than really one integrated Build-solution.
SAP Build Process Automation
I like the SAP Build Process Automation part. The user interface is easy to use, the tool provides enough possibilities to do what you want. The suggested way of creating Data Types is quite cumbersome, but I suspect that it will be easier if you define a service you’d like to use. I think this tool is the most developed and mature. It feels intuitive to use, and I can see myself enjoying to work with this. Let me repeat that: I can see myself enjoying working with this application.
SAP Build Apps
You can create beautiful apps with SAP Build Apps. I was impressed by the level of detail you can manage in this application. Comparing it with Mendix, I think I’d prefer SAP Build Apps.
The interface of SAP Build App is currently not finished. It is useable, but has limitations. I even had a few crashes, forcing me to reload the interface. Luckily drafts are saved regularly, so i didn’t lose too much work.
SAP Build Apps is aimed at the “citizen developer”, creating front-ends in a simple, fast way. In this case, I would like to use it while travelling, or while prototyping and presenting a frontend at a client. The user interface for SAP Build App is not on the level I would expect from SAP. I have some examples for this.
- If I want to scroll through the elements I can use on my canvas, without using a mouse, the scrollbar is too small. You can get there by pressing , but as the amount of elements is enormous, you end up pressing dozens of time. Ofcourse, you can use the wheel on your mouse, but I tend to leave the mouse in my bag if I am travelling. And using the touchpad on your laptop with this two-pixel scrollbar? I tried, but it’s easier to score a 180 with darts.
- Everything in the interface is fixed! Once I’m finished with dragging elements on the canvas I would like to minimize the elements column on the left; creating more space for the canvas. Similar for the properties-pane on the right or the navigation on the top: it would be nice to slide or minimize that when you’re not using it. Now you are always stuck with all elements on the screen.
During the codejam I learned that SAP is working to solve integration with different kinds of authorization. As I understood, SAP Build Apps is now only working with BTP authorization or Google Firebase. I guess that for most users that would be enough, but I can imagine you would like to integrate third-party solutions. So I am happy that there is a focus of SAP to improve this.
SAP Build Workzone
With this product, you can create portal pages. In previous years, I have played around with the old SAP Enterprise Portal and even once was certified for this. The Workzone brought back memories. Packing different topics together and grouping them felt familiar. The way to the goal is very different, but somehow it felt like I was thrown back to the good old days of the Enterprise Portal. Luckily, things have improved a lot since then. It feels easier to create a page, and divide it into sections and columns. You just press a sign or clikc the “Add Widget” button and a new section appears. Is it all good? No, unfortunately not.
As I am a sucker for neatness and tidiness (ahum…) I do like to align my columns. In the codejam we divided the page in three columns: on to a header over two columns, and another over one column, and underneath three columns with information. See the picture at the beginning of this blog. But now the right-hand columns are not aligned! This really drives me mad, especially since you can’t manually adjust the widths of the column (or at least, I couldn’t find it).
As I am getting older, my eyes are keeping up with my age. Which means, I use a bigger font than when I was 18. With SAP Build , that means you sometimes miss the button. Normally I would scroll down, but in SAP Build Workzone, you can’t scroll to reach the save button. So I had to change my settings in order to reach the button. Later I found out that pressing to enable full-screen browser, did the trick as well, but this is bad design.
This codejam was an excellent introduction to the SAP Build suite. We touched all three pillars of SAP Build, and I thoroughly enjoyed playing around in all three of them. In my opinion SAP Build Process Automation is the most mature. SAP Build Apps still needs work, but I feel that it is here to stay. Overall I had a great day, and I would recommend to go to this codejam if it is held near you. You will gain insight in what SAP Build is, how to use it and I am sure you will think of it if you struggle once again with this tedious recurring monthly tasks.
I strongly believe that codejams are not only for learning content, but also to create and maintain connections. Our host was iTrainee, they have a nice office, sparking creativity. I felt at home at their office, and was able to focus on the tasks. I might even have hummed and whistled, as I learned a lot this day.
My colleagues were doing their utmost best to create the most beautiful apps:
ITrainee provided us with Bossche Bollen, sweet giant profiteroles, filled with whipped cream and covered in chocolate:
In fact, it was such a good day that Thomas Jung and Joshua Bentley decided to join in by digital means:
And to conclude a picture of the participants. Thanks all for a nice day!