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Create Easy-to-Use Mobile Apps

Integrate Existing SAP Data and Processes with an ABAP Development Toolkit

by Ole-Andre Haugen and Njal Stabell | SAPinsider, Volume 15, Issue 4

October 1, 2014

Discover how to streamline the mobile development process — with minimal training. Find out how a new tool enables the development of modern, intuitive apps in today’s increasingly mobile enterprise.

 

Barely a decade ago, cutting-edge enterprise mobility meant accessing email remotely. Now, organizations are increasingly looking to mobile solutions for everything from HR workflows to sales processes to full warehouse management functionality. Companies are embracing a mobile-first mindset to increase productivity and efficiency while reducing cost. For employees, the use of a preferred device extends beyond convenience; the expectation is that enterprise apps will be as intuitive and easy to use as the apps they download from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

One roadblock in the move toward widespread enterprise mobility, however, is that development toolsets traditionally haven’t embraced simplification in the transition to smaller devices; cluttered UIs, for example, were viewed as necessary to include every needed process or transaction. Skepticism that a mobile app could suffice to meet an organization’s precise needs — and seamlessly tie into back-end systems — created more hesitation.

SAP’s focus on simplicity and ease of use — and in particular its decision last year to open source SAPUI5 — has helped dispel these misconceptions. SAP’s commitment to SAPUI5 as its standard HTML5 development toolkit received a boost with the announcement at SAPPHIRE NOW in 2014 that the SAP Fiori application set, which is powered by SAPUI5, is now free.

Companies are embracing a mobile-first mindset to increase productivity and efficiency while reducing cost.

Calling All ABAPers

With this commitment to SAPUI5, SAP is providing application developers with a toolkit for developing fast and easy UI applications that have unlimited flexibility. About three years ago, recognizing that HTML5 would likely be the standard framework moving forward for building rich, modern desktop and mobile UIs, we founded Neptune Software to provide an intuitive drag-and-drop HTML5 toolkit for ABAP development skills.

That toolkit became Neptune Application Designer, which can create apps that easily integrate to back-end SAP systems and data, binding directly to ABAP attributes, tables, and structures.

Ease of use is the core of our philosophy, beginning with a drag-and-drop designer that essentially allows ABAP developers to become HTML5 proficient with almost no technical training and even less JavaScript knowledge. In fact, Neptune’s drag-and-drop toolbox reduces the need for JavaScript by roughly 95%, so an ABAP developer can become a proficient mobile developer with only one or two days of training.

Neptune Application Designer is an SAP-certified ABAP add-on, so there is no need for additional hardware when installing the solution. The development platform is automatically integrated with an organization’s SAP systems and solutions and also provides the option to run applications on SAP Mobile Platform. Because the app onboarding process is integrated in the tool, a developer can configure an app to run on the platform without having to understand all of the technical details.

A Mobile Evolution

In the nascent days of enterprise mobility, a common view was that mobile apps would have to sacrifice a rich, modern UI due to the space limitations of the mobile device. This forced designers to strive for simplicity — with real estate at a premium, superfluous functionality was stripped away. Now it is expected that an SAP transaction, for example, can be completed in one or two clicks, swipes, or touches with an automated push message on your device when a task is assigned. Similarly, it used to be commonly accepted that the only reason to pursue mobility was to enable 24/7 connectivity. However, there is a shift in that thinking as well, with offline access now a valuable component in many mobile solutions.

This is true not just for more remote or rural areas, but also for processes such as plant maintenance, where workers are often outside of a network, or even for apps such as travel expenses, where offline capability can significantly reduce data costs. Within Neptune Application Designer, a designer can select which data will have offline capability with one click, and can update this selection whenever the need arises. The simplicity theme is reinforced with the tool’s app cache, an authentication framework that automatically syncs an app on a mobile device whenever a change is transported into production, saving significant time and effort as well as ensuring uniform versions and back-end coding.

The drag-and-drop designer not only facilitates updates and maintainability, it also meshes well with SAP’s strength in producing highly configurable software to aid process optimization. This demands a nimble and easy-to-use UI tool that likewise can be configured in conjunction with an organization’s specific processes, and one that is intuitive for ABAP developers who may lack specific line-of-business process knowledge.

Installing the tool directly on SAP NetWeaver eliminates the need for an integration layer to export the data out of the SAP back end, so the ABAP developer doesn’t have to hand off to a front-end web developer. This greatly reduces complexity as well as the need for seemingly endless specifications, which allows for far nimbler design-thinking scenarios and a development strategy that can accommodate on-the-fly design changes.

With intuitive, easy-to-use modern UIs now an expectation in the enterprise, the need for training should end with the rollout of any new app.

Getting Started with Neptune

With SAP’s announcement last spring that SAP Fiori will be included in the standard SAP licensing agreement, we believe that more and more customers will begin to appreciate the rich UI look that defines SAPUI5. While SAP Fiori offers customers significant benefits, Neptune Application Designer possesses some key differences.

With the Neptune development environment, customers can develop a pleasing look with the aforementioned components and functionality, and can deploy their designs on any device and operating system with end users likely none the wiser about the actual design framework. It also includes additional functionality beyond that which we developed, such as Adobe PhoneGap, which allows developers to create hybrid apps that include functionality such as geolocation, barcode scanning, and taking and uploading photos.

Recently, Neptune also launched its Neptune Application Management (NAM) solution as an integrated part of the Neptune Application Designer. NAM enables management of applications throughout the entire app life cycle from development, assignment, access control, distributing, tracking, and analysis of the installations. The entire NAM application is an SAPUI5-based application, developed in Neptune’s own development platform. With NAM, end users have full access to the apps in the SAP Store and can install them with a single click and then review or give feedback on the apps.

After three years, Neptune is present in 22 countries, has 60 partners, and has more than 160,000 licensed end users. Neptune clients are using the platform most often in the following areas:

  • Human resources (HR)
  • Customer relationship management (CRM)
  • Plant maintenance (PM)
  • Warehouse management (WM)
     

For HR apps, especially, we are seeing a high demand for easy-to-use app development from companies that may not be working with SAP software on a daily basis. This increases the need for simplified solutions and apps to help greatly reduce training costs, for example.

With intuitive, easy-to-use modern UIs now an expectation in the enterprise, the need for training should end with the rollout of any new app. Ease of use, of course, translates into mass adoption, which in turn increases the value of the data flowing through the app to the back end. This explains why enterprise mobility adoption will be even more widespread in the coming years.

Learn More

Visit www.neptune-software.com to learn more about Neptune Software and to demo Neptune Application Designer. To download free templates, visit any app store from your mobile device.

An email has been sent to:





 

Ole-Andre Haugen
Ole-Andre Haugen

CEO
Neptune Software


Njal Stabell
Njal Stabell

CTO
Neptune Software



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