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Co-authored with s_hathaway

As a head of IT responsible for running SAP Build internally at SAP, I’ve had the benefit of experiencing the setup and running of our citizen developer center of excellence for several years now, beginning back in the days when we first started out with stand-alone robotic process automation. Today, SAP Build boasts a complete toolset for low-code application development, process automation and business site creation.

I am often invited to present our experience and lessons learned to customers, and I have noticed that organizations that are just getting started with SAP Build have one major burning question – how to get started while ensuring good governance and project lifecycle management?

With this article I would like to shortly explain our internal governance setup and center of excellence for SAP Build, and some key lessons learned when working with citizen developers and low-code. However, this is an approach which is specific to SAP – it can be used as a reference, but every organization will need to determine for themselves what makes the most sense for their business and industry. A good framework for figuring that out can be found in the recent blog post by Sebastian Schroetel.

SAP Build Governance by SAP IT

So, let’s get into it. The spokes in our “SAP runs SAP Build” operations wheel include: Governance, Platform, Rollout, Hackathon / Buildathon, Pilots, Lifecycle Management, Compliance, Community & Support and Feedback.

SAP Runs SAP Build: Example Governance / CoE Approach


 

Of the spokes in the wheel above, the Lifecycle Management Process containing also different approval steps (e.g., by Business, IT, Security, and Compliance) should always be designed company specific. Smaller companies potentially require less governance, whereas bigger multi-national companies require a much more guided approach and more approval steps. Not to forget about highly regulated industries like pharmaceutical companies, which are facing numerous corporate requirements they must comply to.

At SAP, the IT management has stronger control over the Lifecycle Management Process, however, we also don’t over-engineer our approach for easier, low risk use cases. Instead, we offer four packages that citizen developers can leverage, from “Do it yourself” to the complete solution being provided by our team. The framework below presents how we do low-code development at SAP:


SAP Runs SAP: Low-code development lifecycle management and personas


 

Governance Lessons Learned from IT Management of SAP Build

Here is a list of valuable lessons-learned to keep in mind and to make the CoE and Lifecycle Management setup a success for your company but especially the Citizen Developers:

  • Low-code tools require product training (expectation management towards Citizen Developers) – oftentimes excited businesspeople want to jump in fast, but there are some learning prerequisite that ensure a successful development outcome

  • Business vs IT Language (fundamental IT terms and approaches to be explained in a simple way) – you need to communicate with businesspeople in their own language

  • Isolated process views by Citizen Developers not seeing the big picture (e.g., missing E2E process knowledge, other already existing solutions) – in some cases this is okay, in other cases their idea might not make sense without the larger perspective

  • Lack of understanding of corporate requirements (Enterprise Architecture, Security & Compliance to be explained and trained) – some minimal understanding should be in place to ensure the citizen developer comprehends the consequences of non-compliance

  • Central Repository for Use Cases is required to ensure overview, traceability, and auditability

  • Citizen Developers need to be guided through the phases of the Lifecycle Process, ideally via automated approval workflows and community support

  • Missing Citizen Developer awareness for operations and support efforts (e.g., in case of business system changes, 24/7 help desk) – if the individual citizen developers in your organization do not want to care about monitoring and updates you will need a plan for that

  • Usability and scalability of internal approval processes, tools, and involved teams (ability to handle numerous Citizen Developer building use cases in an easy and timely manner with given resources – CoE should not become a “call center” – develop channels for peer-support)

  • Citizen Developer Training & Exam as entry point to Citizen Developer Community (enabling qualified discussions) – ensure a minimal qualification level to ensure quality

  • Ongoing Citizen Developer Community management and pro-active moderation required (updates on new product features and corporate requirements, events like hackathons, connecting different developer communities, etc.)

  • Start with smaller lines of business with well-established processes like Finance and HR to demonstrate quick wins, gather experience and further improve the approach


Finally, a holistic IT Governance approach for No, Low and Pro Code Development needs to be established within the company, ensuring a sustainable Enterprise Architecture based on clear roles and responsibilities.

As always, SAP is here to help SAP Builders on their low-code journey – to learn more about the products and low-code governance, follow our topic page on SAP Community.

What are your lessons learned when setting up low-code governance and a  center of excellence? Let’s have a discussion in the comments below…
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