There aren\u2019t enough programmers in the world to meet the demand for new business applications.\nEnterprises are having to supplement their central application development groups with other resources, equipping business staff with low-code and no-code development platforms and robotic process automation (RPA) tools that enable them to take on some of the programming workload.\n\n[ Comparison shopping? See "The best ERP systems:10 enterprise resource planning systems compared," with evaluations and user reviews. | Learn why companies are increasingly moving to cloud ERP and how to spot the 10 early warning signs of ERP disaster. | Get weekly insights by signing up for our CIO Leader newsletter. ]\n\nThe situation is particularly difficult for enterprises reliant on SAP, as the reimplementation of legacy R\/3 applications in the cloud on SAP S\/4HANA is occupying developers that might have been developing new functionality instead.\nNow SAP has an answer \u2014 or rather three answers \u2014 in the shape of the SAP Cloud Platform Extensions that it unveiled during its online TechEd developer event in December 2020. The three process automation tools are SAP Cloud Platform Workflow Management for low-code automation of enterprise workflows, including between its ERP and Qualtrics customer experience platforms; SAP Ruum for business users with no coding skills to automate departmental processes; and SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation 2.0, a limited edition of which will be included with every S\/4HANA Cloud subscription from January 2021.\nSAP launched Version 1.0 of its intelligent RPA tool in mid-2018, and acquired a small French RPA software vendor, Contextor, in November of that year. But it had not been as present in the RPA space as, say, Microsoft, which launched Power Automate (then known as Flow in 2016), including some of its capabilities for free with Office 365 licenses.\n\u201cMicrosoft's Power Platform has been a catalyst in the growth of low-code,\u201d said Daniel Newman, principal analyst at Futurum Research. \u201cIt's encouraging to see SAP put more effort into its RPA and low-code offerings.\u201d\nSAP will have to fight for its place at the RPA table, though: \u201cWe are seeing other enterprise software leaders, including Salesforce, Oracle, ServiceNow, Amazon Web Services, and Google, all make significant investments into low-code to drive the growth of citizen app development,\u201d said Newman.\nA brake on innovation\nOne challenge for SAP is that RPA pure-plays such as UiPath, Blue Prism, and Automation Anywhere have built huge revenue streams based on integration with its software and the bots built using their tools, while solving enterprises\u2019 immediate business problems, become one more piece of legacy code standing in the way of innovation.\nThat can be bad for enterprises, preventing them from transforming processes \u2014 and also for SAP, as a lot of its revenue depends on enterprises migrating and upgrading to S\/4HANA, according to Forrester vice president and principal analyst Craig Le Clair.\nWhile RPA began as a way to eliminate bursts of repetitive human activity, automating specific tasks of short duration, it\u2019s more powerful when combined with orchestration capabilities that can reform and transform a process end to end, according to Le Clair.\nSAP\u2019s first foray into RPA took it in the wrong direction, according to Le Clair. \u201cThey tried to build their own RPA solution internally which only dealt with APIs,\u201d he said. \u201cThe whole point of RPA is to integrate with the existing interface, the existing applications directly, exactly as a human would, and the benefit of that is that you don\u2019t need to build APIs.\u201d\nThe company\u2019s new offering is putting it back on track. \u201cSimplifying processes within SAP will be well received by customers, as well as enterprise users,\u201d said Newman.\nThe ability of end users in the enterprise to \u201cown\u201d their automation destiny is important, according to Holger Mueller, principal analyst at Constellation Research.\n\u201cThere are not enough developers, so enterprises are looking for ways to create a fit for their enterprise apps and overall automation needs \u2014 and that includes business users with \u2018light\u2019 tech awareness \u2014 to create the automation they need,\u201d said Mueller.\nForrester\u2019s Le Clair warned of the fundamental tension in giving more accountability in design, development, and automation to business users. On the one hand, he said, CIOs take a risk in allowing development without proper operating models and governance, but on the other, business units drive the development better because they understand the business. \u201cYour data scientists should be in the business because they understand the model that replicates what the business is doing, that\u2019s the theory,\u201d he said.\nSecurity issues\nThere\u2019s plenty of work in RPA for IT departments, said Constellation\u2019s Mueller: \u201cCIOs need to make sure these applications are not creating a security issue or data residency issue.\u201d\nFor Le Clair, there are other aspects of automation and low-code development that CIOs will need to provide guidance on, including security, coding standards, and design.\nPassword management alone is a huge concern when RPA bots are on the loose. \u201cThese bots use the same credentials as a human does to get into the most trusted applications that a company has,\u201d Le Clair said, warning that an effective policy to ensure these credentials don\u2019t get into the wrong hands could run to 25 pages: \u201cSecure, encrypted vaults for the credentials, that\u2019s just one aspect.\u201d\nAnd then there\u2019s the question of how many RPA platforms an enterprise should allow.\n\u201cOne of the problems that SAP will have is that companies probably have two or three RPA solutions already,\u201d Le Clair said. \u201cAre they going to use what they\u2019ve already purchased and have in four different departments that don\u2019t have anything to do with SAP, or are they going to bring a new one in and allow that automation capability to proliferate in the organization? That\u2019s going to be an issue.\u201d\nRationalization is part of a good operating model and governance strategy, but he still sees room for at least two automation platforms in most organizations, in part because the products on the market tend to be specialized in either back-office functions or front-office functions such as customer service or contact center automation.\n\u201cYou could see a company having one of the more back-office oriented\u00a0 RPA solutions, and you could see it having one more for the front office.\u201d\nSAP\u2019s RPA platform may have an edge in enterprises highly reliant on its ERP platform, according to Le Clair. \u201cYou do avoid some of the licensing costs when you do that because if it\u2019s an SAP RPA capability integrating with an SAP core system, that\u2019s considered intra-SAP and therefore there\u2019s no license fee for that.\u201d\nWhile RPA came into existence to fill in for a lack of programmers, there\u2019s a chance it could end up creating more of them, according to Mueller.\n\u201cMany business users have told me that their low-code\/no-code experiences have made them better with full-code projects as well,\u201d he said.