Neptune Software AS was founded in 2011 by Ole-André Haugen, Njal Stabell and Andreas Grydeland Sulejewski in Oslo, Norway. The principals had all spent years consulting in the SAP ecosystem, before establishing a product company focused on helping customers extend and modernise their SAP systems with modern application front ends. Neptune has established itself as a solid choice for SAP shops, but is now eyeing other ecosystem opportunities. While the market for general purpose low-code and no-code tools is growing quickly, the addressable opportunity for SAP extension and modernisation is itself far from saturated. For a company of Neptune’s size, with its deep domain experience with SAP systems, this remains the “go to” market play. SAP customers are used to paying significant premiums for solutions, unlike for example the pure play developer tool market.
- 60 employees
- 500+ customers, including Johnson & Johnson, the Norwegian Military and Sotheby’s New York.
Neptune Digital Experience (DX) Platform is a lightweight runtime for data and service integration – deployable as a container – which maintains state and connections between front ends and back end data services. Complex data models and tables can be exposed as APIs. NeptuneDX is also the integrated development environment (IDE) with a drag and drop interface, designed for integrating and extending back end business application services with modern front end technology. It uses a service “wiring” metaphor, with different views for different users depending on skill. NeptuneDX integrations with SAP’s proprietary ABAP language/data platform are slick, in some cases deeper than SAP’s own equivalents.
The Neptune App Designer comes in two flavours – a SAP GUI application integrated directly into the SAP IDE, or the Web App Designer, which is browser based. The other important element of the Neptune platform is the mobile client, for native and web apps on mobile clients, including offline support.
Native support for ABAP and deep integration with SAP interfaces is an advantage for customers and consultants with legacy skills, which remains the great majority of the SAP market. Neptune bypasses OData, the data integration standard, in favour of native support. Users can simply point at an ABAP Class and Neptune does the work exposing the data as service for access by the application frontend. SAP customers are always waiting for SAP to reface its app and services, as we’ve seen with multiple tech waves and SAP customisation platforms such as NetWeaver and HANA. But with so many interfaces to fix, it can seem a Sisyphean task – just as SAP gets the first few thousand interfaces supported, a new generation of integration, application programming interface (API) or front end technology comes along to support. Making ABAP developers productive in modern visual environments, and connecting directly to ABAP classes is a strong story. Neptune also supports OData, but the native integration is faster.
NeptuneDX isn’t primarily aimed at non-programmers – it is more low-code and pro-code than no-code. It doesn’t lead with a spreadsheet metaphor, for example. Rather it’s an application designer, for augmenting different developer skillsets with code generation. It supports modern UI frameworks and libraries including Vue JS, and React, but the deepest and slickest integration is still with SAP’s UI5 platform. Though SAP has open sourced UI5, the foundations of its Fiori front end platform and associated design guidelines, Open UI5 has not been widely adopted outside the SAP ecosystem itself. For Neptune DX to really shine across platforms it will need to offer a React native experience that is as good as the support for UI5.
NeptuneDX supports single sign for enterprise platforms including Microsoft Azure AD, SAML and LDAP. Active Directories Categories, Authorizations and Roles are natively supported. Extension and customisation is also supported with Node.js, including NPM support. For API development there is a test workbench, and Neptune supports swagger 2.0 for automated documentation.
Go to market
We have discussed the SAP integration story extensively above, but it’s worth considering wider contextual plays where Neptune Software has achieved some traction. While the term “Digital Transformation” is overused, it remains a context used by associated buyers in various line of business functions, notably marketing and sales, not just IT.
A related market with some currency is Customer Experience Management. One strong advantage of playing in CEM is the partners that it self selects – services companies and agencies doing high value client work, rather than low level outsourcing style providers.
One interesting opportunity is Neptune DX as a brand management platform. The pattern emerged at one of the company’s automotive clients. Visual and brand guidelines are implemented as code, with developers building employee or client-facing apps that utilise these enforced guidelines. The current buzzword, or emerging trend, for this kind of approach is Design Systems. Design Systems are about consistency and repeatability, but are too often a designer, rather than a developer-led concern. NeptuneDX can be used to allow designers to set visual guidelines.
Neptune competes with low-code platforms such as Betty Blocks, Google AppSheet, Mendix, and Outsystems. Its deep SAP domain experience is a strong differentiator, but it is currently not as well positioned as a general purpose platform. Low-code and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are both exploding as enterprises attempt to drive digital transformation narratives and strategies, while being reliant on legacy packaged applications such as SAP and Oracle, or born in the cloud SaaS platforms such as Salesforce, SuccessFactors and Workday.
Cloud integration is going to be increasingly important to these customers, and that’s one area where Neptune will need to increase its footprint. SaaS go to market plays are the most effective customer acquisition model for software today.