Every company has a variety of software tools that they use to ensure that their business functions properly and that there is organization within the back end of these technologies. However, many of these tools are often costly and have a slow time to value.
As the need for fast paced technology applications has evolved, the concept of low code development emerged as an alternative solution, with Covid advancing that pace even more. As low code projects become bigger and take on more complex responsibilities, there comes a need for business process management. One thing is for certain, low code platforms are here to stay.
WHAT IS LOW CODE DEVELOPMENT
Low code development is a visual approach to software development, allowing someone the ability to automate and build applications and processes with, you guessed it, little to no code. What that really means is that business users can build their own solutions. According to a recent Gartner report, in 2021 alone, they expect the low code market to grow by 23% and to make up to 65% of the market space by 2024. With numbers like that, it is hard to imagine not incorporating low code technologies, like Microsoft Power Platform, into your software suite.
LOW CODE & ERP
Over the years, we have learned from the world of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) that aligning with the business users at the process management level is critical to overall success. ERP processes are complicated and process design decisions can cause cost overruns that often only become visible when it is too late. It is all about transparent alignment with the customer in the design phase. The key is to align with customers at the business process level in a language they understand, in order to manage scope, mitigate risks, contain cost and increase user adoption and customer satisfaction.
As low code enterprise business applications increasingly are becoming more complicated, similar rules apply. What’s more, low code projects are adjacent to existing ERP systems. Examples of complex low-code applications are in the following domains: compliance & regulations, retail store operations and field service management. For example, trade promotion management for offering discounts to retail stores. Being able to build these solutions in house ultimately saves companies from spending extra on point solutions.
In short, low code platforms are growing very fast and are becoming increasingly complex. When processes cross a certain complexity threshold, the need for business process modelling and governance becomes important.
ADVANTAGES OF LOW CODE DEVELOPMENT
There are plenty of low hanging fruit solutions that can be quickly created without having to write code. Even complex applications can start simple and then be upgraded to something more robust and scalable when the need arises. Although low code is built for simplicity as a tool for business users (citizen development) the reality is that more complex applications still require support from IT. Modelling applications at the business process level allows the business users to seamlessly work together with the business architects from IT and produce rich applications faster and cheaper. Business Process Management (BPM) provides a visual language that bridges the gap between Business and IT. Beyond a framework for aligning the business and the business architects from IT organizations, BPM allows for a standardized way of working with the offshore teams of IT and System Integrator partners.
As technology has evolved, so have the development methodologies, which for example are seen in Microsoft PowerApps, one of the low code/no code platforms in the market.
Microsoft Power Platform is a suite of apps, services, connectors and a data platform that provides a rapid enterprise application development environment to build apps using multiple ways: canvas apps, model driven apps, hybrid apps, or apps without front end like Power Automate flows. Model driven apps provide a predefined, out of the box UI framework and allow for the fastest development. Out of the box, the UI provides very rich functionalities like CRUD operations (create, read, update, delete), search, filtering, etc. This provides advantages for users in that there is less time spent on the UI and more productivity on the project. Moreover, model driven apps have a built-in UI for business process flows that guide the users of the applications through multiple steps to reach an end goal.
For example, guiding sales users from the initial lead to closing an order and beyond. BPM can be used to govern the creation of complex Business Process Flow UI applications. Many large Enterprise-level organizations have thousands of Excel applications. An important advantage of migrating some of those Excel applications to a platform like Power Apps Model driven apps, is that the data will now be available in a database and have a modern scalable web-based UI with a robust security structure. Business Process Management can provide the tools to support this migration.
Business Process Management
Business process management or BPM for short, is a discipline aimed at coordinating the behavior of systems, people, and information to achieve the desired business outcome. For example: improved service response time, improved customer experience or faster order to cash. Most importantly, it is a tool to help collaborate with business users who have a solid understanding of the processes they have established and that they require. True citizen development.
Business processes are not only the main component in starting to define a solution for implementation, but they are also the functional language that is necessary for alignment within a business.
In order to describe future solutions, current processes in the organizations must be understood by all stakeholders thoroughly, which can be done using a methodology known as Process Mining. Process Mining is an application that helps you map out where you are right now using clear and defined visual diagrams and workflows connected to your operational model. Because these processes are connected to the operational model, the actions are shown in real time, which not only allows for continuous improvement by keeping processes and implementation in sync, but also creates a visual road map of the “as is” to your “to be” future vision. This allows you to start with a standardized approach and add your industry models as you build and re-define your roadmap.
BPM becomes more than visual models in combination with scalable low code platforms, such as Microsoft Power Platform. While traditionally BPM has emphasized operational efficiency through standardization, with the advent of low code platform, it can also be used to govern the rapid pace of digital transformation. What’s more, BPM can support the automation of DevOps (work items and instructions) and testing plus support the process related to user adoption.
THE FUTURE OF BPM AND BEYOND
Low code, in combination with BPM, allows for faster and interactive digital transformation. By using BPM for governance, companies can reduce risk, avoid cost overruns and miscommunication. Companies that do this consistently are building a digital twin of an organization (DTO). A DTO, or virtual copy of your organization, not only helps you to decide what is causing problems and what needs to be fixed, but also shows you how it can be molded into something better. DTO is a superset of BPM for your entire organization, while helping to prioritize which applications have the highest need to be built.