I was fortunate to be able to attend SMART PROC 2016 recently, with a slew of military and federal government procurement attendees, and this gave me a great opportunity to discuss some of the major issues confronting federal government buyers. A common theme was how their budgets are being squeezed, but the drive for performance and efficiency has increased.

Speaking with several system integrators, you can see how this is reflected with their margins being tightly squeezed, and they don’t think this is going to get better anytime soon. Decreased federal spending is the new normal, and with a president-elect who does not seem too worried about protocols or the rule book, perhaps the federal deficit is going to be tackled. Whatever your opinion or political persuasion, getting money (and margin) out of federal contracts is going to increasingly feel like squeezing blood from a stone.

Do More with Less

But lack of funding does not mean lack of innovation, or demand for next-generation solutions driven by developments in Mobile, Big Data, Internet of Things, and Cloud Computing.

We are in the age of delivery of innovation and tangible performance enhancement, but within an increasingly tight budget.

What this means is that the development of custom or point solutions is increasingly going to take a back seat. They soak up huge budget allocations and resources to develop, while the support and training costs associated with a unique, custom solution can become astronomical and have been a fertile source of funds for federal contractors. With those federal dollars drying up, the days of the big, custom deployments are over.

Instead, the need is to deliver technical solutions for the challenges actually being faced, but to achieve required solutions with a lot less effort, greater speed and a lot less cost. This requires a change in approach and mindset, but more pertinently demands a change in the type of technology being deployed.

The latest generation of process automation tools allow for exceptionally fast deployment of business applications and solutions. Unless there is heavy integration work, there is no need for a heavy lift from a development team which accounts for a lot of the cost and time taken to deliver requirements. Not only is a large chunk of overhead removed from the equation, but the latency involved with ramping up a dev team to meet customer deliverables is greatly reduced, and there should be no misjudging by how much: what took months can now be done in hours or a couple of days.

This has enormous implications for costs, because the dev team and the time they need to deliver requirements, accounts for a significant slice of total costs. More than this, if we move from a cost focus to the value being delivered, fast deployment of low code and no code tools means that the people tasked with delivering tax payer value get to an ROI that much faster. With the drive for performance being elevated up the priority list of federal buyers, the BPM-lite providers can make a compelling case for deployment. If a low code or Lean BPM solution can deliver applications in days as opposed to months, and more importantly they work well with little to no support, then why invest in a point solution or the army of contractors needed to make them work?

Low code and in particular, Lean BPM, are major disruptors in this technology space. They are not simply low cost alternatives to traditional BPM toolkits, or to custom solutions, they are exceptionally fast and incredibly flexible, capable of producing a working business application for a fraction of the cost and in a fraction of the time of the historical approach. HighGear has invested very heavily in improving UX, with a sleek, modern-looking intuitive interface. While you need power under the hood, an NSA director I spoke with made a very clear point: tools need to be deployed that make the work of those at the coal face easier, and that they like using themselves, rather than deploying tools that make management happy.

Lean BPM tools, of which HighGear is the pioneer, take low code BPM to a new level. Lean BPM solutions are capable of being used by non-specialists themselves, i.e. the analyst, the contracts officer, CTOR, manager or supervisor. HighGear’s Lean BPM solution is currently deployed by NASA, US Marines, FDA, DLA and others in the government, military and private sector. HighGear only requires a 3-day administrator training course to show users how to build applications and workflows using a drag-and-drop Visual Workflow Designer. There is no need for any coding or development skills at all, unless there is integration work beyond Excel spreadsheets or an Access database.

That is a truly remarkable development, but HighGear and other providers are creating the platforms within which ordinary business people can create the solutions they need without IT help or support. This massively reduces the cost and speeds up delivery of solutions to the end-user, while providing a significant increase in value for taxpayers.