Business app development platforms, such as HighGear’s no-code workflow platform, empower business users to create and deploy an application within a day. That’s a big claim, but it is not the big issue because the claim is easily verified. The real issue with business app development lies in how to scale successful applications and break them out of the silo within which they have been created, irrespective of whether they are created in a centralized IT department or by a citizen developer within the local department.
The key to scaling a successful workflow lies in the availability of accurate and current process documentation as well as the quality of the automation platform upon which they are built and operate.
The traditional approach to app and workflow development has been to document your process, including an “As Is” and “To Be” state. This takes time and resources, both of which detract from the real needs of the business: the swift creation and deployment of usable, effective workflows and processes.
Business teams and users need workflows they can use today and it is a given they are going to need to be changed next week or next month as business circumstances dictate. Constant change and constant demand for process change are fundamental drivers for Digital Transformation and form an increasingly important part of the fabric we live with.
Every time there is a workflow change, which creates a change in an existing application, the traditional process approach is to assess the existing state (As Is) and then create the desired state (To Be). In a fast-changing environment, this implies you either have great existing process documentation, or virtually unlimited resources to go through the To Be/As Is exercise every time you make a change.
Process and workflow professionals will already be painfully aware of what happens when you get a team in a room with a white board and an endless supply of markers and Post-It notes: organized pandemonium and an ‘unsure’ model of your “As Is” state. Equally, workflow and process documentation is typically out-of-date, poorly detailed, or non-existent, which is why process professionals almost universally try to map out the existing state as a first step.
Emergent Design and Workflow Discovery
The no code workflow solution is to not to engage in lengthy discovery, but to take an emergent design approach. That is, take a part of your workflow and map them by putting it directly into a visual workflow tool and amend that as required (as opposed to the traditional white board). This is very easily done using HighGear with a drag-and-drop GUI that requires no specialist expertise, except the knowledge of the process under review.
Once part of the process is in the tool, further peripheral elements can be added, and gradually by degrees, your real workflow emerges. Where changes or corrective amendments are required, rather than changing workflow diagrams on a white board, change them directly in the visual workflow tool.
There are several benefits to this approach:
- You map ‘real’ processes in fact not what you ‘think’ are real processes;
- The mapped workflows are now ready to be turned operational which simply requires publishing them within the workflow platform;
- You now collect data from operational workflows instead of modeled ones which rely on frequently unrealistic assumptions;
- You have automated your subject workflows which provides measurement and reporting benefits;
- With an Audit Trail feature, such as is found in HighGear, you see and monitor every change made upon the workflow platform to better manage and control workflow change; and
- Workflow and tasks can be triggered by making a change to underlying workflows, including the ability to trigger associated tasks and workflow whenever a process change is made within the system, e.g. create task “update process documentation”.
The ability to quickly change workflows and processes brings change management issues, but more than this how do you manage to scale a successful business application made by Team A, but which has common application for Teams, B, N, & P, or indeed, across the organization?
A crucial piece of the puzzle is ensuring you have detailed, accurate, and up-to-date process or application documentation.
Business app development and no code platforms are highly dynamic and flexible, allowing for very fast change. This means creating and updating process documentation must also keep pace, because a successful application or workflow is not going to find applicability with other teams and departments unless they can quickly understand how it works, and very specifically, how it can be made to work for them.
The Role of Process Documentation
Good process documentation ensures you minimize or eradicate operational ambiguity, indeed this is frequently cited as the primary reason for having documentation to begin with. By providing a road map to who needs to do what and by when within the workflow, you have an effective template that does not need to be re-mapped every time (though it may require modification for the local operational conditions).
Good process documentation acts as a collective store of institutional and operational knowledge, which can be easily and readily disseminated within the organization.
Process documentation also forms the foundation for training purposes, ensuring ‘how to’ knowledge is easily passed on to workflow and application users and those tasked with managing or administering the app or workflow. The availability of good training material significantly improves adoption by administrators and users, making the workflow more attractive to teams and departments not yet using the application.
By ensuring you have detailed and up-to-date process documentation, you not only enjoy the benefits for your own team or area of operation, but now have the key to unlocking an application for wider use in the business.
Scaling a business application requires a flexible workflow automation platform supplemented by detailed and up-to-date process documentation.
Workflow automation platforms must be capable of being used by non-specialists, for instance, a tech-savvy business analyst or a team member who understands work processes and can use a graphical UI.
Scaling an application or workflow requires a flexible work management platform, but also detailed and current process or application documentation.
Process documentation acts as a knowledge store and an educational tool which allows other administrators and users to quickly get up to speed with the application or workflow involved.