As part of Solutions Review’s Expert Insights Series—a collection of contributed articles written by industry experts in enterprise software categories—Ebenezer Schubert, the VP of Engineering at OutSystems, explains how companies can harness high-performance low-code to optimize their business process management (BPM) initiatives.
The BPM market is expected to be valued at $14.4 billion by 2025, according to Statista. However, the work demanded of people in BPM is so high that they’re unlikely to achieve it without automation and shortcuts. While BPM is more important than ever to attaining efficient business operations, it requires a lot of time-consuming, hand-coded work on the part of employees.
With so many static rules to implement and processes to monitor, people are stretched thinner, with little time to unleash the total value of BPM. What’s more, the pandemic heightened the need for businesses to digitally transform, which has added pressure on BPM and automation requirements.
Enter: low-code technology, which can automate the busywork to make room for business-driven, strategic process management. Amid increased demands on employees’ time, and as they’re being asked to achieve more with fewer resources, high-performance low-code offers the perfect opportunity to optimize BPM and leave behind any notions that automation is inferior.
Increased BPM Burden Falls On Individual Businesses
There is a burden for most companies to become software companies to handle the everyday tasks of running a business, from processing digital transactions to logging customer service tickets. This puts a premium on software development skills that can differentiate a business from its competition. Previously, companies like SAP carried much of the burden for enterprises in managing BPM and automation with out-of-the-box solutions that could work for most.
However, the growing complexity of the hybrid enterprise environment, caused by the proliferation of SaaS, has made it so that every organization needs to tailor business processes to work uniquely for them. With the renewed and more urgent focus on digital transformation, companies’ business processes need to be agile and their data integrated rather than siloed to compete with digital native alternatives.
What’s more, while the need for scale and efficiency drives the movement to the cloud, operating in cloud infrastructure requires companies to adjust their security posture. When BPM automation happens at scale, security becomes more complicated, and securing infrastructure via automation must be done carefully.
Organizations are rapidly transforming to meet these needs. Remote work settings and the new generation of the digital native workforce have added a lot of nonfunctional requirements to the business process apps, making every internal business process a digital experience. Customer experience also now needs to be codified in digital experience. The advancement in online transactions and the reach of the internet has put a burden on automating customer business processes digitally.
For example, during the pandemic, most companies scrambled to create completely digital onboarding processes. In the real estate industry, established firms without a strategy to implement digital onboarding were disrupted by digital-native companies like Redfin. Similarly, restaurant chains that could not alter their business processes to be digitally native lost margins when they had to adopt an aggregator like DoorDash.
From this, we learned that an enterprise’s cloud infrastructure now needs to be technically sound and secure and optimized for speed, scale, innovation, and time to value for business outcomes. That’s far more complicated than it used to be, thanks to the increased complexity of enterprise infrastructure and a growing number of silos across organizations. This can be a lot for professionals specializing in BPM to handle. With the stakes this high, businesses cannot afford to mire their BPM teams in the muck; they need to focus on delivering value. Low-code platforms provide a great way to deal with these challenges and meet BPM needs.
Developer Skills Needed, But Time is Short
The expectations of developers are significantly higher than before. A recent LinkedIn report suggests that the skills developers need to do their jobs well have changed by 38 percent since 2015 (compared to the workforce average of 25 percent). Increasingly, software developers and managers are being asked to do it all—build an application, drive engagement, deliver sales and improve features and processes.
It would be nearly impossible for even the most talented developers and BPM professionals to do this without assistance. Infusing low-code and automation techniques doesn’t take away their work. Instead, it removes the slow, painful process of hand-testing, triage, and busy work to allow them to focus on the pressing business issues that need their attention.
Starting Down the Road of Low-Code in BPM
Incorporating automation and high-performance low-code into BPM processes is not an overnight task. Instead, it requires a true understanding of the business, the pain points that both technical and line-of-business employees feel, and a willingness to try new things. Here are three ways to get started.
Integrate low-code into the business process documentation, testing, and launch process.
Creating new business processes can take hours, days, or even weeks if each component of a process or application goes through an update by hand. Highow-code tools can create repeating processes for easier composability and time-saving, allowing teams to develop smart shortcuts and implement new processes more quickly.
Don’t stop with the design process.
Implementation is one thing; iteration, updates, and improvements to business processes are quite another. Code composability and reuse are essential to pushing out efficient, high-quality updates that truly benefit business users. Build these technical requirements into the cycle.
Try freemiums where appropriate.
A team starting small strategically can benefit from trying low-code and automation software available as freemiums to determine what works best for their organization. They can always scale (and pay) later once they’ve decided they’re moving in the right direction.
Designate efficiency champions on the team.
Automation and high-performance low-code aren’t job eliminators but job aides. However, it takes more than technology to change people’s mindsets. It’s important to encourage employees to experiment with and use low-code tools like RPA from the ground up. Designating an “efficiency” champion on a developer or business process team can ensure that someone is taking the lead in confirming that the team is spending time on the processes, technologies, and time-savers that genuinely make a difference to their teams.
I’ve seen this combined approach of technology iteration and culture change work in my professional experience. For example, my team worked with a top U.S. telecommunications company, which needed to modernize its extensive, distributed application portfolio while keeping efficiency in mind and keeping employees from burning out. We helped them identify their pain points and priorities (speed, improved user and employee experience, and lower costs). What made this stand apart were resources, including reusable low-code assets, advanced SDLC automation, guard rails for data governance, and training to make it easier for process developers and engineers to upskill.
This process doesn’t happen all at once. It can start with a single procedure, project, or program and scale as appropriate. The IT department will always have a backlog of unsolved problems and operations. However, developers can start where they choose to automate them, and folks in lines of business can be trained to repurpose these processes for their own needs.
The need for organizational efficiency will only grow as the average enterprise becomes more complex in infrastructure, data share, and application development. If businesses don’t invest in the strategies to help their BPM professionals adapt, they will hit an innovation ceiling and peak burnout.
Heads of business transformation, enterprise architects, and people who work on business efficiency have a unique opportunity to unleash strategic innovation and help their teams provide value immediately. This takes education on the benefits of low-code in reviewing and improving processes, the focus on creating a culture of innovation, and a promise that this will help developers and process-minded teammates rather than hindering them.
- How to Harness High-Performance Low-Code To Optimize BPM - January 20, 2023