Recent technology developments and transformations in workflow solutions
By Stephan Blasilli, Lean & Corporate Initiatives Director, EDP Renewables North America and John Stretton, Business Analysis Manager, EDP Renewables North America
Recent technology developments in workflow solutions are offering companies unprecedented opportunities. Some key business drivers behind these opportunities are:
- Facilitate collaboration across teams
- Increase visibility of work queues
- Improve accuracy of data
- Preserve institutional knowledge
- Help employees/customers navigate issues
- Unify data from disparate systems to one UI
2. Understand how your employees work
In simple terms, we can divide work into rigid and unstructured processes. The following table lists key characteristics of both types.
Understanding this basic idea will help to separate solutions better suited for each type of work.
3. Functional requirements
Taking digitalization and changing business requirements into account, companies need workflow solutions that provide the following benefits.
• Quick changes to processes and business rules
• Constant chain of custody
• Schedule processes to run automatically
• Real-time reporting/analytics
Generally, workflow solutions can be divided into the following 3 areas:
a) Low/no code development platforms
Market-leading platforms that used to bill themselves as intelligent Business Process Management Systems (iBPMS) have transitioned to become fully-fledged application development platforms with a focus on database-backed records. The idea remains the same: the creation of application software through graphical UIs and configuration instead of custom coding. Low/no code development platforms provide the following benefits:
• Address the specific process needs of the organization
• Allow for quick creation/changes to the process
• Mobile support with little to no additional design effort
• Interaction with relational databases
• Enable citizen development of prototype solutions
Leading low-code platforms provide further benefits. Designers with no web development experience can create complex features of modern web applications that would otherwise require a significant amount of custom code. Examples include dynamic interfaces and RESTful API endpoints.
b) Frameworks (Case Management, CRM)
Framework combine patterns of common characteristics of a process, such as resolving a problem or interacting with a customer. Frameworks are often used in conjunction with low/no code development platforms and/or are built on top of these platforms. Frameworks allow for the usage of a predefined structure such as the process flow or business rules.
c) Intelligent automation (bots, machine learning, AI)
Many workflow solutions offer automation capabilities. As with low/no code development platforms, recent automation solutions focus on graphical UIs and configuration or recording instead of custom coding. The “intelligence” comes from integration with machine learning/AI services. A modern example is RPA, or Robotic Process Automation. RPA platforms allow designers to record an employee’s interaction with desktop software such as ERP systems, emails, and word processing, and then performs the automation by repeating those tasks. The simplicity of RPA technology enables citizen development of prototypes, allowing the experts to focus on more complex, higher-value work.