Be agile or retain processes? Can't we do both?
Businesses have to move fast if they want to survive. It’s simple market Darwinism - a firm either moves quickly, acts quickly, and evolves quickly, or it becomes a competitor’s lunch quickly. Conversely, project-focused collaboration between different teams, and longer-term strategizing both require time and thought to ensure successful results. How then can today’s businesses move fast enough to stay competitive, yet still retain the processes that facilitate their daily activity?
One answer is a relatively new entrant into the field of Modern Applications: Process Driven Applications (PDA). At its heart, a Process Driven Application is a workflow engine; essentially an automated flowchart that pushes business activity from person to person, through each step of a process, until the process is complete. In simpler terms, the engine enables your users and data to interact quickly, and do so entirely within the context of your business process.
Retaining that context is what differentiates PDAs from other, prefab workflow programs. Off-the-shelf programs can be static, requiring that you adjust your processes to fit their hard-coded workflows. But changing your processes means changing what makes your firm unique. Your processes define how you interact with your customers, employees, partners, suppliers, and stakeholders. Discarding them means tossing everything that’s gotten you to where you are.
Process Driven Applications turn this issue on its head. The engine requires that you input the workflows that have become ingrained in the business culture. In so doing, the PDA operates while also being completely noninvasive. Every one of your firm’s unique habits, workflows, steps, and protocols are retained and incorporated into the engine. Moreover, you can accommodate the different UX needs of different user types precisely because PDAs are designed specifically to accommodate distinctiveness. Instead of one size fits all, it’s your size fits you.
To illustrate, consider a pair of real-world applications. The first is a flowchart that comes courtesy of our partners at Red Hat. Here, a lending firm’s processes span basic qualification procedures, account managers, and mortgage lenders. Each diamond in the flowchart triggers an action from the application to the subsequent nodes in the process. For example, after running the mortgage calculations to determine if the buyer qualifies for a loan, the system will follow steps established by the firm to either begin a property appraisal, or will prompt the mortgage lender to increase the down payment. The steps are all in place and codified so that they are repeatable with every new situation.
The second use case is a medical clinic with entirely different processes from the lending firm, yet still guided step-by-step via the automated PDA routing. The patient walks in, kicking off a process in the administrative part of the office to obtain demographic history, insurance verification, and financial screening and counseling if necessary. From there, the process moves to the examination, where the staff measures the patient’s vital signs, documents the reason for the visit, and orders additional lab work and a referral to a specialist. The PDA system then informs the lab and the specialist of the patient’s situation and provides relevant information gathered during the visit. Finally, during the checkout phase, the front desk will take payment if the patient is uninsured or establish a payment plan, and then schedule a future visit. Again, each step and its ensuing steps have been established by this specific clinic and moved along by the application to the next step in the chain.
The secret to the PDA’s success is that it runs entirely in the background, independent of your established systems and interfaces, giving it enormous flexibility to perform in a wide variety of industries. Instead, it operates between the actions in your processes, communicating with your existing systems via their APIs. Everything moves automatically and everything is done according to your firm’s established processes, using the same tools everyone is used to.
And what of changes? After all, updates to your business processes - even external ones like new compliance regulation or a customer’s new payment system - can have drastic downstream impact if employees struggle to adapt. But remember that the PDA is built on flowcharts. As a result, updating your practical workflows merely requires an update to the flowchart which many PDA interfaces enable using drag-and-drop functionality. In such cases, actually implementing the change throughout the organization may be faster and easier than making the decision to change.
Ultimately, you want to arrange your business for its own optimal performance. Digitizing and modernizing your processes with a Process Driven Application can be central to retaining the competitive advantage your processes create. Successfully integrate a PDA, and yours may be the next company feasting on the competition.