There’s workflow automation, and then there’s workflow “automation.” We’re all trying to move faster, better adapt to changes, and be more efficient. Sometimes, in that flurry of activity, we automate with a tiny asterisk of human dependence, error potentiality, or legacy reliance. It’s only that one database that’s in spreadsheet form—it’s just temporary!

If digital transformation is on your 2021-22 roadmap, then you know about these hiccups that stand in the way of intelligent automation—and digitalization—for your organization.

With low-code process automation, you create an ecosystem for end-to-end automation, eliminating the opportunity for trapped processes to grow between the cracks of high-cost, short-lived, tool-based fixes. You don’t have to worry about how your business process automation project will integrate with your systems and data. Instead, you can focus on the ideal solution for the process, not just the best possible solution with your one-off tool’s limited scope.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of trapped processes, how they could be slowing your enterprise down, and how low-code offers solutions that lead to full digital transformation.

Spreadsheets make lousy databases

Spreadsheets are not databases. People waste inordinate amounts of time keeping data synchronized and error-free in spreadsheets—and are still only marginally successful. It’s nearly impossible to find and view data across multiple workbooks, and yet spreadsheets are insidious in how necessary they become within a departmental workflow.

Let’s face it—we’re never going to concatenate our way to digital transformation. It’s time to stop using spreadsheets as Maslow’s Hammer. To quote Maslow, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”

Spreadsheets are fragile and limited, with little value when it comes to reusability, scalability, or automation. We’ve let our familiarity with Excel and Google Sheets compel us into using spreadsheets to solve business process management problems—where they don’t belong.

Even if spreadsheets could perform the same way databases do, they’d still be unreliable. Enterprise users need to accomplish the jobs they set out to do with confidence in the accuracy, security, and accessibility of the data they are using. There’s no time for second-guessing formulas, worrying about input errors, or tracking version histories on locally stored laptops that are rarely backed up.

With a low-code application platform (LCAP), you can turn your Excel spreadsheet into an application in less time than it takes to “Σ” a column of sales invoice totals. For more robust use cases, Mendix Data Hub—the world’s first low-code integration platform—provides secure access to curated data across the enterprise. Data in applications is everything a spreadsheet isn’t: secure, easy to use, continuously backed up, controllable, infinitely accessible, and collaborative. Creating reliable integrations from enterprise and external data sources is an easy feat.

Related Reading: 7 Reasons Why You Should Automate Workflows with a Low-Code Platform

When processing leads to ‘does not compute’

Invoices take on many incarnations throughout their lifespan. They may start as Microsoft Word documents, moonlight as PDFs, and then eventually turn into paper. Some are shared as file transfers or cloud links. They are included in emails, texts, and even—help us—faxed to customers. In the journey of invoice processing at your enterprise, how many touchpoints exist? How many opportunities are there for human error or unnecessary delays?

Perhaps your enterprise has purchased a robotic process automation (RPA) tool to handle this thorny issue of invoice processing. Great news: things will go much faster now! Maybe your tool can utilize capabilities such as optical character recognition to interpret unstructured data, and maybe it reduces human error and even reconciles computational errors.

But then what? Is that invoicing data accessible and actionable to the greater company, outside of the accounting silo in which it exists? Is your RPA tool built to incorporate innovation and disruption, with no technical debt or trapped processes behind the scenes?

With low-code process automation, there’s no reason to lose sleep every time you deploy an update that touches your invoicing workflow. The low-code approach is ready for tomorrow. For one thing, a low-code platform is more than just a 1:1 tool-to-problem fix. Low-code allows you to build limitless solutions to limitless problems through a holistic approach.

Integrated systems infrastructure solutions require a baseline that isn’t available in a singular tool or a disparate collection of tools. LCAPs create an end-to-end solution built for today, but with open and extensible architecture at the platform, model, and application level that makes it ready for tomorrow. Low-code makes it easy to make data actionable, build intelligent applications, and incorporate AI, IoT, and predictive analytics.

Sharing is saving—both time and money

Poor road signage, classes with right-hand-only desks, pull handles on push doors—bad user experiences leads to more work for the user. And so does tunnel-vision development and a lack of collaboration between those who know how something should be built and those who know how to build something.

Not all process management solutions offer opportunities for collaboration or are even friendly to non-technical users. RPA, for instance, offers no meaningful opportunity for impactful collaboration between the business and the IT department. Intelligent business process management suites (iBPMS) may start with the business, but the technical learning curve takes off shortly after, edging the non-technical users out of the collaborative process.

Including the domain expert, getting business-side feedback, or—imagine this—encouraging citizen developers to take part in their own app’s creation will move your organization one click closer to digital transformation. The truth is, if an enterprise is going to stay fit and resilient through innovation and disruption, then that organization is going to need to foster business-inclusive development.

The Mendix platform has dual integrated development environments (IDEs), on which both professional and citizen developers can build, collaborate, and just generally get stuff done. Business users and citizen developers can use Mendix Studio to create the visual and functional UI requirements and then hand off the high-tech work to a pro, informing the process and saving the dev’s valuable time. Business users can even build simple apps end-to-end and deploy their projects themselves—all within IT-sanctioned guardrails. There are no momentum stall-outs. There is no reason to go hunting for an off-brand or shadow IT solution—the work is getting done on schedule or faster.

Mendix Studio Pro is for IT professionals and comprises a powerful set of capabilities required to build enterprise-grade, transactional, web and mobile applications. Cut down on the repetitive, complex integrations, save time with model-driven development, and easily collaborate with stakeholders. There are no tiresome process redundancies. A visual development environment is a common language that both IT and business professionals share.

“But I’m not a programmer.”

If you’re skeptical about the impact citizen developers and no-code enthusiasts can have on an organization, get to know Inga Wenzel, a purchasing business analyst for global automotive technology leader Continental.

Inga has never written a line of code in her life. As a purchasing analyst, she saw the need for a self-service portal for ordering replacement tools. She co-developed an application with the help of her product manager and an IT counterpart, and they built a tool using Mendix that integrated cleanly with their SAP ERP system in just four weeks.

See why and how Continental did it

You can’t piecemeal digital transformation without a platform

Access databases, Google sheets, free samples of project management software, and even a collection of the hottest COTS solutions for automation—these will help you solve independent workflow efficiency problems. However, they cannot help you automate end to end, even with machine learning, deep learning, or advanced analytics capabilities of intelligent automation.

Only a low-code platform like Mendix creates an ecosystem that fosters collaboration while allowing your enterprise to scale in step with the innovations and disruptions down the road. What good is a collection of perfectly optimized processes if their output data is siloed and inaccessible to team members that need to leverage it? What good is automation if it rests on a fulcrum of shadow IT and error-prone manual processes?

To compete in today’s—and tomorrow’s—enterprise environment, you need to know how to build for the human in the loop, grow with technological disruption and innovation, and bolster efficiency. Approach your automation project with Mendix and build applications that will prepare your organization for what’s next.