Finding the right solution to automate processes is a challenge.
Hopefully we can help make that search a little easier.
Enterprise process automation is tricky and crucial. Across a large organization departments are operating on dozens of processes that have been digitized or automated to varying degrees.
Some of these departments are begging for IT’s help to fix their outdated workflows. Others have “solved” their own problems with freemiums and macro-rich spreadsheets.
Both scenarios are risky and need to be addressed with a sustainable, long-term solution. (Which one is scarier is kind of a toss up).
Why automate processes with low-code?
Enterprise process automation isn’t just about one department or just one process. It’s about fully automating all processes in all departments from end-to-end.
This is a technically complex undertaking that, even once everything is automated and running smoothly, doesn’t end. Because processes change and evolve all the time.
So not only do you need to build seamless, consumer-grade digital solutions to replace error-prone manual workflows or ancient databases – you also need to design them to be changeable so they can adapt as the business evolves.
If you automate processes with a low-code platform you can create flexible solutions at speed and scale.
Build with the business
A collaborative low-code platform makes it possible to include domain experts in the development lifecycle. Developers and users can work together, speak the same (visual) language and continuously improve and refine solutions.
Adapt and evolve processes
Business priorities are dynamic and change is constant. Solutions built on a low-code platform are scalable, adaptable, and portable so you can address changes to existing processes and solutions quickly and as the business demands, regardless of what gets thrown at you.
Get the data right
Developers need reliable, timely access to correct, up-to-date data when automating processes. Using a low-code platform that includes data integration developers can find, understand, and use data from multiple sources, including internal and external systems, without compromising data security.
Tailor the UX
A process has multiple users who each play a distinct role in that workflow. Low-code lets you provide each user with intuitive experiences for their specific role, optimized for their device of their choice.
Maintain control and visibility
End users “automating” process on their own leads to a chaotic mess of high-risk scenarios. Building solutions with a low-code platform prevents shadow IT and ensures that all processes meet internal and external compliance requirements.
Reuse common elements
Processes differ across departments, but many of them contain similar or identical functions or actions. Unlike with other process automation solutions, “Mendix makes it easy to” reuse workflows, integrations, and components you built for one process in another.
What is intelligent automation?
Traditional workflow automation prevents rework, helps free up your employees’ time, and provides operational benefits. But instead of looking at process automation as your endgame, view it as just the beginning.
One approach to end-to-end workflow automation is Intelligent Automation.
Intelligent automation combines artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and process orchestration to create adaptable, comprehensive workflows. Intelligent automation takes even more of the tedium out of repetitive, vital tasks by augmenting or replacing a lot of the human decision-making required in static workflows.
When you automate intelligently you can provide users with the most optimized experience, creating as effortless an interaction as possible for each user within each process. Intelligent processes are also adaptable – AI and ML embedded in the solutions learn continuously as users complete and interact with the workflow.
Address the spreadsheet sprawl
Spreadsheets are the new paper.
End users have been using Excel and Access to “automate” tasks or parts of workflows for years. These spreadsheets and databases are emailed around or saved to Sharepoint sites and contain a wealth of data and a glut of mistakes. Updating the rows and columns and maintaining the integrity of complex macros and formulas is time-consuming and error-prone. It’s also almost impossible to either implement or enforce reliable access controls.
More sophisticated – and more compliant – process orchestration isn’t possible until these spreadsheets and databases are truly automated and exist in a digital form that IT can maintain and update.
For developers to build solutions to replace these spreadsheets they often need to access multiple systems of record. Their productivity is hampered by having to figure out several connection points and APIs.
When developers use Mendix to automate processes they can pull the information they need from a single source of truth. Data Hub makes it possible for developers to drag and drop the requisite data source directly into the application.
A low-code platform also enables developers and users to collaborate throughout the application development lifecycle. Users can test MVPs that will run on accurate source data– right in the platform. Feedback from both the business and IT exists in the same system, which makes frequent iterative updates possible and gets the team to an end product quickly and efficiently.
Navigating automation platform choices
With the demand for full-scale digitalization in the enterprise so high, IT is under tremendous pressure to automate widely and quickly. Automating those lingering manual processes is particularly pressing.
There are technologies that offer a speedy pathway to automation, but speed in the short-term doesn’t necessarily add up to a sound long-term automation strategy.
Some organizations are in a digital rut with legacy automation solutions. IT departments take a “this is the way we’ve always done it” approach and assume what worked five years ago is good enough.
Business process management software (BPMS)
Many organizations digitized complex processes over the years with various iterations of BMP software. These processes aren’t necessarily broken, but neither are they anywhere near as optimized as they could be. The end result isn’t a fully realized solution - it is just an automated process or a single digitized task that often lacks flexibility in multi-channel interactions and doesn’t integrate well with other modern technology.
Read more about how BPMS stacks up against low-code automation.
Robotic process automation (RPA)
RPA is good for unattended automation of repetitive, rule-based tasks, like transferring information between multiple (otherwise siloed) applications. On its own, RPA cannot deliver end-to-end automation - it lacks scalability, is easily disrupted by run-of-business changes, and requires a lot of maintenance. RPA is best paired with more sophisticated process automation capabilities.
Read more about how RPA and low-code can work together.
Commercial off-the-shelf solutions (COTS)
COTS offers pre-built templates that are relatively easy to configure, but only automate certain aspects of a process or function. You cannot orchestrate or automate tasks that fall outside of a given template. Trying to alter the templates outside of set parameters is difficult and costly. While getting a COTS option up and running might seem easier at the outset, you're paying for convenience and immediacy in flexibility.
Read more about the difference between workflow automation with COTS vs. low-code.