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TechnoVision 2014 - Process Is The New App

Category : Innovation
Process-on-the-Fly #2 - Process is the New App

The next generation of business process management and business rules management tools is so powerful that it actually can be seen as the successor to custom-built applications. Being able to define detailed process, flows, decision trees and business helps on both the business and IT side to create powerful, differentiating solutions that would have required extensive custom coding in the past. Now much of the definition can be done ‘on the fly,’ using visual models and (semi) natural language in the nearest proximity to the business.


Over the years, ERP systems have been customized to enter organization-specific functionality into the ERP application. This leads to better support for the business, but at the same time involves higher costs for maintenance, high dependency on the personnel involved in this customization, long timelines to deliver change to the system and increased risk involved in upgrading the ERP system. However, the best of both worlds can be created by bringing back the functionality to out-of-the-box usage of the ERP system and at the same time introducing change and flexibility by means of externalized 'Process Apps' in direct connection with the ERP system.

The ERP system (or legacy bespoke system, for that matter) is used as originally intended and designed, resulting in more predictable behavior of the system related to usage and performance, and clearly can be maintained in a more standardized and cost-effective way. The Prrocess App externalizes the needed functionality into a highly customizable application outside the ERP for which it is supported by rules engines, task inboxes and can be delivered to different channels.

The reasons for needing Process Apps may include the following: The ERP system just doesn't deliver this functionality in a specific industry; the volatility of changing certain functionality is high; or an umbrella type of functionality across (ERP) silos is needed.
 
An example of bringing all this together is around the hiring process for a new employee at a university. Oracle PeopleSoft HCM could be used as the HR system to store all employee details. In the hiring process, an authorization scheme is involved for getting the approval to create a contract for the employee-to-be. In the university world, this authorization scheme is complex and involves faculties/colleges (with different organizational structures) and cross-faculty organizational structures. Including such an authorization scheme into PeopleSoft would require a lot of customization. By adding a handle inside PeopleSoft towards an externalized authorization Process App, the execution of the authorization of the employee is done outside the ERP: in a tool that is aimed to deliver approval schemes via a worklist-type of application.

The Process App here works as an add-on to the PeopleSoft system, but can also be extended to support the full lifecycle of the end-to-end hiring process with the possibility to involve multiple applications. The actual core functionality is kept in the supporting ERP systems, while at the same time the Process App acts as an umbrella function to control the end-to-end flow and give insight into the efficiency of the end-to-end process. 
 
How to get there?
 
Bringing the flexibility outside an ERP into a Process App can be brought into the landscape from two extremes:
 
- First of all the most basic one: At some point in time a technical upgrade is needed for the ERP, the product version is out of support or the version is not working on a higher version of the operating system. Technical upgrades are a good time to understand and reiterate the need for excess customization in the ERP systems. Aim for a plain vanilla upgrade and investigate the potential for flexibility outside the ERP system, which can be implemented via Process Apps.
 
- The second reason aligns with the String of Silos concept of TechnoVision 2014: An 'umbrella function' may be needed across silos, and Process Apps can contain the process logic, rules and information that are essential to deliver the business outcome, supported by the functionality contained in the ERP systems underneath.


This contribution by Leon Smiers  

Part of Capgemini's TechnoVision 2014 update series. See the overview here.

About the author

Ron Tolido