Low Code Future 5 — Trend 4: \n Agile Automation Optimizes Processes

As you read my posts this week, you’ll quickly notice an automation theme. Don’t worry, though, we’re not talking about automating entire jobs, thus rendering humans unnecessary. Rather the automation of tasks and processes, to make us humans more productive and efficient, so we can better contribute to the innovation, transformation and economic stature of our companies. I agree with an article in The Wall Street Journal some months ago that said,

“Automation takes over tasks, not entire jobs.”

The saying “automating a bad process is worse than not automating anything” used to be true for organizations that invested in overly complex and expensive BPM platforms. The complexity of these platforms and the cost to automate on them is so high that you cannot afford to make a mistake; everything must be planned and modelled to perfection or you will write off months’ or years’ worth of work. 

At K2, we think about this differently — we harvest the best elements of BPM but don’t get bogged down by its complexity and aren’t afraid to find a better way. After all that’s how disruption and innovation occurs — challenge the status quo.

If we consider the approach of process automation in a similar manner as agile development, it allows us to deliver innovation much faster and adapt to change more quickly, a paramount skill in today’s changing landscape. Addressing complexity as a single big boulder, the lack of ability to adapt and the resistance to learn on the fly will not work in our ever-changing economy. Forrester recently wrote that,

“Process agility is critical to giving businesses the agility that powers digital business.”

In the modern world of automating work across people, systems of records and machines, the faster we can deploy solutions, the faster we can start optimizing them. The nature of modern platforms allows you to make in-flight changes and optimize solutions, reusing building blocks provided by other people in the organization. With K2, our process design approach leverages design paradigms that allow for frequent changes without having to rebuild integrations and processes from scratch. Open the visual designers, adjust your steps and actions, then quickly redeploy. There is no need to revisit the integrations because our SmartObjects are dynamic and pull in the data you need in real time, as opposed to some approaches that store static data in databases that are refreshed only periodically. Real time, always working at the speed of your business needs.

As I look at today’s economy, I see more collaboration going on than ever before. A Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report recently found that collaboration is essential in today’s digital marketplace:

“In an industrial mash-up, a company shares an asset or capability with one or more partners in a way that creates new possibilities for all. Participants develop new products and services rapidly by piecing together components from an ecosystem of collaborating partners.”

ImageI see this same principle of collaboration as fundamental to process automation. If more people can provide true building blocks, it empowers those who live closer to the day-to-day business to participate in solving problems and adjust on the fly. For organizations to be truly effective and efficient, everyone must collaborate — and this is absolutely true for process automation.

We’ve started to improve collaboration and create building blocks with the introduction of SmartStarters, which are fully functioning sample apps for our customers to automate processes quickly. In the future there will be an opportunity to enable them to be built by a broader ecosystem, expanded and reused by others, so everyone can collaborate and share best approaches to expedite app creation.

Innovative collaboration thrives when individuals can build a process together, similar to spreadsheet or document collaboration in the cloud. How many times have you had a vision, but the end result didn’t quite match your requirements? The team “went dark and heads down” and popped up months later after making assumptions versus having an understanding across the full spectrum of business requirements, departments and systems.

In our future scenario, we want to flip “going dark” on its head and turn on the light for collaborative process design — off the white board. By taking a new, real-time approach and inclusive of the right individuals with the right knowledge, we can minimize bumps and get the processes designed and apps built correctly from the start — wherever the expert is located because cloud technologies are ubiquitous. So what might this look like?

Imagine needing a new process that spans multiple areas of the business, across geos with varying requirements. If we approach the challenge in building blocks rather than boulders, we can assemble a team that behaves more like an agile sprint team. Each member is assigned a portion of the process to work on as the expert without having to be a hardcore developer.

As technologies continue to evolve, team members could be given access to our low-code process designers to design, build, test and modify the entire process together in real time. They’d be able to see each other’s additions and changes as they occur, make edits on the fly as requirements come in, and leverage each other’s integration objects, rules and forms — ultimately increasing collaboration and decreasing behaviors of reinventing the wheel while learning from each other and gaining a broader understanding of the business. Think of how happy your users and customers would be if they knew you were innovating and tuning to continually make their lives easier!

Consider an alternate scenario in which automation and efficiency gains are discovered in a contract management process. These gains are automatically shared with other applicable processes with similar constructs. By analyzing patterns and performance of the processes using machine learning and bots that we talked about yesterday, perhaps K2 could send a notification indicating “new efficiencies have been found in another process that could be benefit your processes, would you like to deploy them?” All you have to do is respond with “yes, tell me more,” or “not now.”

We make the best decisions when we have information. The principle that we can optimize a process before it is automated is old and outdated — the manual approach just takes too long. Future innovation will allow us to automate and improve processes like never before by using real-world, instant and collaborative information. If business leaders aren’t able to see what is happening, and act on processes instantly, it’s very difficult for a company to truly transform and stay ahead of the competitive curve.

At K2 we are working hard to bring next-generation tools to our customers that will allow them to work together to reuse each other’s work to quickly solve problems and then improve them in rapid cycles.

How has collaboration been embraced in your company? Join the conversation on LinkedIn or Twitter using #LowCodeFuture5.