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Part 6: Impact of Activities

part of blog series
Why cloud business applications will change your custom build application development

Since decades companies looked at their processes and want to support them with IT systems. In the beginning, with custom build applications, but from the nineteens with process integrated standard software solutions like Enterprise Resource Planning, Supply Chain Management Systems, Business Warehouses, Customer Relation Management systems. And this brought companies a lot of value in supporting their processes. But during time companies, also losing their flexibility through the number of implemented systems of multiple vendors. Mostly the result of a best-of-breed IT approach or company’s strategy of global expansion and buying other companies.

This results in inflexible configured applications that mostly only support the registration and reporting of the same process steps in different systems. Companies try to get insight using Business Process Management tools and methodologies by describing their corporate processes in Aris systems. And reimplementing their business applications using corporate templates applications to minimize the systems.

These approaches mostly fail because the BPM methodology looked at the software vendors’ processes, and processes were compared with existing automated processes. The manual steps were mostly out-of-scope, and the same process variants were not identified because they were implemented as separated process flows. The corporate templates just didn’t fit into the real processes on the work floor because these are specific on a company, country, department, or even location level.

ICASIO Model

I already recognized this problem in 2010 and developed the ICASIO model. I published this model in 2011 as a co-writer of the SAP press book ‘Applying Real-World BPM in an SAP environment.’ The model is very easy but very useful to identify each unique process step of a real process. By looking at the activities around the triggered input (I), the collection and validation of data (C), the approve of the data (A), the storage of the data mostly in a system (S), the stakeholder who should be informed (I) and the output, process step variants can be identified. By looking at the people involved, the persistence used, and the outcome of each variance’s performance indicators, the processes can be compared and optimized. But it can also identify the level of automation.

The model will also identify the activities on best-practice business applications delivered by software vendors and their own-practice activities, which are unique for the organizations. As mentioned in my previous blogs, software vendors try to convince companies to replace their own practice custom build and best-of-breed applications by their best practice cloud business applications. And there are reasonable use cases for this approach. But in my opinion, this should never be the main reason, because it will fail in the same way as the corporate template approach.

Low-code application platform

In my perspective, the main reason should be the capability to accelerate your digital transformation. As mentioned in part IV, business applications should be available as a stable black-box business API that supports your company’s operational excellence. The business APIs will play an important role in the store step of the ICASIO model. But when you look at the other activities of the ICASIO model, you will find that the collection, validation, approval and informing will not always fit in these best practices. It needs more flexibility. This is where low-code/no-code application platforms can play an important role. But only when these platforms will not introduce another vendor lock-in.

The real value of digitalization

The real value can be found in minimize and simplify user interaction activities. Existing big data within companies and on the internet, real-time locale sensor data, personalized social media data, and structured and unstructured business data will produce a lot of raw data. Intelligent technology can transfer raw data into business-related data using an image, video, video recognition, rule engines, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. This will give you the capability to collect, validate, and approve relevant data for our business APIs. It will minimize the user interaction activities, and when needed, these actions can be simplified. Only these fields, which cannot be derived, will be asked to provide, validate, or approved. This will speed up the process, lower the risks, improve the quality, hide complexity, and reduce execution and training costs. And give your employees the possibility to act on exceptions and innovations.

To support your business processes’ digitalization, companies should not only upgrade their business application systems of vendors. This will give them an infrastructure with standardizing best-practice black-box business APIs, and companies will not differentiate from their competitors. The real impact will be made with the chain of activities described by the ICASIO model and the company’s capability to digitalize this chain.

Impact on IT strategy

This means that most IT and Development departments should restructure their strategy. They should focus on the digitalization of their own practice activities. Existing classical applications and own custom-build applications should be made accessible through APIs, such as implementing RPA tooling or replacing them with best-practice business APIs. But also, unstructured information, like office documents, emails, social media interactions, and paper-based information, should be digitally accessible and searchable through APIs.  New applications should be built in this matter that it will be easy to replace the user interaction by automation. This will directly influence the chain of activities where people play a role. But also, the capability of organizations to digitalization.

Conclusion

The impact of activities is one of the most influencing key drivers for the digital transformation of companies. Together with other key drivers, they will force companies to change their development processes. The ICASIO model can play an important role in identifying unique process steps and the possibility for digitalization and level of automation.

More Info

In my blog series, you can read about the impact of the other key drivers:

To know more about this ICASIO model, you can read chapter 13.2.8 – 13.2.11 of the book or contact me using LinkedIn.

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