One of the top priorities for IT directors in 2017 was to enable rapid change within their organizations. The trend continues, however, and one of the instruments of change that is not to be overlooked in 2018 is unified application architecture.

According to Gartner’s 2016 “CIO Agenda” survey, the top organizations that participated in the study tripled their digital processes over the last two years. By 2018, these processes will double again. Gartner calls this the building of a digital ecosystem.

However, in the age of digital transformation, what matters in the long run is not to digitize data and processes, but to do it properly. Organizations running several dedicated applications have by now realized that such solutions are difficult to maintain and potentially problematic. Switching to a single no-code, quick-response platform may prove to be not only convenient, but in fact crucial. With the consequences of the Byzantine structure of business applications in mind, especially maintenance, organizations would do well to examine their portfolio. Perhaps it would be prudent – or even necessary – to optimize their existing application architecture?

Will IT step up to the application architecture challenge?

Imagine an organization where three people are responsible for maintaining and develop thirty different business applications. In dealing with complicated life situations, they naturally divide the tasks by each taking ten. This system could work as long as one of them doesn’t take a long vacation. In such a case, the company has a problem, because every application is different, and requires certain skills. As a result, the remaining employees will have ten unfamiliar business applications to deal with, atop their daily workload.

What is more, maintaining such a system involves thirty contracts with thirty vendors, thirty SLA payments, and thirty different people to work with in developing each application. For end users, it means getting familiar with thirty different application interfaces. Finally, there comes a moment where this situation needs to be resolved.

Unification instead of liquidation

The knee-jerk reaction might be perhaps getting rid of some of the applications, which is not always possible. But, there is another way: a homogeneous application environment of Rapid Application Development and Business Process Management platforms.

A single platform means more than just merging the overly complicated application architecture. Above all, it provides standardization. Even with scores of applications used simultaneously, in-house IT department can maintain them via one hardware system. And what it needs is a single set of skills, because all applications are built on the same platform. Further, with no hard coding required, IT department also gains more flexibility with regard to human resources. It is very easy to introduce a new person to the system – for example, to oversee the maintenance and development while another team member is away.

Second of all, a company cooperates with only one vendor, or interchangeably, with just a few. There is only one maintenance agreement, one server, and a single hardware platform where the whole environment can be developed.

One platform to rule them all

RAD/BPM platforms have now matured enough to become a real alternative to creating dedicated applications – not only secondary applications with little business significance, but also business critical ones. Until now, this has been unthinkable. Just 5 years ago, solutions for critical processes meant dedicated solutions, period. But today, essential applications can be built using a unified platform.

Fig. 1. WEBCON BPS as an example of a unified BPM/RAD platform. Source: WEBCON

Data reusability is also very important. When ERP systems began to appear, almost 30 years ago, they were integrated in the sense of a connected system for business users, instead of separate, “incommunicable” modules. This prevented redundant physical data, as well as unnecessary business activities related to its administration, maintenance, and reuse. The exact same thing is happening now in the context of application platforms. Thanks to RAD/BPM, we no longer have to deal with dozens of independent software islands that need to be integrated through the tedious bridge building. Instead, we have one system which allows data to be used in different business processes after being entered only once. And it’s becoming easier than ever.

Fig. 2. WEBCON BPS allows user-friendly data reusability. Source: WEBCON

 Flexibility above all

The unification of a company’s application environment also entails significant improvements in terms of strategic operations, which is the main goal of implementing enterprise architecture. RAD/BPM platforms are low-code, with some of them offering great flexibility in change management, to easily adapt business applications to the company’s evolving needs. When the need emerges to change the existing business model, and relevant application(s), the company can deliver this new solution very quickly. And this means not a couple months of work, but rather a few weeks, or even days. As a result, a company gains more control over its business, better coordination of activities, and the full range of information needed to make critical business decisions – all in one place, all in one click.

From the business perspective, this is the proper preparation we need for the Industry 4.0.

About the author:
Lukasz Wrobel

Lukasz Wrobel, Chief Business Development Officer and Senior Vice President at WEBCON, an independent manufacturer of a BPM/RAD platform for Microsoft SharePoint. A humanist and technology enthusiast; during several years of his career in the IT industry, Lukasz has become an expert in IT tools and management practices that improve the efficiency and performance of enterprises. He started out at Comarch, where he was responsible for business intelligence and ERP systems. He joined WEBCON in 2010 and since then has played one of the key roles in the company, taking its market leader position from the national level to a global scale. What motivates Lukasz is truly satisfied clients and building a successful international partner channel. Privately, Lukasz enjoys cars, photography, good books and drones.