MicroPact Blog

Constantly Changing Data Demands Flexibility

Applications Must Adapt to Support Customer Needs

Sandeep Khare's avatar

By: Sandeep Khare

June 5, 2014 | Case Management/BPMAnalysts

Modern application needs are very different from those that drove application development five or 10 years ago. We are living in an era of Facebook, Twitter and Skype – at home and now at work.

Enterprise software vendors are already embedding chat and conferencing features within their core applications. People are collaborating in ways companies never imagined. (Think about WhatsApp!) In the process, we’re generating ad-hoc business data that many applications cannot handle very effectively. Data capture now happens across a diverse set of devices utilizing a variety of channels.

This data explosion and introduction of social networking have created a challenge and an opportunity for the vendors to aggressively innovate.

For example, a healthcare or mortgage application that has not been designed to handle video or audio files, biometric or geospatial data might limit its ability to manage certain kind of business problems.

Modern application designs need to be more customer-centric. They should be able to ingest, contextualize and serve up all the data that’s being captured to system users in a meaningful way.

Data-heavy environments create a lot of unknowns. Identifying all possible data points can turn into a long painstaking exercise during the system design phase. That’s why it is even more important for the system design to be flexible enough to adapt to a wide range of data scenarios at run-time.

Study Supports Need for Flexibility

According to a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of MicroPact Inc., which was based on in-depth surveys of 151 application development and implementation decision-makers across North America, 62% of respondents indicated that changing business requirements prior to system deployment as one of the biggest hurdles to application development, with 22% indicating that it is their number one obstacle.

These results call into question the efficacy of current system design approaches. Another survey result (see figure 3) finds the majority of the respondents believe their current development environment does not meet the needs for less structured activities and that data (structured or otherwise) is not completely accounted for during initial information gathering stage. This makes it difficult for the knowledge workers to extract the context of the work when they need it to support better decisions and to be able to route the work adequately.

To download the entire study, download “Is Process Mapping A Barrier To Innovation?”

Reducing Your Pain Points

So how do you approach designing business applications that minimize some of the pain points mentioned above? Based on the recommendations presented in this Forrester study, organizations should make “adaptive design” a centerpiece of application development. For example, the adaptive design should allow users (business analysts) to either quickly introduce new process steps or combine pre-built process models to create a new one. Nearly a third of all respondents to the survey, listed a system’s ability to instantiate processes and tasks related to data objects and automatically inherit the current context among the top capabilities when it comes to developing next generation solutions.

Following that train of thought, these next-generation solutions need to focus on intelligent routing, goal-driven processes and knowledge worker flexibility.

Companies may want to reassess their dependence on process mapping or task mapping tools, and employ a data-centric approach to better understand how users manipulate and consume information. Think about the “context” first and see if the system can support context adoption by creating rules and necessary logic. Enterprises also may want to consider to focus on goals and outcomes in system design instead of making work flow too rigid to provide enough exit and entry points for the knowledge workers to handle ad-hoc tasks.

And last but not least, enterprises should seriously consider bringing a culture and mindset change to the entire organization to allow people to think beyond structured and well-defined processes when designing systems to solve complex business problems.

About the Author

Sandeep Khare worked at MicroPact from 2003-2016, most recently in the Marketing department.