Anyone who has deployed an enterprise software application has probably learned an important lesson about scale. Typically, when someone asks if their solution will “scale” organizations automatically respond “Yes” without taking into consideration the term’s broader context or meaning. Scale is often equated with volume: number of users, transactions, and/or things processed. Although these types of metrics are important to test, they’re only part of the story. Delivering successful enterprise applications and government efficiency means achieving four dimensions of scalability: physical, organizational, customer, and implementation scale.
1. Physical scale
Physical scalability means handling the load placed on the application – via users, volume of applications submitted, complexity of rules invoked, etc. – without failing, degrading performance, or requiring inordinate amounts of hardware. This is the element of scale most people think of first when they start thinking about performance.
Many enterprise workflow implementations that use a proprietary interpreter to execute business functions (processes, rules, UI, etc.) often have surprisingly poor physical scalability. These basic case management products often use interpreters (Business Process Management engines) running inside interpreters (Java virtual machines), and they require lots of hardware resources. This is why workflow and case management implementations that generate compiled code and are optimized across cloud-ready microservices are so much more scalable, efficient, and streamlined.
2. Organizational scale
Organizational scale grows with the number of segments, departments, regions, business operating divisions, or service lines. Typically, the more organizational scale you have, the harder it is to standardize and achieve economies of scale. Most software platforms give you two options:
- Railroad the organization with a one-size-fits-all approach. This is a non-starter.
- Clone standard workflow applications and create many customized versions. This works … for a while. It becomes increasingly hard to coordinate change across all of these customized applications.
What if you could balance both the top-down standardizations with the genuinely unique field-driven needs of the business? Organizationally scalable workflow and case management allows enterprises to define a layered architecture of rules, policies, and procedures – such as security roles at the global and tenant level – and dynamically determine what needs to be executed, depending on the situation at hand. Applications themselves may be distributed across the globe, but all operate off a shared set of layered rules – ensuring reuse while allowing for specialization.
3. Customer scale
In the digital world, applications need to manage end-to-end processes from the customer’s point of view. The “customer” could be a mortgage lender, vendor, taxpayer, grant processing specialist, or manager. This ability to start with customer goals and work inward is the customer scale of your application. To achieve it, your application must:
- Run seamlessly across all touch points, including in person, contact center, mobile, self-service, single applications, batch applications, chat, and more.
- Optimize the overall customer experience using predictive analytics and next best action.
- Prevent complexity (silos, legacy applications, etc.) from interfering with an efficient and effective customer experience.
To truly work across channels to deliver end-to-end customer outcomes, you can’t build from the channel in. You need a technology that lets your work from the center-out, staring with the customer processes – or micro-journeys. Focus on connecting back-office operational efficiency with front-end customer engagement – empowering government employees and citizens with consistent, accurate information and positive experiences.
4. Implementation scale
A standards-based, "open" design philosophy enables a completely flexible approach to application configuration – this is what we call a “build for change” philosophy.
Traditional code-based systems require that development and modifications to business processes/applications be designed in one tool, exported to another tool to make the process changes, ported again to a separate test environment to determine efficacy, and often to yet another environment to finally deploy into production. This is neither efficient nor easily scalable.
A more agile approach is a system where component authoring, application development, governance, and integration tools for legacy systems/applications access reside in a single, unified, web-based environment, integrated seamlessly into Continuous Integration and Deployment (CI/CD) processes. This integrated capability allows organizations an unparalleled amount of operational agility and processing power. It also enables new applications and application modifications to be developed, tested, and deployed by “citizen developers” – business users that can leverage visual tools (also known as “drag and drop” model-based design) in a unified design-time and runtime environment. This low-code, agile approach to enterprise case management application development and deployment allows for substantial flexibility in reuse and specialization of artifacts across an enterprise.
But beware of the “low-code trap,” as all model-driven or low-code technologies are not created equal. Be sure to choose low-code workflow automation platforms with centralized controls and governance – otherwise you’ll find yourself in a shadow IT “Wild West.”
Other benefits of a robust and integrated business process/rules versioning system are the ability for all changes to be designed and tested without affecting the production environment, or requiring lengthy coding activities, or inefficient porting between multiple environments as each sprint progresses through its development lifecycle. And in organizations with strong citizen developers, maintenance of the application can actually be delegated to the business, shifting IT’s role in application development to focus on defining the object model and integration rules to interface with external systems.
Implementation scale is further achieved by having the right tools to manage complex programs across parallel delivery teams that oftentimes involve different aspects of the customer’s organization and multiple external contractors. In other words, technology that supports limitless numbers of concurrent projects and workstreams at once is an important aspect of implementation scale. Seamless integration with project management, DevOps, and testing frameworks is essential – increasing visibility and transparency, eliminating manual tasks, enabling collaboration across multiple teams and locations, and simplifying project management and governance activities leveraging built-in Agile and Scrum best practices.
Mission-critical agencies need proven, low-risk technology that scales without limits
Getting the four dimensions of scale right is what distinguishes truly digital enterprises from merely competent ones – and ensures their IT investment scales into the future. It’s about engaging and empowering customers and citizens. It’s also about driving efficient operations, allowing for better government outcomes, and improved stewardship of taxpayer dollars. True digital transformation enables organizations to build enterprise applications that can orchestrate work from user journey to journey seamlessly across data silos – from front-end to back-end systems – while still allowing the agility required to respond quickly to inevitable change.
For large, complex programs, it becomes even more critical that a solid foundation be built on a unified, intuitive platform that can seamlessly orchestrate across systems, people, and processes.
By adopting these best practices for the four critical dimensions of scale, the next time someone asks you if your enterprise case management application has transformed your organization, you can say “YES!”