Posted in Workflows

Introducing V8.0: Part 4.View a Task

In Part 3 of this series, we described how Anonymous tasks are vastly simplified in V8.0. Another enhancement that customers have requested is the ability to view a form that they had submitted earlier as part of a workflow.

For example, we automate our internal operations with frevvo. Let’s say I submit a Vacation Request or Expense Report for processing. A few days later I want to go back and look at what I submitted. Prior to V8, we setup an action that notifies me at every step along the way and emails me a PDF copy of the form that I submitted. Email is already hard enough to keep track of and this isn’t an ideal solution.

Now, you don’t have to email PDFs around for record-keeping. You can simply use Task Search to find your workflow and then use the Audit trail to view the information you submitted.

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In the audit trail for any workflow, you will see a new View icon. The icon will only show up if you have permission to view the workflow at that step. However, you can always

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see things that you submitted – by far, the most common scenario. Click the View button and frevvo will render a read-only view of the workflow using the data from that step.

You can expand/collapse Sections, navigate Tabs and view all the data. However, you cannot make changes.

Obviously, the audit trail also shows the progress of the workflow through various approval stages so you can always see where the workflow is currently sitting and the history as it was routed from person to person. Now, you can also see the data.

We hope you’ll like the improvements that we’ve made. Stay tuned for future articles and upcoming webinars on V8.0 – it will be released to frevvo Cloud this Fall. We’re also already working on features for the next release(s) that we’ll describe here as we go along.

 

Posted in Workflows

Introducing V8.0: Part 3. Simplified Anonymous Steps

In Part 2 of this series, we described the redesigned Flow Step Properties panel which makes it much easier easier to configure individual flow steps. Another oft-requested improvement is to anonymous steps.

What are Anonymous Steps?

Anonymous steps in a workflow are routed to an email address and do not require the recipient to authenticate before performing the step. They’re super common – for example, a purchase order may be started internally by a sales person, get approved by his/her manager and then get routed to the customer for signature. You probably want to make it as easy as possible for the customer to sign the PO and not require an account, remember passwords etc.

Prior to V8, you had to drag in a separate Email (Anonymous) Step and configure it separately in your workflow. It would send an email and advance the workflow to the following step which was the actual form that the recipient would see. Customers found it confusing and we ran into many situations where workflows were incorrectly designed as a result.

More Intuitive Anonymous Steps

V8 simplifies this significantly by simply removing the additional step in the flow. Now, you simply drop in the form you want the recipient to see or link to an existing one and configure its properties. Click on the cog icon to bring up the Flow Step Properties dialog and navigate to the Assignment tab.

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On this tab, you can now assign the task to a user, role or email address in one place. At runtime, assignment is made in that priority order. If you want to route to an email address, simply type it in and leave the other two fields blank – the step will be routed via email and can be performed anonymously. There’s also no longer a requirement to make the entire workflow public.

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You can also use control templates in the email field so that it’s dynamic. Start typing and a pick list will appear with matching controls. At runtime, the value of the control is evaluated and if it’s a valid email address, the step will be routed via email and can be performed anonymously.

We’re looking forward to this release and hope you’ll like all the improvements. Stay tuned for future articles and upcoming webinars on V8.0 – it will be released to frevvo Cloud this Fall.

Posted in Digital Transformation, Low Code Platform

State of Low Code Development Platforms – Era of Tech Warriors without Tech Knowledge

Low code development platforms have rapidly became a major strategic investment for organizations. These tools were initially intended for developing basic departmental applications, but they are now playing a major role in achieving complete digital transformation. In fact, low code citizen development platforms have changed the method of interaction between users and organizations as well as between organizations and information.

The low-code development platform has given birth to a new genre of technology warriors – ‘Citizen Developers’. Using drag & drop functionality and visual wizards included in a low code development platform, these citizen developers with almost zero coding knowledge are rapidly building new business apps, workflows and modifying existing business processes to improve efficiency, productivity, and functionality.

Source: MarketsandMarkets Research

What is a Low-Code Development Platform?

According to Forrester, low-code development platforms are defined as:

Products and/or cloud services for application development that employ visual, declarative techniques instead of programming and are available to customers at low- or no-cost in money and training time to begin, with costs rising in the proportion of the business value of the platforms.

The Emergence of Low Code Platforms

James Martin in his book “Application Development Without Programmers” published in 1982 wrote, “The number of programmers available per computer is shrinking so fast that most computers in the future must be put to work at least in part without programmers”. The idea seems to be catching on.

Forrester coined the term “Low Code” in 2014 for classifying development platforms focusing on development simplicity and ease of use. These platforms allow business professionals including those having limited or no coding knowledge to create business application software using a graphical user interface instead of computer programming. In a low-code development platform, you can automatically generate all the components, front-end and back-end code and configuration files complying with standard coding practices.

In a typical low-code development platform you get a comprehensive set of functionality including,

  • Visual modeling of business logic and workflows that can be extended with custom code
  • Visual definition of data and models integration components
  • Drag-and-drop implementation of a modern user interface for multiple devices
  • Application change and lifecycle management

In “The Forrester Wave™: Low-Code Development Platforms for AD&D Pros – Q4 2017” Report, there is an interesting comparison showing the challenges faced by organizations when building apps using traditional coding methods and the impact of low-code development platforms in addressing these issues.

IT Recruitment/Skill Gaps a Major Challenge

According to a 2016 indeed.com survey, 83% of organizations feel that their business has been hurt by the tech talent shortage, And a Salesforce.com report reveals that four of the top seven pain points that IT leaders face are related to the skills gap. One-third of IT teams struggle to keep skills current.

Modern IT organizations also face a different kind of challenge – the Speed of Change’. Technology is changing faster than the user can learn it. Four out of ten companies, face moderate to major IT skill gaps leading to almost 20% productivity loss resulting in a $1.3 trillion cost to U.S. businesses. These organizations would love a Captain America to come to their rescue. Low-code development platforms just may be the Captain America of the future.

Over the next five years, the IT skills gap is expected to grow further. According to the Global Information Security Workforce Study (GISW) 2017 Report, as many as 1.8 Million IT jobs will remain unfulfilled by the end of 2022. There are two major factors contributing to the widening skill gap,

  • The rapid pace of technology change &
  • Impact of IT as core function on modern businesses

Capgemini’s Digital Transformation Institute report “The Digital Talent Gap” states: ‘Many organizations out there face a shortage of skilled IT people and confess that it hampers their competitiveness and performance’

Organizations are tackling IT skill gap challenges in different ways. One of the best places to start is your own employees by deploying a low/no-code development platform and instituting training programs for employees who aren’t professional coders-by-trade so that they can start contributing where appropriate and reduce the burden on traditional IT.

Shortage of tech talent has become a critical factor

  • According to The App Association report, in the USA alone, there are almost 223,054 unfilled job openings for software developers but not enough qualified people to fill them.
  • A simple search on indeed.com returns 104,748 jobs under the title ‘Software Developer’ and about 234,824 jobs under the title ‘Software Engineer’.

  • According to Bloomberg report, demand for software technologists is at full boil. Companies are spending more but they are also investing more in training, internships and considering more candidates with “transferable skills”.
  • By 2020 employment opportunities for everyone related to computer technologies will see strong growth of 22%, but specific IT fields will see comparatively higher growth. According to Gartner: Insights from the 2016 Gartner CIO Agenda Report 1 million computer programming jobs in the US are expected to go unfilled by 2020.

There’s no question that a lack of expert tech talent is a leading obstacle for global CIO’s in achieving their objectives.

It’s Time to Play the Low-code Game

According to Forrester Research “Every company is a software company”. The world of technology is changing at breakneck speed. Therefore, there is an increased need for rapid business application development, which is incredibly challenging when you can’t attract the necessary talent.

Your ability to identify, analyze, and respond to changing digital innovation requirements, earlier than your competitors will now determine whether your organization will sink or swim.

Low-code can make a dramatic difference. Instead of huge investments to maintain large business applications, low-code development platforms provide a flexible, drag-&-drop approach to develop smaller fragments of big business applications that are updated, managed, and deployed piecemeal to meet a specific business need.

Without large amounts of code to write and maintain, it’s easier than ever before for people with limited or no coding knowledge to readily build functional, innovative applications.

Why Enterprises Switched to Low-Code Platforms?

OutSystems “The State of Application Development | How IT is responding to Digital Disruption and Innovation – 2018” has many insights.

In the survey report, OutSystems asked participants why they decided to use low-code development platforms. The three answers that stood out were 1) accelerating digital innovation and transformation (69%), 2) reducing current IT backlog and increasing responsiveness to the business (55%), and 3) reducing dependency on hard-to-hire technical skills (38%).

Common Myths Related to Low Code Development Platform

Lack of knowledge is the main barrier, and concerns regarding capability, vendor lock-in, security, and scalability cluster close behind.

Low-Code Development Platforms are a viable option

The right low-code development platform empowers you to build versatile business apps. However, in a crowded market (offering lightweight business-user tools, citizen developer tools, specialty mobile application development tools and platforms available for software application development & delivery) with many vendors calling themselves low-code, it can be challenging to identify the right platform.

Here are few things to consider:

  • Amazing User Experience: Remember that your users are also consumers who use mobile apps every day. They’re used to a slick user experience, 24×7 access on any device. This should be the #1 thing you look at.
  • Security: Any successful platform today is already dealing with security. Still, it’s important to ensure that your platform has the necessary certifications, especially for Cloud deployment. Ensure that apps built by citizen developers are secure throughout the development lifecycle.
  • Scalability: Make sure that architecture you will be choosing supports numerous options including vertical/horizontal scalability that can be adjusted to a business specific requirement. Who knows? Someday, a simple in-house business application may emerge as a globally deployed solution supporting millions of users. Again, a viable platform today likely pays close attention to scalability.
  • Proven Track Record: The platform has a proven history of developing and delivering solutions.

Rising competition has confirmed that faster iterative delivery of high-quality software is the new game. Now it’s your call … are you going to play the game or watch from the bleachers?

Posted in Workflows

Introducing v8.0: Part 2. Redesigned Flow Step Properties

In Part 1, we described improvements to the Flow Designer to make it easier to understand routing for a workflow.

Flow Steps have lots of settings

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V7 properties (partial)

Another area that we’ve improved significantly in V8 based on customer feedback is the property settings for a flow step. The V7 and earlier properties panel (figure at left) had simply become too large and complex as we’ve added more and more features to frevvo workflows and customers were finding it a bit confusing and hard to use.

We’ve reorganized the properties and moved them into a new modal dialog accessed by clicking the desired flow step and then clicking the properties edit icon (the cog icon). Properties have been reorganized and the names changed to be more intuitive in some cases, but the requirements are generally unchanged for all properties.

Flow Step Properties Wizard

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The properties are organized on tabs (screenshot above) and nothing is saved to the editing flow instance until the dialog is submitted. Many properties also have explanatory text so it’s easier to understand what each property means.

If you Submit your changes with any invalid property setting, the dialog will not close and an error message will display. The wizard will automatically take you to the first Tab with an error. Tabs with errors and invalid properties will also display in red so there’s an immediate visual indication.

The wizard also guides the designer to prevent errors. A great example is Step Assignment (screenshot below). It was always possible to assign steps to a user, a role or an email address (no login required). If it’s assigned to a specific user, it does not make sense to also enter a role since it will always go that user. The wizard will grey out the irrelevant fields to prevent errors. The user and role fields also auto-complete with a list of valid users and roles.

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The Flow Step Properties Wizard has many more features and we’ll describe some of them in detail in subsequent articles. Suffice it to say that frevvo designers will find it much much easier to configure steps in their workflows using V8 compared to prior versions.

We’re excited about this release and think you’ll like the changes. Stay tuned for future articles and upcoming webinars on V8.0 – it will be released to frevvo Cloud this Fall. Exact date TBD and we’ll announce it here when firmed up.