Low-Code BPA: The Key to Stack Extensibility

Benjamin Babb

What is low-code BPA?

Low-code business process automation (BPA) is a technology that combines process automation capabilities with a low-code development framework. The idea behind low-code BPA is that business teams need an easy-to-use tool to build, manage, and automate their processes. Low-code BPA integrates with existing stack components to help business teams get more out of their apps and systems. That’s where stack extensibility comes into play.

What is stack extensibility?

Stack extensibility is the ability to expand the capabilities of existing tech solutions — and it’s never been a more urgent priority for business. The accelerated rate of digital transformation and insatiable appetites for business agility creates enormous pressure for businesses to close the gap between what their existing tech stack can do and what it should do.

This gap leads to stressors for both business units and IT departments. Business teams take on additional, manual work in order to compensate for processes that aren’t managed well (or at all) by the current stack configuration. They may also resort to unapproved, ad hoc workarounds. IT teams try to manage process gaps with hand-coded solutions, while simultaneously trying to stamp out shadow IT. 

The barrier to stack extensibility is this: ERPs, CRMs, and vertical solutions that are unable to develop and deploy new processes or solutions quickly enough. The existing stack may also lack the ability to efficiently modify processes and solutions to keep pace with evolving business needs. As a result, business processes lose their resilience, and rigid processes rob businesses of their agility.

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How business and IT teams cope

To compensate for process gaps, business teams take on additional manual work which drags down productivity and increases opportunities for error. They may resort to unsanctioned workarounds and shadow IT that — while providing an urgently needed solution at the moment — ultimately results in a maelstrom of ad hoc procedures, process inconsistency, and a lack of visibility. 

Even when RPA solutions are deployed to address specific needs, it usually falls to the business team to connect all the dots between various apps and automations. Once again, more work is required. 

The gap between what the stack can do and what it should do also has consequences for the IT team. For IT, the endless backlog of requests casts a long shadow. It creates frustration for team members and absorbs critical time and energy that could be directed toward more impactful activities such as strategy building and enforcing security requirements.

 IT teams are further stymied by the proliferation of non-standardized processes and homemade workarounds that are difficult to monitor, maintain, and keep secure. 

Three paths to stack extensibility

The good news about stack extensibility is that it isn’t inevitable. In fact, businesses have three levers within reach that can extend the capabilities of their existing stack and increase process resilience:

  1. Customize the current stack components.
  2. Add new apps, vertical solutions, or point systems.
  3. Implement low-code BPA (business process automation) software.

Customization

Customizing the existing components of the stack requires heavy investments of time, money, and human resources. Projects may take months or even years to complete, delays which cost the business in terms of time-to-value and ROI.

Apart from the initial investment, customizations may also initiate a cycle of licensing arbitrage. IT teams may require additional training in order to manage the new customization, or they may need to hire additional staff to do so. Business users will likewise have new tools and/or processes to learn.

Ultimately, this approach usually lacks efficiency and speed — two fundamental characteristics of business agility. The resulting customization also increases the complexity of the current system, making it more difficult to maintain, update, or modify in the future. 

New components

A similar situation emerges when businesses add new systems or apps in an effort to attain stack extensibility. While incorporating new technology into the existing stack will always be necessary, mileage will vary from component to component. New apps or point systems may address an immediate process gap but lack the flexibility to adapt as businesses evolve.

And of course, the more components that get added, the more complicated the stack and its maintenance will become. As is often the case, the addition of new stack components also means more work for business teams, who may find that the new app solves one process gap while creating another.

Low-code BPA

The third lever within reach for most businesses is low-code business process automation (also known as low-code BPA or, simply, low-code automation). Unlike complex customization or endless expansion options, low-code automation increases process resiliency by empowering business teams with tools to address gaps. In other words, low-code gives business users an IT-sanctioned toolbox they can use to quickly develop and deploy processes and solutions on their own. 

Low-code automation delivers stack extensibility by complementing and coordinating the existing components, rather than competing with or complicating them. Put another way, low-code automation creates a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Low-code automation can do this because of its inherent agility and adaptability. 

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How low-code changes the extensibility equation

In the past, stack extensibility could be calculated with a predictable formula: current stack capabilities + complex customizations + new apps = new capabilities. 

Low-code automation changes this equation by introducing a new variable: citizen-led development (or citizen automation, depending on the type of solution needed.) Instead of having to customize or expand the existing stack each time a new process, automation, or app is needed, low-code gives business users (as well as citizen developers and business technologists) a set of building blocks they can use to bridge process gaps, whenever and wherever they emerge. 

These building blocks are approved and overseen by the IT team, so business users make changes within a secure framework sanctioned by IT. 

Extensibility that supports business teams and IT

Adaptability is what makes low-code BPA ideal for addressing all types of business processes. BPA can be used to complement or complete existing processes currently managed by the ERP, CMS, HRIS, or any vertical applications. Low-code BPA also allows business users to map and build new processes and workflows, including those that can’t be easily managed or automated with the existing stack components. 

Business users gain the advantage of an easy-to-use visual interface that empowers them to create and optimize processes in response to competitor activity, customer feedback, digital change, and market changes. For developers and IT professionals, low-code BPA fuses the database, workflow logic, and GUI necessary to enable a truly integrated, agile solution. When business teams have the tools to build some of their own solutions, IT has more time for crafting strategy and managing security. 

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Written by
Benjamin Babb
Senior Writer at Pipefy, where I focus on helping businesses manage workflows, optimize processes, and deploy automation. I'm also a ghost story aficionado who listens to more Enya than anyone should.

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