In today’s rapid paced digital economy, it’s not the big that eat the small, but rather, the fast that eat the slow. As the masses are consumed by the concept of “digital transformation,” solution architects and business systems analysts have a greater need to get prototypes to market quickly. Most find themselves unsure of how to keep up without losing control of the development process, creating an architectural mess, or both.
Traditional software development and architecture processes depend on a great deal of technical engineering resources. Solutions architects and business system analysts rely on their technical resources to get things done. Whether it’s connecting to a system of record, creating a prototype, extending a system solution, or adding a new field to a data table, technical resources have been a vital part of the process. With the predicted short-fall of developers in the U.S. by 2020, how will businesses meet market demand? The answer: the no-code development model. With its introduction of “design thinking,” Crowd Machine’s no-code Crowd App Studio dramatically reduces the app development life cycle. How? Let’s take a quick look under the hood to see how Crowd Machine is able to easily create and iterate prototypes, at unprecedented speed.
Begin by considering the overall dev process. Purposefully oversimplifying, there are seven basic steps: Functional Requirements (FRD), Technical Design, Development, Unit Testing, Solution Testing, User Acceptance Testing and Deployment. This approach has worked for many years, and while today’s more agile software methods are intended to accelerate this process; they are, unfortunately, unable to transform it. Using the traditional dev model, the resultant output of the specification does not always meet user requirements the first time. Therefore, there are many iterative loops in the process where the FRD is modified and developers are required to make changes which in turn requires subsequent testing. A more business agile approach is imperative. At Crowd Machine, we call it Design Thinking.
Design Thinking puts the user experience (UX) at the core. There are four primary elements that define the overall UX experience: 1) Data; 2) Process; 3) Logic; and 4) User Interface (UI). The UX-centric approach combines these four essentials seamlessly so that a functional prototype has all of the necessary elements in place for evaluation of design fit to purpose. For a solution to be truly evaluated by its eventual audience, all four elements are necessary. To better appreciate the UX-centric approach, let’s dig deeper into each.
1) Data: At this stage in the dev process, the focus is on structured and unstructured data including definitions, ontologies and integrations. The goal is to capture and model all data where either an interface is needed, and/or logic is applied. Traditionally, engineering resources with database skills are necessary to establish the required data models. Crowd Machine technology is smart enough to remove the complexity and put data definitions and integrations in the background. The user is able to define and model data elements by creating “packages with attributes.” There is no need to understand tables, schemas, or SQL. The only data that is modeled is the data necessary to build the prototype. If data is remote, a simple Crowd Machine data integration method is used. Crowd Machine technology completely removes the reliance on resources with data modeling technical skills.
2) Process: Historically, a source of great pain between design and development as well as between the business unit and engineering team, is the task of trying to verbally describe and write out the intended business process. Crowd Machine has a comprehensive behavior engine wherein the developer is able to create a visual representation of solution requirements, that make the data path and the user path clear and unambiguous. This visual process includes user inputs, automated tasks, launching other tasks, integration tasks, calendaring, and communicating results, or reporting. In the Crowd App Studio, each step is drawn out and linked. Users can leverage the business process capabilities in the definition of “application patterns.” Rules, as further discussed below, are utilized to determine ‘just-in-time’ process outcomes based upon time, activities or responses, and data contextual information, resulting in the routing of tasks for appropriate action. The behavior engine also contains built-in functionality that is leveraged to balance workload across resource pools. Additionally, the directory service integration supports resource authentication and determination of hierarchical relationships for the purposes of escalation and notification. All in a schematic visual.
3) Logic (Rules): A rule is something that is applied to both data and experience. Specifically, which behaviors and actions should be taken against a given set of data or experience. Traditionally, knowledge of programming languages was absolutely required to iterate the rules. Crowd Machine, however, uses natural language, not programming terms. This facilitates the general understanding of what is supposed to be happening within the system. When natural language is used, everyone is able to understand, without ambiguity. Actions and rules are created using Crowd Machine’s expert system, where the user specifies the rule declaratively, and the behavior engine takes care of the rest. To create a rule, the user is presented with a set of intuitive options to assemble the logic they need to implement. The user selects the appropriate option and another set of options or functions are presented for selection. The editor is type-safe, only allowing the user to select consistent operators and operands, based upon the data type. Rules can be simple in nature, or include complex expressions when required. If extensive calculations or formulas are needed, the rules editor includes an “Expression Builder” that contains a wide array of operations and functions. Implementing business logic with the Crowd Machine rules definition process is ridiculously faster and easier than conventional programming languages. Crowd Machine understands dependencies between rules, and automatically manages the order of execution and dependencies. This approach also reduces the chance of introducing errors into the application logic.
4) User Interface (UI): UI design has traditionally demanded HTML, PHP, and CSS technical skills to build user facing forms. The Crowd App Studio, by contrast, makes it quick and easy to create these forms, and provides the sought after look and feel with exacting specificity, a critical feature for user acceptance and adoption. Crowd Machine recognizes that UI should be as easy to create as a PowerPoint presentation. Crowd Machine’s ‘drop and drag’ “Page Designer” can create any look and feel desired or required, including laptop, tablet, and mobile formats, sure to impress millennials, all without technical knowledge. The Crowd App Studio automatically creates the first design layout of the prototype, ensuring and validating logic and UI. From the initial prototype, the user can invite collaboration to dial in the final design, and/or modify in response to market changes. The expert rules allow the dynamic modification of page content and layout, giving complete contextual control over the end user experience. This is because Crowd Machine interprets the design directly so that if changes are made to the system, a simple refresh of the browser, reveals the new solution instantly.
Poof. Simple as 1, 2, 3, 4.
The Crowd Machine Platform is comprehensive with respect to all four steps in the app dev prototype process. Requirements are specified in the Crowd App Studio, incorporating a holistic zero-code approach to the Data, Process, Logic, and UI layers, leading to easy and rapid prototyping. Specifying a solution in Crowd Machine, results in a functioning solution in Crowd Machine, ready for user acceptance testing. By employing design thinking, rather than teams of engineering resources, Crowd Machine empowers business enterprise to get their applications built and running at reduced cost, in record time, without the FOMO of digital transformation.