BUAD – Empowering the people in waves

By Clinton Jones on September 28, 2011

Back in January 2011, Mark Driver of Gartner wrote on BUAD or Business Unit Application Development. The blog post outlined a new research report from Gartner on the topic and in particular best practices. Those of you most familiar with Winshuttle and the Winshuttle product suite will know that historically Winshuttle has been very attractive to BUAD scenarios for several key reasons.

  • A low impact application installation footprint
  • An Intuitive and quickly usable application set
  • Portable, robust and durable automation scenarios that work the way users work

It is no surprise then, that Winshuttle boasts over 1200 customers in many corners of the world using a variety of SAP Industry Solutions and versions of SAP.

The story doesn’t end with the SAP however, Winshuttle recently introduced the BUAD community to form based data gathering and accompanying workflows all harnessed to Microsoft SharePoint with the added kicker of being able to hook the end-to-end process up to SAP for field level validation, source and pick lists and of course the round trip creation or update of data in SAP.

Such a capability piques the interest of a wide community, not just the BUAD community but also IT and Technology Architects and the reasons are quite simple. When your enterprise comprises more than just SAP it makes sense to incorporate those other systems’ contributions to the overall process as appropriate.

Historically, that incorporation, integration or interfacing, call it what you will, has had a very expensive price tag. The price tag has usually come from the need to have elaborate analysis and design effort accompanied by the application of expensive hourly consulting resources. The results have been mixed, some have been extraordinarily successful, some have had mediocre success and others have been an abysmal failure resulting in abandoned initiatives and discarded technology.

Rapid Solution Development (RSD) differs from Rapid Application Development (RAD) in that it doesn’t necessarily require any coding – yes, there is configuration but that is not quite the same as SAP configuration which is more like pseudo coding – at the very least RSD with Winshuttle is nowhere near as complex as configuration in SAP.

RSD vs. RAD is a nuanced distinction, but an important one to business users because the limited knobs and dials that need to be twiddled with Winshuttle can be easily understood by business users. Mean time to delivery of solutions is hours and perhaps days as opposed to weeks and months with traditional methods.

Another point of contention is the discarded technology, it often arises from an inability to re-purpose the proposed or delivered solution for some other initiative. RSD allows off the cuff solution definitions and rapid rework if it doesn’t quite meet the business objective. Flexibility flows from Winshuttle Workflow in tandem with Winshuttle Transaction and Query and your project initiative is therefore unlikely to suffer a re-usability deficiency. If you have SharePoint in place already then you know the benefits associated with a centralized document repository. If you’re already routing content by email or using the rudimentary workflows available out of the box in SharePoint then you already get that advantage.

As a business user though, that is typically where the innovation thread thins and stops. The initiative is invigorated further with the Winshuttle solution stack without compromising on the overall integrity of your systems and instead allowing you to add further layers of sophistication to your business processes without becoming overly complex. In a nutshell a low risk opportunity with a relatively low price tag.

BUAD Isn’t really anything new, it has been out in the wild for a decade or more, in fact in discussions with a customer last week the project manager and I reminisced about the early 1990’s and how we both had responsibility for pro forma invoicing systems that were BUAD solutions functioning independently of the main accounting system simply because the main system couldn’t cope with pro forma invoices.

In another examples, back in 2000 Anderson Consulting claimed to have performed IT transformation at Southern California Edison (SCE) to support “consolidation of the Business Unit application development and maintenance organizations into a consolidated IT organization. The team helped develop the new organization model as well as the service model. The team assisted SCE personnel in transitioning to the new organization on 1/1/2000.”

At the time no doubt, it was considered more prudent to reign in the disparate IT groups at the energy provider. It was also likely that such initiatives were largely funded from discretionary funds and as such IT spend was difficult to assess.

Enterprise IT, as the guardians of enterprise technologies of course have to help assess and balance the risks and the rewards of business unit application development (BUAD) in parallel with corporate IT strategies. Gartner is anticipating a major spike in business driven initiatives though and IT together with business will be looking at low risk high reward yielding solutions. Winshuttle’s technology stack fits the bill for this in terms SAP integration and enterprise collaboration at the very least but it almost certainly will require a partnership between IT and the business to get the heaviest moving parts into position against core systems like SAP. Business and IT should consider though, that getting remote and SAP-disconnected users as part of any overall process and almost overnight in terms of development lifecycle, dramatically improves your SAP ROI.

Some key discoveries by Gartner outlined in their research paper indicate that:

  • BUAD efforts will expand significantly and at increasing rates pervasively
  • The impact of BUAD efforts will reach wide audiences and mission critical business processes with positive and negative results
  • IT will need to work on a collaborative and less prescriptive approach to managing BUAD
  • With increasingly constrained resources, the goal of IT will have to be facilitation of BUAD where appropriate, not to resistance.

If you’re responsible for resolving a business problem with a technology approach or if you are responsible for IT in your organization and you know that you already have maverick business created solutions like Excel Macros and Access Databases are you ready for the BUAD Tsunami on the horizon?

If not, consider how you should be partnering business with IT to ensure that collectively you arrive at a solid, acceptable strategy for dealing with the inevitability of BUAD even if you think all it will do is get you pellets….

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About the author

Clinton Jones is a Director for Finance Solutions Management at Winshuttle where he has worked since 2009. He is internationally experienced having worked on finance technologies and business process with a particular focus on integrated business solutions in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and North America. Clinton serves as a technical consultant on technology and quality management as it relates to data and process management and governance for finance organizations globally. Prior to Winshuttle he served as a Technical Quality Manager at SAP and with Microsoft in their Global Foundation Services group.

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