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Custom Developed Workflow Software and Business Process Software

By Thomas Eklund

Does your work involve some tasks that you have to handle, but don't really like to do? What if we can make a computer application to do most of that work for you?

Chances are, that this can be done, especially, if you either directly or indirectly work with data.

As business analyst, database application developer and project manager, I build both individual application users workflows, and on a more complex level also business processes into database applications, customizing the applications closely to the way the users actually work - or want to work.

Such applications provide the most value to the users and to the employers, because they do a lot of work for the users.

These applications can work with lots of data, may involve getting data from different sources, data cleansing, automatically performed data manipulations, data transfers between the applications, and repeated data entry.

Similarly, the work that these applications do may involve outputting data from one type of application to another (automation), so that the outcome is formatted in a specific way. For example, the outcome may need to be in Excel or Word, but may originate from a different type of software.

Before having the new application available to them, the users may have to do manually a lot of data sorting, filtering, manipulating, copying and pasting.

After getting the new application, the users simply have to click buttons and make selections. So, these features eliminate the need for hours and hours of manual, error prone and mentally draining work.

On business process level, such applications can help to track business process management, generate new opportunities and relevant reports.

Workflow and Business Process Based Database Application Examples

  • All the applications that I did for Brown Brothers Harriman and for Covidien / Tyco Healthcare fall into the category that is described above.
  • Similarly, the Event Planning Application that I did for InfoTrends falls into this category. This application contained among other features even color coding of speaker and host names, because that's how the users were used to working before. However, before they had to share one paper file per event, so that they could mark event participants status there manually during the event planning process. The application also contains a complex grid, where the users could select the number of tracks (which varied per event), and fill in and change participant information. For that, too, they had to use and share a paper file before, one file per event. In the new application all the information can be easily entered, recycled from event to event and year after year, and used for both different type of events management, emailing automatically filled in material to any number of people, and data tracking and reporting.
  • Similarly, SalesGetter CRM prototype falls into this category.
  • The Trainer Scheduling Application, and the Training Reporting and Calendar Producing Application that I did for Fleet Bank both also fall into this category.
  • Complex resource scheduling that involves many different interdependent resources with varying characteristics is a pretty tough business process to build into an application, so that the end result is also very user friendly.
  • The Training Reporting and Calendar Producing Application contains functionality, that before required over 300 individual manual steps for generating the needed results. In the Training Reporting and Calendar Producing Application these steps are combined into 5 clicks. The application does the rest of the of the work, producing complex, formatted end results in Excel.
  • Several of these applications also involve Report Centers, that allow users to find data and information when they want it and run their own queries. These are both custom report generating and BI (business intelligence) tools, that the application users can utilize for finding immediate answers to business questions.
  • The users can review data on screen, or as reports, or put the data into Word or Excel, including using mail merge features and emailing functionality.
  • All of the above can be done by pointing, selecting and clicking.
  • Such tools provide decision support, allow running ad hoc queries and usage of dashboard type of functionality, so that the application users can get immediate, personalized answers and decision support using, if applicable, data from different sources.

From User Interviewing to Application Development

Through user interviewing and business analysis I document, down to necessary details, what the users do and what they would like the application to do for them, relevant workflow processes, and subject matters and their characteristics. Then I build both the users existing activities based functionality, and the users needs and wants, into the new application's functionality.

This process involves also substantial application architecture development work and usability engineering.

The previous Work subsection contains descriptions and visual examples of database application development work.