Salesforce® low code platforms (Force.com, Lighting App Builder, Lightning Process Builder) are great for connecting cloud services within the Salesforce® ecosystem. But transforming your entire enterprise, including disparate cloud services, on-premises systems, and custom apps into a digital ecosystem powered by Salesforce® data requires a responsive low-code platform. To find out why, read on.
Defining Digital Ecosystems
Drop a pebble in a pond and the ripples reach every shore. Some of them will bounce off objects in the pond—rocks, stumps, etc.—and emanate in other directions. This ripple effect results from natural forces at work in natural ecosystems. The same phenomenon should occur in highly evolved organizations: events logged in one system or application should trigger effects in others—status changes, process updates, notifications, and any number of other related activities.
The Self-Sustaining Nature of Ecosystems
Natural ecosystems are self-sustaining. No one needs to tell the fish to feed or the bees to pollinate. In fact, barring any kind of external impetus, a natural ecosystem will continue to thrive on its own. For an enterprise to become a digital ecosystem, it needs more than just a lot more software, a lot more automated processes, and a lot more connected devices. It needs digital intelligence, the ability for all of its digital connective tissue to be self-adaptive to change, to in fact be capable of evolution in its own right.
Self-adaptive is more than just a feature; it’s the catalyzing agent. To envision this in specific relief, just imagine the dysfunctional alternative: thousands of software developers constantly maintaining millions of lines of code to keep everything working in perpetuity. Without self-adaption, a digital ecosystem would be crushed under its own weight.
Salesforce® at the Center
Having invented the concept of Software as a Service (SaaS), Salesforce® began as just a CRM delivered as a cloud service, evolved into a sales platform, and has now grown into seven separate cloud services. The software giant has recently entered the business intelligence space, which will expand its reach and influence even further. But perhaps more telling than its sprawl is the fact that it has become the de-facto system of record for tens of thousands of enterprises.
Consequently, teams working in various line-of-business systems across an organization need access to Salesforce®-based data. More important, though, is this:
Given the role that Salesforce® plays in many organizations, events in Salesforce® must cascade throughout an enterprise. Likewise, events being logged in other systems should often be reflected in Salesforce® data records and be represented to teams and individuals who live in Salesforce®.
That’s the digital-ecosystem concept in play, and for thousands of enterprises, Salesforce® is key, perhaps even the critical piece.
A Sampling of Real-World Examples
While there are a virtually unlimited number of Salesforce®-centric, cascading effects we could highlight, here are just a few examples:
- Marking a Salesforce® opportunity as closed triggers the beginning of the fulfillment cycle, the processing of an invoice, and inventory-related transactions and processes, any and all of which will involve other systems.
- A digital signature on a contract triggers a notification in Salesforce® for the account manager.
- Changes in Salesforce® for Sales Forecast cascade down to your ERP system, initiating supply chain modifications and manufacturing scheduling.
Thinking down this path, it’s easy to imagine thousands of events happening simultaneously, each cascading, in turn triggering other processes, and launching additional events. To the extent that data is a driver, Salesforce® is the vehicle that must be woven into ecosystem DNA.
The question is how to actually build this highly evolved digital ecosystem?
Building Salesforce® Low Code Apps Fast—Just a Beginning
Low-code development platforms constitute one of the fastest-growing IT sectors, and the reason is the common goal of digital transformation, which, in the eyes of many, simply means lots more software, lots more automated processes, and lots more connected devices. But even this two-dimensional vision of digital transformation is a pipe dream in a world where Agile is the fastest way to develop and deliver custom software assets.
Low-code platforms, in contrast to Agile, can speed application development and delivery up to ten fold. And they can dramatically expand the pool of potential developers to include non-senior-system engineers (novice engineers and even power users [citizen developers]). Just the same, not all low-code platforms are created equal, and building an actual digital ecosystem requires a platform that can go far beyond mere rapid-application development. And building a digital ecosystem powered by Salesforce® data is yet another step beyond.
What Else Is Needed?
Finding platforms that can play at this level isn’t easy. Lots of them can speed the development process. Lots of them have extensive portfolios of adaptors and connectors, enabling cross platform, cross-cloud interactivity. But the self-adaptive aspect of requisite apps? Building apps that are responsive, not just to devices and browsers, but to technological and business changes throughout an enterprise? That’s both the hard part and the transformational agent. Salesforce®, of course, presents additional problems that require a truly unique low code approach.
AgilePoint NX, the Responsive Low Code Platform
AgilePoint NX has been in the market for a couple of years now, and has lived up to its billing. When Forrester released its initial Wave Report on this technology class (The Forrester Wave™: Low-Code Development Platforms, Q2 2016), AgilePoint received a top-five ranking among all platforms across the five major platform categories. (Note that Force.com, Salesforce’s own low code entrant was another leader in the report.) At the time, much of AgilePoint NX’s capability simply fell outside the scope of the report. (If Forrester analysts had included responsive-application functionality as a benchmark, only AgilePoint NX would have qualified.)
Since that report was published, AgilePoint NX has made major advancements regarding Salesforce®, separating itself as what we believe to be the only low-code platform that can be used to transform an enterprise into a digital ecosystem fueled by Salesforce®-based data.
Responsive Application Architecture
Major components of AgilePoint NX’s responsive-application approach include the following:
- A model-driven-architecture that allows manual or programmatic updates of business logic and application structure at runtime
- A metadata abstraction layer that translates model modifications and data input into application code, which, for AgilePoint NX, is XML
- A stateless engine that processes components within application models as they are needed for each running instance (rather than loading an entire model into memory and keeping it there throughout process lifecycle).
What AgilePoint NX Brings to the Salesforce® Table
Now available in the Salesforce® AppExchange is the AgilePoint NX App for Salesforce®. This app enables AgilePoint NX forms, dashboards, and management consoles to be embedded in Salesforce®. Here are a few of the reasons why this design characteristic is an important advancement.
AgilePoint NX’s unique architecture enables it to pass Salesforce’s stringent security review, enabling AgilePoint’s dashboards, forms, and reports to run as native code within Salesforce®.
Native BPMS Functionality
AgilePoint NX, a multi-year occupant of Gartner’s iBPMS Magic Quadrant, brings world-class low-code BPMS functionality to Salesforce®, enabling you to model, build, monitor, measure, and refine automated processes, both for use within Salesforce® and throughout your enterprise.
While other BPM suites and workflow tools can push/pull data from Salesforce®, surfacing forms within Salesforce® in IFrames (functionality also available with AgilePoint NX, by the way), AgilePoint NX runs natively within Salesforce® and requires no IFrames.
Event Monitoring without API Calls
A critical aspect to ecosystem development is being able to monitor everything going on in an enterprise. AgilePoint NX includes event listeners that can monitor Salesforce® events and trigger various AgilePoint processes that include interactions with other applications. Likewise, event listeners can monitor events in other applications and trigger processes that interact with Salesforce®.
Most importantly, because AgilePoint NX is embedded in Salesforce®, AgilePoint event listeners can monitor Salesforce® activities without continually polling Salesforce®. Because this design characteristic virtually eliminates the need for Salesforce® API calls, system architects can design process applications with end users in mind, rather than how many API calls will be required.
Extensive Activity Support
AgilePoint enables extensive interactivity with Salesforce®, supporting nineteen separate Salesforce® activities.
Cross Platform, Cross Environment Workflows
AgilePoint NX enables you to build enterprise-class workflows and business apps that will run natively within Salesforce® and other cloud services but which will also interact with on-premises systems, both commercially produced and custom-built.
Beautiful Data Mashups Surfaced Anywhere
AgilePoint NX includes an eForms designer that can produce forms of any complexity. AgilePoint NX enables you to build forms that include data from multiple sources—no extra coding required. Forms can be interactive based on embedded business logic and can incorporate field-specific validation rules. AgilePoint NX’s eForms toolbox includes more than sixty control types. Any AgilePoint NX form can be surfaced in any other system.
Ubiquitous Dashboards of Visualized Data
AgilePoint NX enables you to track details regarding all relevant processes across your enterprise and compiles them on customizable dashboards for each Salesforce® user. Likewise, the same dashboards can be embedded in any other application or system, on-premises or in the cloud.
AgilePoint NX allows you to embed its Work Center, Task Management, and Governance dashboards in Salesforce®, enabling Salesforce® Admins to interact with and monitor events in other applications throughout the enterprise without ever leaving Salesforce®. From these dashboards, Admins can define and extend rights and privileges to select people, while protecting sensitive data and processes from people who don’t need access to them.
Seamless Interactions with Other Systems and People
AgilePoint NX includes a library of Salesforce® AgileParts that you can drag and drop into your apps and workflows that enable them to integrate and inter-operate with Salesforce®.
How to Proceed
The good news is the AgilePoint NX App for Salesforce® is available now. And you can begin the process of transforming your enterprise into a digital ecosystem right away.