Archive for Noah Ullman

What is Workflow Automation? And Why Should I care?

Time. Workflows save time by automating processes.

Time is the only resource that you can’t create, buy, acquire, borrow or steal. That, makes time incredibly valuable, which has been recognized by great thinkers throughout the years.

  • “You may delay, but time will not.” Benjamin Franklin
  • “The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.” C. S. Lewis
  • “My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” Steve Jobs
  • “Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” Theophrastus
  • “We must use time as a tool, not as a couch.” John F. Kennedy

And for the more practical, less philosophically minded, “Time is money.” Benjamin Franklin

Workflows create time for people by automating routine processes by machine. It’s that simple.

For any division, organization or line of business that has a routine process that is used regularly, it is worth investing in the development of an automated workflow.

Workflows for Human Resources:

Need to onboard a new hire? There’s a workflow for that.

Need to manage a review process? There’s a workflow for that.

Workflows for Procurement:

Need to send out an RFQ? There’s a workflow for that.

Need to evaluate a vendor? There’s a workflow for that.

Workflows for Finance:

Need to close out year end? There’s a workflow for that.

Need to publish an annual report? There’s a workflow for that.

Workflow for Marketing:

Need to put together a launch campaign? There’s a workflow for that.

Need to manage your social media? There’s a workflow for that.

Here’s how it works, in a simple example. Using an “off the shelf” tool you can have your phone check the weather and remind you to dress appropriately.

IF it’s likely to rain today THEN text me a message to bring my umbrella.

Have trouble maintaining your inbox and afraid you’re going to miss an important message from your manager?

IF <manager> sends me an email, THEN text <number>.

These are both super easy to set up with drag and drop workflow automation tools like “If this then that” and Microsoft Flow.

Workflows not only save time, they can relieve workers of a monotonous routine function enabling them to focus on more important work.

Workflows can capture institutional knowledge—reducing reliance on an individual by putting process into a system that can be shared and used by the entire organization. When a process is independent of an individual, that process can be decentralized, meaning that the knowledge of that process can be shared at scale.  Decentralized processes create speed, efficiency and transparency, critical factors in digital transformation.

In short, workflows save time through basic automation.  What’s amazing about workflows is how easily they scale, saving a little time for many which adds up to a whole lot for the organization.

About Noah:

240-Ullman,-NoahNoah is the Director of Business Development for BlumShapiro’s Technology Consulting Group. He brings over 25 years of business experience from entrepreneurial start ups, to over a decade of working at Microsoft in various sales, marketing and business development roles. Noah has launched Windows XP, Office XP, Tablet PC, Media Center PC, MSN Direct Smartwatches (an early IoTattempt), several videogames, a glove controller, and a wine import company/brand. Noah spent three years living overseas building out Microsoft’s Server and Tools business in Eastern Europe working with the IT Pro and developer communities. He considers himself a futurist, likes science fiction and loves applying what was recently science fiction to real world problems and opportunities. 

Workflow Automation Brent CTA

Build or Buy Application Development?

There’s nothing quite like a bespoke suit. Having something custom made for you makes that item special and specific to your needs.

Back in the day when materials were expensive and labor was cheap, most people had one, perhaps two custom made suits. Today, materials are cheap and labor is expensive so clothes are mass manufactured on assembly lines overseas and people have closets full of commodity items that are “prêt-à-porter” or “ready to wear.”

Just a few years ago the application market was in its infancy and if you wanted an app, you likely had to build it from scratch. Those days are long gone. There are many marketplaces where you can shop for “ready to wear” applications on almost any platform.

Build or buy is a fairly common question in all aspects of business and it’s no different in application development. What is different in application development is that you are tied to the platform that the app needs to run on and that platforms “stores” where you shop for applications. 

So the bigger question may be how robust is the application market for your platform? This is one of the many reasons BlumShapiro is totally committed to the Microsoft platform. The level of interoperability across the Microsoft stack is remarkable. At Microsoft, the group that is the home to SQL Server is called “App plat” – the developer tools division was designed to build apps on top of SQL databases that would surface in all types of Microsoft programs, including Office for the greatest level of accessibility for end users that may need access to the application. Microsoft works with the most popular mobile platforms and offers an exceptional experience on both Android and iOS. Consumption of the tool, or application is an important consideration in your “build or buy” decision.

There are several other key considerations when developing an application. One of the first questions that tend to come up with a client is the usage scenario for the application, especially around the idea of is this app something we want to sell as code, or will this be something to use internally as a service to your clients. Having clarity of purpose on the usage scenario for your app needs to be clear for everyone on the team. In our work with clients we tend to start with four key questions to think about when it comes to app development. When you sit down to think about your app some questions you need to ask yourself include:

  1. What does it do?
  2. Who is it for?
  3. What is the problem we are trying to solve?
  4. Is this the best way to solve the problem?

Question 4 reminds me of a presentation given by Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway, insulin pump and founder of For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST). In his presentation he discussed the “forward facing chariot” developed by the Mongols while traversing the Gobi Desert. The forward facing chariot did exactly what it said – it always faced forward. There was a pointer on the chariot connected to the wheels so that if one wheel were spinning faster than the other and the chariot were turning, there would be an indication of the turn. This ensured that the Mongol hordes did not get lost going in circles in the desert. And it worked… but then again, so does a compass, which is smaller, lighter, cheaper and more reliable. The moral of the story is don’t invent forward facing chariots when a compass does the same thing… better.

How to avoid this in modern application development? Do your research and find an app on your platform that is close to what you need, then get a good “tailor” for a custom fit.

About Noah

240-Ullman,-NoahNoah is the Director of Business Development for BlumShapiro’s Technology Consulting Group. He brings over 25 years of business experience from entrepreneurial start ups, to over a decade of working at Microsoft in various sales, marketing and business development roles. Noah has launched Windows XP, Office XP, Tablet PC, Media Center PC, MSN Direct Smartwatches (an early IoT attempt), several videogames, a glove controller, and a wine import company/brand. Noah spent three years living overseas building out Microsoft’s Server and Tools business in Eastern Europe working with the IT Pro and developer communities. He considers himself a futurist, likes science fiction and loves applying what was recently science fiction to real world problems and opportunities. 

CTA Build or Buy Mobile App