BPM offers the promise of streamlining not only a business process, but the way a user experiences that process. If I have to navigate through 10 applications to finish a task, that is 10 steps that really have nothing to do with the process at hand. At that point its the inadequacies of the system that is enforcing its own process outside of the business process. Those inadequacies equate a less than optimal user experience.
Integrating legacy systems into a single UI is one of the great advantages of any modern BPM software application. Working with legacy systems and integrating their data can pose technical challenges that go way beyond the UI itself. Done successfully, integrations can reduce the need for both legacy software application maintenance, extra hardware (think dual or triple monitors to see all those extra apps!) and improve overall task performance. Done poorly, integrations can have a negative effect on user experience by introducing adverse UI performance as well as introducing extra clicks and steps. Both of these degrade the user’s trust in the system.
I have had the pleasure to guide the user experience for numerous BPM projects where integration has played a key role. Based on these experiences I have come up with a few key points to consider when integrating data into a BPM UI:
Don’t just integrate, eliminate. By this I mean that sometimes the most successful integration is actually doing away with the need for someone to ever look up that data. If the system can grab the data and either supply it to the user at the appropriate time or make the appropriate decision based on other user steps, you have not only integrated successfully but also streamlined the entire business process.
Focus on the high value integrations first. I see a lot of customer wanting to focus on sexy integrations vs ones that will really provide business value. Integrating Google Maps can be very cool, but when you only need to look at a map for a small percentage of tasks it may make more sense to integrate that green screen application someone built 30 years ago that needs to be looked at 90% of the time. Your users will thank you for it.
Integrate Iteratively. Ensure that your BPM application actually gets into production in a timely manner by not trying to cram all integrations into the first go around. Instead, identify those high value integrations and incorporate those into the first few iterations to ensure maximum task performance improvements.
While integration is certainly not the only important aspect of user experience, it is one that is often overlooked. This is a mistake, because even if you have the slickest UI with the sharpest color pallette, layout and modern widgetry it will all be undone if a user has to pop out of it every few minutes or so to jump into a legacy application to find the right piece of data to complete their task. When focusing on how to build great BPM user experiences, it is just as much about how you integrate data as it is about making sure the UI is aesthetically pleasing.