Navigating the Maze of Process Automation: Insights and Pitfalls

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Jacek Pietsch

Updated Apr 29, 2024 • 12 min read
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How can you harness process automation to optimize business processes without getting tangled in complex coding?

This is where low-code and no-code platforms come into play, simplifying the integration of CRM and ERP systems.

Process automation is essential for businesses to streamline operations and reduce manual errors. Integrating CRM and ERP systems helps by automating tasks, which saves time, and makes everything run smoother.

Embracing low-code and no-code platforms further simplifies this integration, providing operational flexibility.

This is especially important for leaders and tech teams who need to keep up with customer demands and stay ahead in the market.

Key Takeaways:

  • Access to global innovation: Giants like SAP, Salesforce, and Microsoft enable quick custom app development with their tech.
  • Low-code/no-code benefits: Further speeds up app development, eases modifications, integrates apps smoothly, and cuts costs, streamlining business automation efforts.

Why do businesses choose CRM and ERP for process automation?

Businesses often choose CRM and ERP systems for process automation due to several key advantages:

  • Already deployed: Using systems that are already set up saves time and avoids the hassle of new installations.
  • Cost-effective: Leveraging existing systems means there's no need for extra spending on procurement or security checks.
  • User familiarity: Employees are likely already familiar with these systems, which cuts down on training time and helps avoid the need for additional licenses.

Yet, as we embrace these tools, we're reminded that with great power comes great complexity. Opting for CRM and ERP systems is a logical choice, but it demands a strategic approach to navigate the vast maze of possibilities without getting lost.

Over customization with CRM and ERP systems

The reasons businesses opt for CRM and ERP systems for process automation are clear. Major vendors like SAP, Salesforce, and Microsoft, are making it easier for companies to build and deploy business applications quickly, without needing a lot of coding.

For instance, Microsoft 365 showcases the synergy within this trend. It combines ERP and CRM functionalities with the power of the Dataverse database. Through tools like PowerApps and Power Automate, users can modify views, add custom entities, and implement business logic, all without needing to write code.

However, these platforms, launched by CRM/ERP vendors as process automation tools, are not exclusively designed for this purpose, which adds complexity. Furthermore, the deep integration and extensive customization possible within Microsoft 365 can tightly bind solutions to ERP/CRM systems. This close coupling can lead businesses into complexities challenging to navigate.

The five major risks of over-customization in process automation

Process automation can make your business run smoother, but adding too many custom features to CRM and ERP systems might cause more problems than it solves.

Before going all-in on customizing these systems, it's important to know the risks. Here are five big ones to watch out for:

  • Poor user experience: Over-customization can overwhelm users, making navigation and operation difficult, which can reduce the system's overall usability.
  • Maintenance challenges: Each custom feature added to your system introduces potential maintenance issues. Following a significant software update, custom functionalities may require adjustments, adding to the workload of IT departments.
  • Complexity and bottlenecks: A highly customized system, especially one involving multiple applications and platforms, can become fragmented. This fragmentation may lead to operational bottlenecks, where the effort to coordinate across the ecosystem outweighs the benefits of individual custom features.
  • Tightly coupled systems: Heavy customization can bind your operations too closely to your current systems, making any future upgrades or migrations a difficult task. Keeping the core system as clean as possible ensures more flexibility for future changes.
  • Licensing and access Issues: Custom additions often mean more complexity in terms of access and licensing. Before expanding your system, consider whether the benefits of customization outweigh the potential costs.

By acknowledging these risks, businesses can make more informed decisions about when and how to customize their process automation solutions, maintaining a balance between innovation and operability.

Key benefits of low-code and no-code platforms

Low-code and no-code platforms extend ERP systems' capabilities, making process automation more efficient. This approach makes automation accessible to a broader range of users.

The benefits of low code no code technologies in process automation software are particularly impactful for the enterprise sector, offering:

  • Streamlined development: Businesses can develop and customize applications much faster, without deep coding knowledge.
  • Adaptability: Companies can quickly adapt to changes and new requirements, enhancing their ability to innovate.
  • Cost efficiency: Low-code and no-code platforms reduce development costs, making it more affordable to automate processes

In sum, low-code and no-code platforms are not just about simplifying the development process; they're about empowering businesses to achieve more with less — optimizing processes, enhancing agility, and driving innovation while maintaining cost-effectiveness.

Exploring alternatives for business processes to not overload your core systems

There are times when adding more features to your existing systems might not be the best move. It's worth considering other approaches, especially when you're looking for long-term solutions or need to avoid complicating your setup further. Here's why and how exploring alternatives, like standalone platforms, can be beneficial.

Before implementing a new system or adding custom functionalities to your existing platforms, consider the following questions to ensure a strategic approach:

  • Does your custom functionality aim to modify existing processes or introduce a new process?
  • Can the desired outcomes be achieved using existing systems and data, avoiding additional customization?
  • How does this implementation align with your business's long-term roadmap and objectives for the coming year?
  • What are your operational constraints (time, budget, regulations), and how do they impact your implementation strategy?
  • Are you prioritizing immediate gains over the bigger picture, potentially overlooking long-term implications?

Reflecting on these questions can align with your long-term business strategy and operational needs.

Sometimes, the best way isn't to overload your current CRM or ERP but to look at what else is out there. Standalone applications or platforms can offer specialized functionalities that are more suited for certain tasks. This approach can help you avoid the pitfalls of over-customization, such as maintenance headaches, user confusion, and system slowdowns.

The Microsoft ecosystem, with its extensive range of apps and customization capabilities, exemplifies the complexity and potential of such integrations. While these options are designed for good reasons, assessing whether they align with your project's needs is essential, moving beyond traditional programming to explore innovative alternatives.

Mendix for enhanced process automation in ERP and CRM systems

Mendix emerges as a shining example when considering the augmentation of ERP and CRM systems through process automation. Its hallmark flexibility and efficiency offer a seamless bridge between rapid application development and existing data powerhouses like Dynamics 365, Salesforce, or SAP.

This means you can build exactly what you need without disrupting your core systems.

With Mendix, the focus is on:

  • Simplified development: Quick and intuitive app creation, which sidesteps the complexities often encountered with traditional programming.
  • Enhanced flexibility: The ability to tailor solutions precisely for the tasks at hand, without being constrained by the limitations of your current systems.
  • Streamlined operations: Less risk of creating bottlenecks or overburdening your systems with features that are better handled by a dedicated application.

When considering the next steps for your process automation journey, think about your long-term goals and current limitations. If your roadmap suggests that a more focused, agile solution could serve you better, exploring platforms like Mendix could open up new possibilities for efficiency and growth.

Conclusion: Smart choices to automate business processes

We've looked at how to succeed with process automation, highlighting the benefits of using CRM and ERP systems and the risks of over-customizing. The emergence of low-code and no-code platforms, such as Mendix, offers a way to improve business efficiency without the downsides of traditional system changes.

Here's what to keep in mind:

  • Take a good look at what you're already doing. Where can automation make things better?
  • Think about the future.
  • Check out what tools are out there.

Doing your homework and planning carefully means you'll pick a process automation strategy that not only works great now but will also grow with your business. If you're looking to explore your options further, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.

FAQ Section: Navigating Process Automation

What is business process automation (BPA)?

Business process automation involves using technology, such as software and tools, to automate repetitive tasks and workflows within a company. This automation aims to increase efficiency, reduce errors, and streamline operations to achieve organizational goals more effectively.

What is Robotic Process Automation?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a technology that allows businesses to automate routine and repetitive tasks using software robots or 'bots'. These bots mimic human actions to complete tasks across various applications and systems without altering the existing infrastructure.

How do low-code and no-code platforms facilitate process automation?

Low-code and no-code platforms enable users to design, build, and implement automation solutions without the need for extensive coding knowledge. These platforms offer drag-and-drop interfaces and pre-built templates, making it easier and faster to develop applications that automate business processes.

What are the risks of business process automation?

While implementing process automation here can offer significant benefits, it also presents risks such as over-reliance on technology, potential job displacement, security vulnerabilities, and the possibility of errors in the automation process itself. Planning carefully and involving a diverse team in the automation strategy can help mitigate these risks.

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Jacek Pietsch

Principal Mendix Expert at Netguru. Jacek leads the low-code/no-code initiative by shaping the new...
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