Łukasz Wróbel, Vice President and Chief Business Development Officer of WEBCON speaks to Link to Poland about the benefits of the WEBCON Business Process Suite and InstantChange™ technology that enables IT to react quickly ever-changing business needs.
You have been on the market for 11 years now, how did this all start?
It started with our President’s decision to leave Krakow-based Comarch and build something entirely new from scratch. He wanted to start a data warehouse, providing solutions for data analysis for the purposes of business intelligence. During his first contacts with clients it turned out that there were many processes that they would love to analyze, but the data is scattered around in many e-mails and files on hard drives installed in various machines around the office. Simply put, it was difficult for them to gather all their data in a single place for further analysis. That is where the idea of building business applications came from. Based on existing technologies developed by Microsoft, the company started to develop their first applications.
It quickly turned out that even though we were able to deliver them rather quickly after 2-3 months, problems started to surface as soon as our clients tried to make any changes. Managing that became quite difficult, particularly because at some point our clients started giving us ultimatums: either we implement their changes or they would have to move on. We knew in advance that there would be some ongoing changes in the applications, but we simply were not able to react to them quickly and deliver the required modifications on time. This is how we came up with the idea for a product that is completely different from any other solution available in the market. It was these business realities that gave us direction and showed us what was the most important: flexibility, and the ability to tailor our solutions to market expectations.
That is how WEBCON BPS was created – how does it work?
The best way to explain what WEBCON BPS is through an example.
If we need to post an invoice, we can use accounting tools or one of many IT systems available on the market. In the case of more complex and non-standard processes, such as quality control carried out at CEDC (a major European alcohol producer), it often turns out that applications to support such tests and make our work easier either do not exist at all or they are available, but would require us to abandon best practices developed by the company. As a result, instead of using a tailor-made application, we have to take note of the results in an Excel sheet or on paper.
There are many such processes happening in companies every day, related to things like approving agreements, posting invoices, approving costs, vacation time, developing new products, and opening new stores or branches. These are all essentially sets of tasks and information that need to be delivered to users in a clear, simple and accessible manner.
Let’s imagine that we want to see what tasks need to be done and at what stage of the project we are. When information about these tasks are sent via e-mails, attachments, and numerous files on dozens of hard drives, we are simply unable to provide an answer to the question “At what stage is each of the 43 contracts we are currently managing?” or “Where are we with the opening of our new store in London?” These are very simple questions, crucial for every business out there. Yet it is often very hard to find a concrete answer. If we work on a project using a number of non-integrated communication channels, then in reality we do not have much control over it.
Especially when one of the people working on a given task is absent...
Exactly, this is a very important aspect! Getting all that data into one IT system not only makes all tasks and actions clear and visible in the organisation, but you can also easily see the stage they are at, their status, the name of the person responsible right now and who you are waiting for. This means we can easily allocate tasks to a replacement.
Let us take another example, say, accounting for international business assignments. This is a complex process, but in every company there is always one person (most often in the accounting department) who needs to do it. What if that person is on vacation or simply changes jobs? Everything, the entire procedure, comes crashing to a halt.
In business processes we are extremely reliant on people who are experts in their respective fields, who control and manage specific processes. Even though they may be e-mail-based, they know what’s going on at every stage of the task and can give hints and tips to other employees regarding what to do. That’s great, but people sometimes fall ill or leave and that makes for a potentially serious problem for large organisations.
When companies have procedures on paper, regulating the flow of tasks, documens and data, we can be certain that a business application can be created. Since, in practice, the application will follow these rules and ensure they are enforced systematically.
Why is your system innovative?
Every system can be programmed and developed according to the requirements presented by a client. Our system is innovative in that it is a no-code solution. Instead of relying on developers to write code, our system uses intuitive “building blocks”, which can be arranged according to the needs of a given business from which business applications are created. Everything can be clicked, dragged and dropped using a graphic user interface, without the need to write any code. What we are doing is revolutionary, because the results and effects are visible in real time, and it is really easy to make changes. Instant change management is available both when we make the application, as well as when we have to modify it in production.
What is the end result? We are able to quickly build and deliver business solutions, which, most importantly, are easy to maintain and modify should the need arise. The latter is a crucial feature, because processes connected with, for example, product approval may be modified even several times a month. If the IT system is unable to keep up with changes, it might turn out that instead of supporting the process, it becomes a limiting factor. Configuring a system instead of coding it allows us to make quick adjustments, up to the point where we are able to change the application and switch what is necessary for the company to function properly. This way all critical processes for a given business are constantly under your control.
This technology, which we call InstantChange™, allows us to change and modify every aspect of a business application or workflow with minimal time and costs involved. Of course, this does not mean that we can implement changes without any regards to the budget. However, the resources that are available for preparing a project should also allow for implementing a significant number of changes. This helps us avoid a situation where the business or an external supplier feels uncomfortable due to the fact that the costs are higher than earlier estimates.
Every company needs to watch their spending closely, and it is important to keep in mind the cost of development, implementation, and future maintenance of solutions. This is especially important given the responsibility for launching a large number of new business applications in the company. It is crucial to deliver a single interface, maintain a single platform, and manage one set of costs.
Is this why your clients choose your solutions so willingly?
Yes! We live in the time of the digital transformation, where a multitude of new technologies are stimulating business and helping developments appear on the market at an astounding pace. Right now, we would be hard-pressed to find anybody who does not see that. These days, if your business cannot keep up with changes, sooner or later you will be out of the market. Companies need solutions and tools to not only help improve their business processes, but first and foremost ensure that if the process ever changes, the application will change with it and will keep supporting new development and progress, instead of stifling it
Thanks to our sysstem, the entire process history is also saved and available in one place. Users and administrators know instantly who accepted what, what the results are, and so on. We need to remember that the ability to automate small processes across 15, 30, 70 or more locations in a company and then combine them is a strengthening of the business process. When I do something in one place and at the same time somebody gets the information and starts an associated task in another place in the company, we are making communication quicker and more efficient.
Communication can be kept simple in a company hiring under a dozen employees, but when your business starts growing, new locations and branches appear in other countries, and efficient communication may become problematic. The applications and workflows implemented by our clients can be very complex and are able to serve entire organizations. All processes are interconnected, just like in a living organism. Not only are we able to automate processes at the level of specific departments, we can also build a platform for managing an entire business.
How do you take care of constant development of your product?
Part of it we owe to our WEBCON DAY meetings, which are organised annually. There, we have an opportunity to meet our clients and business partners, which allows us to gather feedback and ideas for improving the system. Most importantly, we learn how companies use it and how they implement various interesting projects internally.
This is crucial information from the standpoint of planning updates and upgrades for upcoming versions, enabling us to deliver exactly what our clients need. This is the main strength of the WEBCON BPS system: our clients appreciate that this is not a solution developed in an ivory tower, but one that works well in practical situations and is constantly being improved. During our meetings, we regularly host a so-called Programming Committee, where we meet with our regular clients, share our plans for upcoming updates, ideas for the short- and long-term perspectives and discuss whether given elements are necessary or not.
We are currently observing a trend that some business owners use our platform to not only make their internal processes more efficient, but also to collaborate with their clients. In response to that need, we have implemented a way for them to easily get into the system so that the external business processes can be integrated and go as smoothly as possible.
“This is all in line with our driving principle: Create, manage and change – without coding,” says Lukasz Wrobel, VP and CBDO of WEBCON