Process Apps and the Future of Business Processes: Speaking with Romeo Elias

Schooff: Hello, this is Peter Schooff, Managing Editor at BPM.com and today I have the pleasure of speaking with Romeo Elias, the Founder and CEO of Interneer, Incorporated. He's an experienced software executive, BPM expert, patented inventor, and entrepreneur advisor and today we're going to discuss a recent upcoming announcement from Interneer, which is about apps for business processes, which at BPM.com we found really interesting. So first of all Romeo, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast.

Elias:: Thank you, Peter, I appreciate it.

Schooff: So as I've prefaced, I found your announcement very interesting. Can you just give me a quick overview of the world of apps for business processes as it is right now and then going forward?

Elias:: Absolutely Peter. The thing that we have been observing in the market, specifically, with the advent of mobility and the whole mobile world is that it's been very, very disruptive, as you probably know. And today, there are more mobile devices in the world than there are people. This year the sale of tablets and smart phones has exceeded desktops and PCs. Everything is transforming mobility for a day-to-day employee is no longer an option. It has become something that they need to have access to no matter where they're at.

At the same time, if you look at how mobility has changed the expectation of people and then how they deal with apps, what you'll notice is that there's this expectation now that they have to be accessible from anywhere, that they're very ubiquitous. They have to be very easy, very simple; they do certain things very well. They're not these complex things that do everything as we're used to with enterprise apps in the office. And so at the same time, people can download any app they want, they can customize apps, they can get apps that empower them to build things, and change things.

And if you look at what we do with our smart mobile phones today, it's funny to me that 20 years ago people would say I don't even know how to program my VCR. Whereas today, they have this massive computer on their phone and they do so many things with it. So this whole self-service nature of it has also become ubiquitous and people just -- they expect that they can learn things and do things themselves, and not always have to be relying on experts, and programmers, and so on.

So all those things have changed the expectation on how we deal with apps and specifically business apps. So business apps from a business user standpoint, the expectation is that they have to be easy to use, they have to be easy to change and deploy, they have to be accessible anywhere and ubiquitous, and they also need to access their backend data and systems so that they're not standalone, something that is completely sitting on an island. And when you look at companies and what options they have today, there's some limitations and gaps in the market and has the ability to access these kinds of apps and to deploy these for their employees and users and who isn’t able to and this is kind of part of the problem that we're trying to solve.

Schooff: Right. Well, that goes right to my next question, which you kind of answered. So why don't you then tell me how does smart mobile apps how are they going to solve this explosion of apps and devices?

Elias:: So let's talk more about the problem. So if you are let's say a large enterprise like Bank of America and so on, I mean you have the ability to go and download or install an enterprise system that integrates with your whole development environment, deployed massive amount of developer resources, and training, and time, and crank out these apps for your employees. If you are a midsize or small business, you don't have any of those options. You don't have any of that time or luxury or resources. So today, what these companies are trying to do is they're trying to find something off-the-shelf, which usually doesn't exist in the app store or they're trying to see if their ERP system provides something off-the-shelf, which may or may not exist, and if it does exist, is probably limited to a few transactions that work with their ERP.

But everything beyond that, all the things that you do day-to-day, and approvals, and reviews, and expense reporting, and you name it, the myriad of things that employees would do currently outside of those specific apps that maybe exist. So really, the only option for them to create these business apps that fit this criteria. So smart mobile apps, our platform was designed specifically to solve these problems. So essentially what it provides, it's built first of all on a business process management platform that's been around for over a decade now in the midsize space and the SMB space. This particular platform is designed for small IT teams, for teams that are more business empowered and the business wants to take more control towards the business side of IT as they call it. It's all the drag-and-drop modeling environment that requires absolutely no programming to deploy any type of this app in it with workflow, full integration, business rules, user interface, forms, database, reporting and dashboards, pretty much everything you need in order to deploy a business app.

And what we've done is we've taken this now and extended it so that no longer are you just simply deploying a cloud-based app, which has been the standard for many years, or one that's accessible through a mobile device, through Safari as an example, to a mobile friendly interface. We've taken it now so that you can create a native mobile app. What that means is that this is an app that will be generated dynamically on your device that is fully native, meaning its leveraging all the native capabilities of a device. You can take pictures, and GPS coordinates, and you can work off-line, all these other features that are native also to speed and performance, and scanning, and so on that you couldn't do a HTML-based app.

And the amazing thing about it is you can do all this through the same BPM platform that's all drag-and-drop, no programming, integrated, dynamic, and very easy to deploy. And literally we're talking you can build an app in a matter of minutes, hours. You can have something running on your device that's fully integrated with the backend that gives you access to all your data, that lets you make transactions, approved workflows, and again designed without you having to deploy an army of developers in order to accomplish this.

Schooff: Do you see this as possibly creating a problem with what everybody's basically running on their own apps or there's a repository in essence for everybody's apps?

Elias:: The great question. So really, there's a part of also when you're dealing with an enterprise, not only do you have to make sure that it's integrated, that it's dynamic and easy to generate and everything else, but you have to take into account the element of security, and management, and IT control over this. And so again, with this environment I have to take that into account. And the way we actually handle that, it's probably the architecture. You essentially are downloading a free app from the app store, and that's already been approved, and you don’t have to worry about the approval process and all that because it's handled through our app.

The content of our app, the Intellect MobileApps, it's basically a library of apps that you as a company can deploy. You do that through the BPM platform, you drag-and-drop and build out all the apps you want. You can specify security rules around who has access to which apps and what particular sets of data was in each app to have access to based on the employee role and group they belong to and so on.

So when they launch our app, they're accessing the server, they enter their credentials. And based on that, we know who they are and we know what apps they have access to. And also, to extend that, if you no longer then become an employee and you cannot login, you no longer have access to any of the apps or any of the data. So that whole element of security, and control, and management that a lot of IT departments are concerned about is already built-in and inherent the architecture of the solution so it's all centrally managed. And the other benefit too, obviously, is if you want to create a new app and deploy it, you literally you just do it in a matter of -- it's instantly available now when that person logs in again, they have access to that new app that was delivered for them.

Schooff: Now in your vision looking forward, do you see all business processes basically handled by business apps?

Elias:: The way I look at it is that there's always going to be apps that are going to be more high transaction core critical that require, you know, this massive infrastructure like sn ERP app, or maybe if you're an insurance company, may be its your case management app and something that's more core to your business. This is always going to remain. You're always going to have these central massive systems in place that control all that. What we're talking about is the apps that belong -- that basically tackle the day-to-day human intervention, human collaboration that touches these different apps, but it's not touching it purely in that one environment, but it's kind of cutting across these different apps and also sometimes, it's outside of these apps.

Its' really about collaboration, and innovation, and coming up with decisions and solutions and those have to be accessible anywhere, not just simply in the office. I mean it's no longer an option. It's not going to be an option any more for a small business and if you have somebody out in the field and they have to make a decision with a customer, to say okay, let me get back to you in a few hours. If your competitors are giving them an answer right away at that point of sale, and you have to get back to them, yeah, it's going to be a huge competitive disadvantage for you. So all these decisions, and ability to review, and make critical, essentially, decisions have to be available to you on the field, where you're traveling and so on. You can no longer go back to the office. So I do see that there's a large majority of it is going to be handled with these types of apps. And one other thing too is that they don't necessarily going to be solving are doing everything. They're going to be specifically doing the things that need to be done on the field very effectively and be very good at that, very easy for the user to learn and figure out. You don't have to train them and spend all these days providing training material and so on. It has to be very intuitive, very obvious for them just like people expect from a typical app on their phone today.

Schooff: Excellent. It's really good to hear this. I'm really glad we're able to get this podcast done.

Nathaniel Palmer
Author: Nathaniel PalmerWebsite: http://bpm.com
VP and CTO
Rated as the #1 Most Influential Thought Leader in Business Process Management (BPM) by independent research, Nathaniel Palmer is recognized as one of the early originators of BPM, and has led the design for some of the industry’s largest-scale and most complex projects involving investments of $200 Million or more. Today he is the Editor-in-Chief of BPM.com, as well as the Executive Director of the Workflow Management Coalition, as well as VP and CTO of BPM, Inc. Previously he had been the BPM Practice Director of SRA International, and prior to that Director, Business Consulting for Perot Systems Corp, as well as spent over a decade with Delphi Group serving as VP and CTO. He frequently tops the lists of the most recognized names in his field, and was the first individual named as Laureate in Workflow. Nathaniel has authored or co-authored a dozen books on process innovation and business transformation, including “Intelligent BPM” (2013), “How Knowledge Workers Get Things Done” (2012), “Social BPM” (2011), “Mastering the Unpredictable” (2008) which reached #2 on the Amazon.com Best Seller’s List, “Excellence in Practice” (2007), “Encyclopedia of Database Systems” (2007) and “The X-Economy” (2001). He has been featured in numerous media ranging from Fortune to The New York Times to National Public Radio. Nathaniel holds a DISCO Secret Clearance as well as a Position of Trust with in the U.S. federal government.