Brainstorming Microapp Solutions for Faster Enterprise Workflows

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Light globe representing brainstorming of microapp examples

Before we get specifically to microapp solutions, imagine you’re an IT director at a Fortune 500 company. It’s 6 p.m. on a Thursday after your meeting with an executive went late. All you want to do is go home, but your team is depending on you to approve a slew of requests – for travel, expenditures, vacations, raises, system access grants, the list goes on...

If you don’t approve the requests, everything comes to a halt, so you hunker down to finish what’s on your plate. Unfortunately, approving the requests means that you have to log into and out of five laggy enterprise systems, navigate a mess of dropdowns, and it takes a full hour before you’re done.

This is precisely the kind of headache that microapps solve. 

Below, we’ll examine three microapp solutions for fixing some of the most common enterprise app inefficiencies. After reviewing these examples, we hope they will jumpstart your creativity to think of some innovative microapp strategies of your own.

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Microapp Example #1: Application Access Grants 

Circling back to the IT director, a significant portion of the approval requests he receives throughout the day are for application access grants. An example of this would be a developer requesting access to data pertaining to an application in production. Since the application data in question is confidential, the IT director and a chain of executives above him need to approve the access request. 

To approve the request, the IT director needs to log into the enterprise Identity Access Management (IAM) system – such as Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM). Then, he has to navigate through several dropdowns, and finally approve the request. Next, a chain of executives above the IT director needs to go through the same cumbersome process. An approval task like this only takes a few minutes to complete. However, the hassle of navigating the IAM system means that certain decision-makers will delay the process. The approval process could take days.

Just one of these access grant requests wouldn’t create a serious workflow disruption, but the IT director is getting bombarded with these requests throughout the day from his team of 200 employees. Each time it happens, he has to context-switch from what he’s doing and lose his concentration. Not only does this slow down the IT director, but it slows down the chain of executives above him who also need to approve the request – resulting in considerable delays and extra stresses for everyone involved.

Constant workflow and concentration disruptions like this lead to stress. According to research from Gloria Mark in “The Cost of Interrupted Work,” data suggests that people compensate for interruptions by working faster, but this comes at a price, experiencing more stress, higher frustration, time pressure, and effort.”

How a microapp can solve this problem: One way to overcome the concentration disruptions related to access grants is to develop an access grant microapp. The microapp would be a simple, highly-focused app that connects with the API of the Identity Access Management (IAM) application that controls access to different enterprise systems. As soon as an employee uses the IAM system to submit an access request, the microapp causes an interactive popup notification to appear on the IT director’s workspace notification feed.

Without needing to log out of his current application environment – and without needing to log into the IAM system – the director receives a notification that provides a brief description of the request with several buttons to respond: “Grant,” “Deny,” or “Save for Later.” As soon as the director clicks “Grant,” a similar notification appears in the feed of the next executive in the approval cycle. The process continues until the last decision maker approves the request. 

Because the access grant microapp bypasses the cumbersome nature of interacting with the IAM system, it overcomes a significant workflow bottleneck for all parties involved. The end result: Access grants are no longer a headache or burden for decision-makers, and employees get the access they need faster and more efficiently.

Microapp Example #2: Capital Expenditure Requests

Capital expenditure requests are another workflow bottleneck. These are expenditure requests for physical items or software that depreciate in value over time. For most enterprises, capital expenditure requests involve two stages:

  1. Authorization for Expenditures (AFE): An employee prepares and submits an AFE request for higher-level decision-makers to review and approve. The AFE outlines the reasons for the expenditure, the total amount of the expenditure, and other important details. 
  2. Itemized Purchase Request: An employee prepares and submits an itemized purchase request. This itemizes the individual items for purchase, the cost of each item, and other important details. Depending on the amount of the total purchase request, a lower-level decision-maker may be able to review and approve it. For higher amounts, and may need to go to higher levels for approval.  

What’s important to note about the approval of AFEs and itemized purchase requests is that the actual moment of approval is usually just a formality. By the time the capital expenditure request comes to the decision-maker’s desk – whether it’s an AFE or purchase request – the decision-maker has already seen a lengthy presentation on the request. In fact, he or she has probably been intimately involved in developing the proposal. Therefore, the faster that executives can navigate the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system and make the approval, the better. 

How a microapp can solve this problem: A microapp that integrates with the API of the ERP system can resolve a lot of the hassle and delays related to AFEs and purchase requests. Similar to the first example, when an employee submits a capital request via the ERP, the microapp sends an interactive popup notification to the decision maker’s workspace. The notification offers the most pertinent details of the request along with an “approve” and “reject” button. Now, the executive can immediately hit ‘approve' without the need for a concentration-disturbing interruption. The executive doesn’t have to login to a slow, cumbersome enterprise application - all via a modern microapp solution. Just click the button and it’s done! 

Microapp Example #3: Registering and Assigning Training for Beer Wholesaler Employees

For the last microapp example, we’ll exit the world of IT decision-making, and take a quick dive into the world of beer...

Consider a nationwide beer company that uses a standardized learning management system (LMS) to coordinate e-learning and certification for new employees at its network of wholesalers across the country. After hiring a new employee, the wholesaler needs to register the employee in LMS. Then, the wholesaler has to assign and schedule specific training courses to the employee according to the employee’s job function. The problem is, wholesalers are complaining that the process of inputting new employees into the LMS is slow, tedious, and cumbersome. The time-consuming nature of the task disrupts daily workflows and slows down everything. 

This example presents two workflow bottlenecks: 

  • Registering new employees in the system: The detailed process of inputting and registering a new employee account in the system requires too much data entry and too much navigation through the clunky UI of the LMS. 
  • Assigning the appropriate training/certification programs: The UI for assigning training programs is also slow and overly-complicated to navigate. It involves logging into the system, filling out various forms, and a workflow that isn’t intuitive. 

How microapps can solve these problems: An excellent way to solve these workflow bottlenecks is to design two separate microapps. The microapps will be easy to access inside the administrator dashboard or the manager’s workspace. Here’s what these microapps might look like:

A. New Employee Creation Microapp: 

The “new employee creation microapp” streamlines the workflow for adding new employees to the LMS. Clicking the microapp opens up a new employee creation portal that includes various information fields (like employee name, employee identification information, organization, location, address, position, security profile, etc.). Depending on the administrator or wholesale location, the microapp auto-populates the fields with any data that is already known. 

This microapp significantly reduces the data entry burden on managers and reduces the possibility of error. It also allows the manager to bypass the process of logging into the system and navigating to the new employee creation function of the LMS. 

B. Employee Training Assignment Microapp: 

The “employee training assignment microapp” offers an easy-to-navigate wizard for quickly assigning appropriate training programs to employees. As the operator moves through the steps of the wizard, he or she identifies the employee, and the microapp auto-populates with specifically required courses (depending on the employee’s position). The manager can also search for other training courses as required. After clicking a series of checkboxes and assigning deadlines for completion, the process is done!

The above-described microapp solutions are currently being used by Anheuser-Busch across their network of U.S.-based wholesalers. According to the microapp firm that developed the solution, Educe Group, administrators have reported that the new microapp system is “intuitive, efficient, and – as one wholesaler put it – heavenly.”

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Final Thoughts on Brainstorming Microapp Solutions for Enterprise Workflows

As you’ve seen in the examples above, some of the most exciting use-cases for microapps involve completely bypassing cumbersome enterprise app user interfaces. So, now that we’ve got you thinking along these lines – can you imagine some creative solutions like this that could eliminate bothersome enterprise app-related tasks that continually waste your time?

Once you’ve got your microapp solution or idea in mind, you might want to consider using the DreamFactory API management platform to build it. DreamFactory includes advanced API generation tools that allow you to automatically generate fully Swagger documented REST APIs for virtually any application or operational database in minutes.

Through DreamFactory’s new Citrix workspace integration you can access a code-free microapp generator wizard, or code the microapp yourself. Then you can use DreamFactory to rapidly tool the microapp solution and connect it to the larger enterprise application. Want to see how easy it is to build the microapp of your dreams in less than a day? Contact the DreamFactory team for a free hosted trial now!