Many companies are still using applications that were designed a long time ago, when user interface standards were nothing like they are today. Those applications provide overview screens that are aimed at the large screens of desktop computers. In those days providing big overview screens which showed you all items you wanted to see in one view, were very popular.
The new standard
From those big screens, the user could easily find the information he needed and then take the correct action based on that information. The problem is that these days we use many different devices and users expect the same application to work on a desktop, notebook and even a smartphone!
The way users must interact with old-school applications, isn’t compatible with the smaller screens on smartphones. Old-school applications need big overview screens so the user can filter the data to get the information they need. The more data you see, the better the user can filter the information needed from that data. Simply making the same data available on a smartphone screen, won’t be a workable solution.
So how do can we convert an old-school application to be usable on the wide arrange of devices in use today?
A different approach
The biggest difference between applications used today and old-school applications is that modern applications show far less information. Yet, on the background, these applications still use the same big amount of data that old-school applications use. The difference is in the user interaction. Modern applications use an exception-based approach.
An exception-based application doesn’t depend on the user for most decisions it makes. In the past, the user was the biggest decision maker. Now, it is the application. Only in those situations where the application cannot make a decision, the user will have to make a decision. That is what is called an exception.
This new approach means that most data in the system doesn’t have to be shown to the user at all. Rather, we can just show the actions the user has to make a decision on. That means that we can use the same amount of data, while using a far smaller, mobile device.
Converting an existing old-school application
The first step is to make sure that a new application works with the same data that the current application works with. The more important part is in creating the processes. This means that we will have to gather the decisions the user makes, and convert those we can to automated decisions.
Consider a system that handles logistic information for a warehouse. When sending a packed to another country, there are many things to consider. The weight and size of the package, the customs it has to pass through and the different transportation methods. Together these will determine which carrier would be best in each situation. Old-school applications often need the user to make this decision.
In order to create a better alternative, we assume that the data about transport costs and customs rules (e.g. for which size/weight a special letter needs to be attached to a package) are in the system. The process would then first find a way to split the order in packages in such a way that no customs letter is needed. After this is done, it calculates the cost that each carrier would charge. This step could take into account a preference on speedy delivery, or it could prioritize cost. Either way, we will end up with the best carrier automatically!
A real-world example
The above example of calculating the best carrier for each shipment was actually built using Triggre by one of our customers, NCR. Such automated processes can easily be built for many old-school applications. This way it becomes possible to decrease cost by using automation, while providing an application that can be used anywhere, on any device, at any time!