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Benefits of a self-service environment in the cloud

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self-service-application-environmentOne of my team’s critical missions is the collection and management of business requirements from IBM Services Business Units in the growth markets. My team has used spreadsheets and a lot of criss-crossing e-mails to manage this information. Several of our clients had been concerned about the poor visibility of the status of their requests and we needed a better solution.

I happened to be trying out IBM Forms Experience Builder (IBM FEB) in IBM’s Self Service Application Environment (SSAe) at that time and was called to provide a solution to this pain point. The SSAe project is helping cloud computing take a giant leap forward among the user community. Cloud-based SSAe (see the high-level architecture above) encourages IBM lines of business (LOB) to tap into the cloud to easily create, modify and retire applications. It supports business agility by allowing business problems be resolved within the LOBs without IT department’s involvement.

ibm-forms-experience-builderIBM FEB uses the “Design – Collect – Use and Analyze” development cycle (see above) and takes only a few minutes to crank out simple web-based applications like surveys or questionnaires.

My requirement collection application is a bit more complex but was still completed within a few hours because it was the result of a simple visual programming web 2.0 object drag and drop, basic Javascript knowledge and easy logic programming using rules, stages and roles.

Building the application was very iterative with a lot of additional requirements at the start then becoming less as our clients started using it from the production environment and giving feedback. I am impressed at SSAe’s support for business agility and how easy and fast to deploy an application using the self-service “manage” page where you can do anything with your application (see image below).

ibm-forms-dashboardWith cloud computing adoption increasing rapidly, I believe there will be more of these business-agile, self-service software because of the following reasons:

  • There is a growing trend to have a strategic, constrained and governed environment where users can build and use situational tools to get their work done easily and quickly.
  • CIOs are beginning to realize that applications can’t all be developed and deployed top down and fulfil every business need.
  • Application owners are more convinced that having application which can be easily built without much programming and hosted centrally is much more preferable than custom applications that are prohibitively expensive to develop just for departmental or situational use.
  • With multi-tenant applications, the cloud ensures that the total cost of ownership becomes lesser as more users are added.
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