User Experience Matters. Or, Why We Built Brazos

  • October 10, 2013
  • Ivan

Even though business users have been conditioned to expect a less stimulating experience from enterprise software, it is by no means indicative of their desire.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

Better tools lead to a more productive workforce. Aesthetically pleasing web interfaces, which look like they were designed for the hardware that they are being consumed on and seemingly predict the intentions of their users will always win supporters over a web form that looks like it was built in 1999.

The goal for enterprise software UIs today should not only be to meet business and functional requirements but also to exceed the user experience expectations of a generation that is accustomed to high quality web interfaces like Google, Facebook, and Twitter (and many others). In a competitive marketplace for top talent, exceptional enterprise solutions will go a long way in improving productivity, morale, and retention of employees.

Into this context comes BP3’s Brazos.  Starting with the adaptation and leveraging of design patterns evident in open source UI tools (and libraries), the intent behind Brazos is to bring the best of modern web design – that users are accustomed to in their private lives – to enterprise BPM solutions.

Still, taking a note from iOS application development, end user experience is only one piece of the puzzle. In order to ensure that a development community thrived around the platform, Apple put an overwhelming amount of effort in to Xcode, the development environment used to build iOS applications. Even the most minute features have been tweaked extensively to optimize developer productivity and ease of use.

Even though the target audience for the BPM Process Designer is significantly smaller than Xcode, it in many ways follows a similar pattern. BPM Developers are able to build all the artifacts that make up a process application within a single tool, toolkits organize reusable components, and snapshots make version management a breeze.  For these reasons we’ve invested extensive effort to create deep integration and investment into IBM BPM’s Process Designer.

Brazos builds on this foundation and attempts to make BPM UI Development as pleasant as putting together an iOS App. Brazos implements the little things like ensuring that all controls display correctly without having any data bound to them, supporting both instantiated and non-instantiated business data and property variables, and making sure that all controls are aligned aesthetically, regardless of the interface a developer puts together, and many others.

These subtleties may seem inconsequential or “a matter training”, but they add up. The less time a developer has to spend figuring out (or reading about) how to use a UI framework the more time they have to actually build interfaces. Moreover, the development experience in Brazos has been thought out with the BA in mind. A non-technical user can prototype complex UIs, incorporate advanced features like type-ahead and modals, and of course craft both a mobile and desktop experience without needing to write any JavaScript, all within the Process Designer.  And a technical user can follow behind them and enhance the UI further.

Together we can build a better mouse trap.

 [Editor’s note: this post was written by Ivan Kornienko and lightly edited for publication]

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  • Gary Samuelson

    Though I protest your subtle contrast of iOS (i.e. “pleasant”) to everything else… I do agree, in principal, on bringing UI development within reach of the business-oriented mindset.

    And there’s some additional value-add with guiding development down the “pleasant” path (which does include non-iOS frameworks):

    1) Aligns business intent (process) to outcome by cutting a shortcut across the UI construction phase. Real drag-n-drop brings UI development closer to business ownership.

    2) Guards UI services from IT (department) control via a focus on minimal complexity. In-other-words, balanced technology against business needs and value. So, while some appear to be layering additional complexity into BPM, BP-3 brings forward an elegant solution and road-map back towards simplicity – an essential component behind BPM success stories.

    • yeah, iOS isn’t the only pleasant interface out there, by any means. But it does seem like people who like to build such interfaces tend to do them on the web and on iOS first in many cases.

      Great points about alignment and balance –