The rise of Functional Application Management

Robbert Kooiman vierkant
Robbert Kooiman
Sep 28, 2020 · 4 min read
The rise of Functional Application Management 1

In a previous life, I was responsible for integrations between HR systems. Setting up an integration meant I would write functional specifications which in turn had to be interpreted by a programmer that would program logic based on my specifications. Usually, this would happen in an offshore model where I would not even know the person writing the code for my specifications.

This was a tedious process and results were not always good. When writing functional specifications, you can never assume the person reading it fully understands all the small nuances which means you need to detail out every small thing. If you don’t do this, you will end up with a product that’s just different from what you wanted to have in the first place. Because in this case, I couldn’t interact directly with the offshore developer, we would usually go through multiple development and test cycles to reach a product which in many cases was barely acceptable.

In my view integration is either a 0 or a 1, it works, or it doesn’t. If an integration doesn’t work, it’s better to still do the manual work. The amount of errors and mess it creates is just not worth the effort.

A way of working that did work for me was working with an onshore developer. We would basically become a team with the two of us, where there was a direct link between what I envisioned and what this developer would build. This resulted in proper working integrations, but I was always dependent on a developer.

At a certain point, the onshore developer would go away (usually when the project was done) and the cycle would continue with an offshore developer which would have to maintain code written by someone else, resulting in a vicious cycle with a lot of disappointment with all parties involved.

The rise of Functional Application Management 2

Enter Schuberg Philis

In November 2019 I joined Schuberg Philis, together with a colleague we started a relatively new team; the functional application management team. One of my first projects was replacing our legacy ERP solution with AFAS Software. Knowing a little bit about integrations, I really wanted to make sure we would get this right the first time from the get-go. I wanted to make sure we had integrations with our IDM suite, our Personal Development application, and our Recruitment solution.

I wanted to work with a model that was familiar to me and which proved to work in the past, which was the onshore development solution. However, it was hard to find someone with the same passion for integration development and we ended up in a limbo situation. We all understood the need for these integrations, but how were we going to deliver them?

One session I was brainstorming together with my coach, how can we get this done? We considered multiple solutions, but at a certain point he came up with the suggestion to look at low/no-code platforms and see if we could get this to work.

Enter no-code solutions

A no-code solution basically allows a person without programming experience to create programs through a graphical user interface without the need of computer programming.

So what do we actually do in a no-code solution?

Instead of having to program all your conditions, you can see such a solution as a graphical workflow in which you can specify what you want to build. You just use blocks that link to certain API endpoints and can set up conditions in these flows.

Suddenly I was able to create integrations between platforms within a matter of hours/days without the need of learning how to program or without the need of an external developer.

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And now?

Some time ago we went live with AFAS, in which we will utilize four of these integrations. These were all developed without programmers and by us, the functional application management team. If you told me this was possible 6 months ago, I would not have believed it, yet here we are.

Within Schuberg Philis we have great freedom to experiment with stuff like this, so experimenting with software platforms and ultimately implementing this is a matter of trying, defining a proper business case, and getting consent with the relevant colleagues, which gives a lot of positive energy.

How does the future look?

The future looks challenging but bright! While we’re currently smoothing out the ripples of the ERP implementation, we’re also busy creating our strategy and how we envision our team within Schuberg Philis.

As a team, we are busy enhancing the internal processes at Schuberg Philis and using the right tooling to make these processes as automated as possible, whilst reducing the amount of time our colleagues have to spend on tedious tasks and enhancing the quality of the data used in these processes.

More importantly, we are also recruiting new colleagues, so if the above sounds like an awesome challenge, please feel free to reach out!