Harold Engstrom sat down with NoCodeDev this week to continue our series of interviews with executives in the low and no code development world. Similar to Brian Reale from ProcessMaker, Harold comes from the workflow software and business process automation industry. The genesis of FlowWright follows a common story of the workflow software industry. After many years of experience serving clients by developing robust industrial manufacturing automation solutions as a systems integrator, Harold and the team decided to roll their own platform to quickly build comprehensive business automation solutions for their customers that work across the enterprise beyond the factory floor.
From Workflow Services Provider to Workflow Software Company – A Common Thread
The workflow software industry is blessed with a special kind of irony. Many founders of low and no code development platforms are builders. These builders usually find themselves in a position where they are repeating common development tasks and have the thought – why can’t we standardize this approach and make it reusable? In the course of developing standard, reusable elements, a platform for other users is born.. This has been true since the object oriented programming wave of the late 1990’s and has blossomed into a thriving industry of low and no code development solutions for businesses. It’s a blessing and a curse when what used to be a services focused business deploys a solution that reduces billable, albeit tedious, hours in exchange for a repeatable software solution. The game changes and leadership is then faced with some difficult decisions.
FlowWright is no exception, and while they are a younger player in the low and no code development arena, they are not lacking in experience after solving the same problems as a systems integrator for nearly 21 years. On their homepage you can find an impressive list of workflow related specialties as a result of that experience and continuing success as a young software company. To get a better feel for their approach, here is an overview video that will provide additional context in less than 90 seconds.
As you see more of these overview videos from different vendors in the workflow and business process management software space you’ll start to see a lot of similarities. What this video doesn’t cover is something that I think makes Flow Wright special, and that is the concern that their founder has for the end users experience.
A Fierce Focus on ROI
We ask a basic set of no code development related questions to get the conversation started during these interviews, and it quickly became clear that Harold has a passion for making sure his customers succeed. He shared numerous examples of customer stories where FlowWright was able to solve complex problems that translated directly to dollars in the customers pocket.
“One of my favorite examples is a 20,000 cow dairy farm where automating feed operations resulted in a dollar per cow per day savings for the farmer.” – Harold Engstrom, President of Flow Wright
Harold goes deeper on the buy or build decision with a focus on using workflow to make project management more successful in mission critical projects with real ROI. In that article, Harold points out that typical project management tools like MS Project, Primavera, and Excel, do not capture dependencies well, do not close the loop between the plan and execution, and don’t provide real time progress and status information to managers while that information is still actionable.
A Challenge with Expectations for Low and No Code Development
Looking broadly at the industry, our conversation turned to some of the challenges facing vendors and implementers of low and no code development solutions. After a few shared laughs around how it can be difficult not to simply build an entire workflow for a customer in a pre-sales setting and exceed their expectations ten fold, we started to talk about how that can set a difficult expectation to meet for other aspects of a project. After customers see how quickly you can build business applications with a workflow platform it’s not uncommon for that expectation to expand to any of the business requirements in their project plan. For example, the development of a very unique user interface that might distill what had historically been a series of 10 forms in 3 other systems into one new interface. This work takes time, even when it is done in a drag and drop setting. I’ve heard from other workflow and BPM executives that it can be a challenge to balance the customers expectation in what should or should not be done before a license agreement is signed.
In the middle of this conversation Harold caught himself pondering what it might take to automate the creation of these forms instead of needing to design them. Maybe this is one of the next major features for BPM vendors. I haven’t seen anything done here, with the exception of very basic horizontally stacked forms that are automatically generated against a specific data type for basic data entry. Harold is a regular participant in public conversations with customer on LinkedIn or other forums and you can watch him work with his customers on successes and challenges in their business process management projects. Maybe we’ll be able to watch enough of his customers ask for automatically generated forms and we’ll see some cool innovation. No pressure Harold.