In the past, I’ve written about the shiny front-end and the dirty back-end. By this I mean that you are able to develop modern interfaces and applications to a legacy infrastructure. We are able to do this because the power of (among others) the Enterprise Service bus allows us to connect anything to anything. But in this blog I would like to introduce a new concept that I call ‘Fluidity’. Do your customers experience a fluid process flow? Read on for the mastery of 'Fluidity' and you will understand what I mean.
What is Fluidity?
According to Merriam-Webster ‘Fluidity’ is defined as: the quality or state of being fluid. I would define fluid in this context as the ability to flow easily. If you want to visualize this, think about pouring chocolate over a cake. It flows smoothly covering the whole cake. I was very much surprised by the way that there are a number of videos online that show this. There is a video by famous TV chef Nigella Lawson, five minutes of watching chocolate flow.
For me it’s not so much about the chocolate but about the ease of the process. The flow is steady yet not superfast but covers the surface and any other obstacles on its way.
It is that analogy that we should aim for when we are designing our IT systems. However heterogeneous our IT landscape has become over the last 40 or 50 years, our users should ideally never be troubled by all of our integration efforts. The system should act as one system even though if the backend data comes from multiple data sources and what seems like one is actually an orchestration. It might even be that there are a number of message queues used, transformations being done from one message type to the other but for the user it is as smooth as pouring chocolate.
A pleasant experience in an unpleasant circumstance
A very good example is the way KLM Royal Dutch Airlines allows passengers on a cancelled flight rebook a flight. This is in many cases not a pleasant experience since the schedule and plans you had are now probably not going to happen. In the past, rebooking a flight would mean: having to call the airline, be on hold (since a plane transports many people) and hoping that they will have a new flight for you.
But not anymore. Let’s say you have a flight from Hamburg to Amsterdam that got cancelled. What will happen? You are rebooked to that flight. Please note that this (real) example had available seating on other flights, if it is a very busy time of year (e.g. holiday period) you might not be this lucky.
You will get a text message saying your flight is cancelled and within the KLM app you are able to select from a number of alternative flights that day and the next day. It is up to you to select which flight is convenient with your schedule and with one press of a button you are booked onto another flight.
The new flight might be operated by another carrier (e.g. AirFrance), might be with a stopover in another airport which makes it even more impressive because the booking goes across reservation systems from one carrier to another. After the rebooking of the flight, the new boarding pass is available in the app, the frequent flyer points are recalculated and you will receive a notification that all is ready for your trip. With, of course, apologies for the cancellation.
This kind of seamless process is something that all organizations should aim for, in my opinion. Regardless of the challenges with regards to the integration, you should make it fluid!
Making your processes fluid
So, what do you need to do in order to attain fluidity? Well, it al starts at the front end, the (mobile) device that is used. Fluid processes are fluid because they are also monitored and will scale up automatically when demand gets to high. So the APIs that are used by the mobile device need to be managed and monitored as they are the entry point to the flow. Typically, an API Management solution is required to make this a reality.
The next step is the process of orchestration. This is done using the capabilities of an Enterprise Service Bus that will not only allow for orchestration but also allow message mediation, transformation as well as support all of the Enterprise Integration Patterns (EIP) that a modern company needs. Queues, file transfer, sending out emails are all integrated seamlessly.
When you are skeptical if your current IT landscape and solutions are capable of creating fluid processes read our Enterprise Servicebus white paper.