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How Extensibility Combats Disruption

In times of economic uncertainty, an extensible software solution allows companies to evolve with changing market conditions instead of just crossing their fingers and hoping for the best.

Ever since the seismic disruptions to the supply chain began in 2020, they’ve continued with such frequency that “disruption” doesn’t seem like an appropriate term any more. 

At this point it’s more akin to a hurdle-jumping course: challenging, but predictable. And when something’s predictable, you can train yourself for it. Become faster, more flexible, and more willing to jump at a moment’s notice.

That’s exactly how your product management platform should perform when up against the external factors that could otherwise disrupt your business.

How? With extensibility. 

Let’s explore.

What are the benefits of extensibility?

Consider this your word-of-the-day: the literal definition of extensibility is very much how it sounds, “the ability to extend.” When you’re applying this definition to the world of industry cloud solutions, we’re talking about extending power and reducing effort. Updates can be made with mere clicks—no code. Anyone can do it.

One of the main qualities of Propel Software’s product value management (PVM) platform, for instance, is that it is an extensible system. Because the platform is built on Salesforce’s multi-tenant software architecture, it therefore incorporates all the capabilities of Salesforce's modern cloud: 

  • Configurability
  • Ease of use
  • Reusability
  • Analytics
  • Mobility
  • Flexibility

Plus, any enhancements or new features introduced in Salesforce’s software development apply to the Propel platform as well.

Read more about Salesforce Lightning Web Components here.

Perhaps most crucially, an extensible platform enables customers to rapidly adjust their product strategies and execution under all circumstances—including the next disruption.

That’s why implementing an extensible software solution is the most robust action you can take to future-proof your business needs against any challenges down the road.

Let’s break down how extensibility works.

When you're concerned about unforeseen supply chain disruptions like component shortages, extreme weather events, sudden shifts in demand, economic downturns, etc., it is reasonable to feel dubious about the difference your software could possibly make.

For anyone who isn’t a programmer, who isn’t writing in javascript or looking at source code all day, you may not immediately grasp the true depth of value extensibility can have for the future growth of your company.

So, here’s a quick, digestible runthrough of how extensible software works to your advantage.

1. Customizable Data Models

Extensible platforms use highly configurable “objects” called data models, which use a range of data types to establish business workflows and share information.

Each of these comes with several out-of-the-box functionalities such as user interface (UI), reports and dashboards, search, list views, application program interfaces (APIs), and many more.  

For example, Propel provides an easy-to-use tool called Object Manager. Object Manager enables you to create, view, edit, and delete custom objects, manage fields, manage object relationships, and perform other related tasks. 

All of these capabilities can be manipulated to apply to any team’s needs across your whole product lifecycle—from concepting, R&D, and supplier management to finance, commercialization, and sales. Different modules can introduce new functionalities to connect these teams together and share crucial information that’s typically kept separate. 

And the best part—no programming language needed! Users can create their own pages, dashboards, reporting tools, and more without writing a single line of code.

2. Workflow Adaptability & Maintainability

Effective user interface (UI) needs to be intuitive, performant, productive, and mobile to ensure the success of an application within an enterprise. 

When business processes are performed manually, users often have to navigate multiple use cases within the application, so any old mundane task can take up time and resources. 

Even minor disruption to these cumbersome workflows could lead to one of many potential errors, making it difficult to maintain projected timelines. With an extensible software system, these same processes can happen in seconds.

When it comes to optimizing these tasks, Flow is the preferred tool when designing processes that require user interactions and input. Flow builder supports the creation of forms and includes several out-of-the-box screen components, like text boxes, radio buttons, and file uploads. This custom UI can be integrated directly into Propel’s user experience. In addition, the UI flow may also be configured to invoke a process that was built using the Process Builder or an external web service.

For example, if an external issue disrupts product development, an Engineering Change Order (ECO) must be released. When done manually, a software engineer or product manager may need to take the time to notify suppliers. But when using a feature such as Flow, they can quickly react to an ECO with a few clicks, as the notification process would be automated from within the platform.

3. Maximizing IT Resources

When working with an on-premise solution or a mixed bag of rigid, disconnected systems, the IT team feels the brunt of the consequences.

As enterprise users relay interface requests such as new reporting functions or editing capabilities, IT Teams are flooded with tasks to stand up every new configurability. And the only way to do so is by writing brand new code or adding clunky plugins to existing systems.

Extensibility—as the term suggests—extends the platform development power to the end user. For instance, when using the Propel platform, they’ll have the advantage of the Salesforce Lightning App Builder, a drag and drop, point-and-click development tool that makes it simple to build custom user interfaces. Moreover, these user interfaces can be designed to be role-based, customized for specific teams and even specific individual users.

An extensible platform therefore leaves the IT team out of it, freeing them up to innovate processes or bulk up security as needed—a crucial defense given the recent rise in corporate cyber attacks. 

More to the point, the IT team would be available to act quickly for critical process shifts when the next supply chain disruption rears its head. 

4. Time-Saving Integration

In this age of constant disruption, any competitive advantage could be the golden ticket to staying ahead. 

A crucial time-saving element of extensibility is its ability to integrate with other business software systems, including enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, computer-aided design (CAD) software, and various others.

The Propel product value management (PVM) platform is extensible and standards-based. More specifically, our integration framework supports industry-standard REST and SOAP-based APIs, standards-based authentication such as OAuth, and integration tools such as Mulesoft, Workato, Zapier, etc.

If these systems are kept separate and siloed, product information and critical data has to be handed off manually between teams—delaying the time-to-market, and ultimately time-to-revenue.

With the constant extenuating circumstances turning supply chain processes upside down, does it seem like the right time to leave anything up to chance?

If you’re looking for a deeper dive into the technical capabilities of Propel’s extensible platform, check out our eBook Extensibility Matters.

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Post by
Kishore Subramanian
VP of Engineering, Propel

Kishore hails from Google, where he was a Sr. Software Engineer. At Google, he most recently worked on a Java/Kotlin library for the Google Assistant and led key areas for the Files Go Android App and Google Web Designer. His previous experience includes senior engineering roles at Motorola Mobility, JackBe and Agile Software.

Fun Fact: Kishore led the team that built Agile PLM's first web-based user interface.

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Kishore Subramanian