My point here is not to convince you about the necessity of using workflow solutions in the financial sector. I assume, you share that opinion. You may have already heard what Camunda stands for. If so, you probably know it enables process driven companies to execute digital transformation strategies. The fact is, that it is “just” an open source tool, that provides workflow engine and decision automation engine. So why, it attracts so many mid and large size companies?
Camunda in the financial sector
Financial services are all about processes, decisions, and distribution of the data (information). Usually those processes are spread over time and involve multiple roles and systems to cover it end-to-end. Decision require verification of data available in many systems, and the rules need to be constantly adapted. Workflow solutions have been used for years in the financial sector, and companies managed this complexity using different approaches. Each of them has some drawbacks, and, it seems, that Camunda is a perfect alternative for them.
According to my knowledge, 5 out of 33 insurance groups on the polish market already use open source Camunda. That volume may not impress you, but these 5 entities generate 50% of gross written premium. It is also possible that some companies use it as well, but we are not yet aware of it.
There were several options to deal with that kind of process complexity:
Homegrown workflow engines, that are fixed to one of the applications
This could be ok, unless you have only one core system, that doesn’t need to be integrated with the internal or external world. This is obviously not the case here. What is more, your IT colleagues may be the best in your business domain, but workflow and decision automation engines require specific knowledge. So leave it to experts and focus on how to use it in your domain.
With this approach, some companies ended up with many quasi workflow solutions implemented in different systems at the same time. Users are confused, when they have tasks in many places and simply costs you twice the same.
Central and monolithic BPM system, meant to execute all business processes
Heavy platform, full of functionalities redundant to your other components. There is a constant pressure to shift the whole business logic to that BPM. The maintenance cost of such architecture is usually much higher and time to market is very slow. This also is contrary to modern designs, like domain driven design and micro services architecture.
No workflow engine at all
In fact that is not possible in long term. Sooner or later, you will be forced to do something to monitor, automate, digitalize or measure your processes. Costs are hard to estimate, as you don’t have any control of you processes.
It is no wonder, that for years so many financial institutions, tried to find the best approach. At the end of the day, there always remained a bitter aftertaste. Back in 2015 when I saw Camunda in action for the very first time, I saw a ray of hope for many of us. Since then, I experienced the benefits of using Camunda in many projects. Below you can find a few major points, why I think the financial sector felt in love with Camunda.
Start small, think big approach
If you are not used to working in agile mode, you may be surprised, how Camunda “forces” organisations to switch to agile. Pick one relevant process, where benefits in terms of ROI can be proven. Start with minimum viable product regarding UI, automation and integration, but implement that process End-To-End. It can be done in weeks (like 8-12). Once organisation sees the results, you will have your backlog full of next processes to be automated or digitalized. Results not only in terms of ROI, but regarding the manageability and transparency of your processes will convince your organisation to roll it out in other areas.
Engage business with IT
The crucial success factor of all projects is the close collaboration between business and IT. What business designs in user-friendly Camunda modeler, developers don’t need to “redo” in their code. The model is completely imported into the Workflow engine and will run as designed by Business. Developers need to assure, the integrations are in place and other technical stuff it done. The strict dependency between the model and the execution forces both parties to work together in common understanding.
Spread your investments over time
First of all, you can use open sources version of Camunda and open source versions of other solutions required to setup the whole technical environment – no cost for the license.
Secondly, you can always start with automation or integration of a small process or selected process steps in a larger process. You can focus on the most expensive part and with time improve the next ones.
Become flexible, without the big bang
If you have a large legacy system, which maintenance is expensive (in terms of time and/or money) you may think you are stuck for years until another big bang project is planned. There are two options to use Camunda in such a situation.
One is to build new functionalities for existing manual or brand new processes in Camunda and integrate it with the core of the legacy system. This way legacy system remains as the master of data, keeping the architecture stable and at the same time there is a new and modern way of process handling.
Second is to move your business logic out of the legacy system to external components in Camunda. You can build micro processes, that are dedicated to trigger the decision engine. Assembling several such micro processes into one process, you can try to automate the whole process. This approach requires some investment in the legacy system, but once it is done, your business logic can be adapted by business – this is for real. Doing this remember to apply the bounded context and separate the logic accordingly.
The open source version of Camunda provides a BPMN Modeler, BPMN Workflow Engine and DMN Decision Engine. It also provides some basics for admin and human task management, but in most cases you need to use something more sophisticated.
There is no magic behind the scenes. It is all about solving business requirements, using the best tools to develop custom solution.