Manufacturers have complex needs and innumerable challenges to handle before they can successfully bring a product to market. They face rapidly changing market dynamics, various regulations and global policies, and fierce competition from radical start-ups and incumbents at every step of the way.
Customers, on the other hand, expect nothing short of unique solutions to their business problems. However, lack of collaboration among stakeholders, disconnected processes, a missing integrated data view, and the absence of timely and actionable insights make a superior customer experience far from possible.
Manufacturers are shifting to cloud-based technologies now more than ever to ensure their business processes are adaptable, collaborative, and remotely accessible. One of the main characteristics of a cloud-based platform is extensibility.
So, what is extensibility?
In software engineering, extensibility is defined as “the quality of being designed to allow the addition of new capabilities or functionality.” It is a measure of the ability to extend a system and the level of effort required to implement the extensions.
And, why is having an extensible software system important?
With platform consolidations happening faster due to accelerated digital transformation in the new normal, updating and configuring one extensible platform is much easier than multiple platforms. The source code is unaltered, and a new feature is quickly introduced by adding new code, increasing reusability. They also facilitate powerful API integrations and help drive innovation by bolstering collaboration across the value chain. With such a system onboard, enterprises gain a competitive advantage by quickly aligning with dynamic market conditions and meeting the customers’ specific needs for highly tailored solutions.
“No single platform can provide everything out-of-the-box to meet business needs. To drive product and quality excellence, the extensibility of the chosen software platform is critical.“
Therefore, an extensible software platform should be flexible, configurable, customizable, upgradeable, accessible, and collaborative.
What are the ideal characteristics of an extensible software system?
Flexibility is a measure of the ability to adapt to growing needs and shifting requirements quickly. A software platform should be flexible enough to support the business processes by extending existing functionality, and enabling new functionalities and features to help achieve faster time-to-market. The scalability of the platform increases multi-fold, accelerating future growth and achieving resiliency.
A platform should be highly configurable with clicks and not code. No-code and low-code tools empower a wider workforce — business analysts, domain experts, and programmers — to quickly build and configure custom processes. Simpler code syntax and user-friendly data types, with the compiler doing all the hard work, drastically minimizes the complexity. Therefore, the software development cycles are faster, and deployment time is considerably reduced, making the overall software engineering process smoother.
The simpler syntax cannot handle complicated algorithms. Similarly, it is challenging to accomplish complex processes using configuration. A platform should be easily customizable via custom code (full-code) so developers and programmers can manage scenarios like these. It leads to offering superior customer experiences by developing highly personalized solutions.
It is essential to stay up-to-date with the latest platform releases and major enhancements without breaking add-ons, plugins, extensions, and customizations. An extensible platform accounts for fewer errors and easy maintainability. Enterprises can therefore make informed decisions while ensuring business continuity.
It should be easier to get data in and out of the platform. Sharing data with other business-critical systems ensures full transparency and strengthens collaboration. The internal and external teams are aware of all new features, significant enhancements, and quality issues to make informed decisions.
What are types of extensibility?
The extensibility of a platform can be understood along the following dimensions:
- Data model - The existing data model can be extended with new data types, including custom data types.
- Processes - It is essential to automate the mundane, repetitive tasks to allow the end-user to focus on the high-value task and minimize room for errors. The processes should be highly adaptable and supported by tools that non-programmers can easily use.
- User Interface - For an application to be successful within an enterprise, user interface (UI) is key. UI should be intuitive, highly configurable, performant, and mobile.
- Integration - Business processes span multiple enterprise applications and external web services. Data moves in between several downstream and upstream systems. These processes should be well integrated to provide a cohesive and seamless experience for the end-users.
Propel’s product success platform, built on Salesforce’s multi-tenant, future-proof architecture, satisfies all the characteristics mentioned above. It combines Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Quality Management Systems (QMS), and services with enterprise-grade extensibility by connecting people, processes, and technology. Propel’s closed-loop extensible system powered by Salesforce is optimal for faster responsiveness, accelerated deployment, reduced complexity, integrated analytics, business resiliency, and a superior customer experience.