Talent Management

How to Bridge the Gap with Microapps

Bridge made of colorful blocks
Bridge made of colorful blocks

Craig Maurer

Craig Maurer is an Associate at Educe. With over 20 years of experience in the learning industry, Craig specializes…

Today’s leading talent management systems, such as Cornerstone OnDemand and Saba (now owned by Cornerstone), are powerful applications that offer a wide range of features right out of the box.

However, it is often the case that an organization’s business landscape calls for something special to meet specific company goals. The gaps can take many forms:

  • An opportunity for automation
  • A complex business process unique to your space
  • A manual process workaround that opens the door to errors and inconsistent outcomes
  • A shelved requirement that existing software does not support
  • Failed realization of the power found in integrating data from disparate sources within your organization

Custom is not a dirty word.

A custom microapp solution could be the missing puzzle piece that brings your talent management solution together and magnifies its business impact. A microapp is a modern approach for tailoring a software solution. Rather than tinkering under the hood of your talent management system – generally taboo these days with cloud-based SaaS (software-as-a-service) applications – the microapp comes in two two flavors:

  • An application that is embedded within a parent system
    In this scenario, the parent system provides a native ecosystem and strict guidelines for adding custom applications
  • An application that stands alone outside your target system(s)
    In this scenario, the custom application sits entirely outside one or more target systems and interacts with each via external APIs

With API access to data points from one or multiple systems, the possibilities for microapps are vast and can be modeled to suite specific organizational needs. Below are just some examples of ways you can leverage microapps. Check out our microapps page for more examples.

  • A portal that customizes the messaging and overall user experience for your audience
  • A compliance engine that interacts with your Learning Management System (LMS) to calculate and award credits
  • An integration with a QR code scanning device to improve efficiency of attendance tracking
  • A solution that provides a critical workflow not supported in your target system(s)

Small, Medium, or Large?

The term microapp applies to solutions that are very small, very large or anywhere in between. One common example of a small solution is a microapp portal that reshapes the context and messaging for content derived from an underlying enterprise application. This provides a new front-end to cast information in the way that best suits your needs.

By comparison, a large solution could take the form of a critical back-office component that takes data captured in a workflow application, combines it with data from other systems (such as an LMS) to synthesize new data that feeds still more downstream systems (see Calculo as an example).

In some cases, you may need to start from scratch to define and create your microapp. However, you may find that a similar solution already exists and can be adapted to meet your needs, greatly reducing the time and cost to implement. Here are some key questions that will shed light on the scope of a possible microapp solution:

  • Is your business need characterized by a single missing function, or is it a range of functions for multiple categories of users?
  • Who is the target user population? For example, is it only administrators, all users in your organization, or does it include users outside your organization?
  • Will the microapp need to persistently store data?
  • Will the microapp need to interface with multiple applications, including your talent management suite?
  • Does your target system (LMS, CRM, etc.) already provide accommodation for custom microapps?

Ready, Set, Go…

Finding a microapp development partner can be an anxious activity. It is vital to look for a partner who understands the talent management problem space, has deep knowledge of talent management software, and has a good relationship with your talent management system vendor. Additionally, the partner needs a proven track-record of microapp development and a willingness to collaborate with your team throughout the development and operational support phases.

Once you have identified your microapp development partner, you need to build a solid and committed team to own the solution. Your business team should include:

  • Participants that represent the full range of business perspectives
    Any impacted teams must be represented in the project. Once the team is identified, you need to gain the commitment of subject matter specialists who understand the vision and are committed to its success.
  • A strong and involved executive sponsor with authority to make decisions
    If you identify all the impacted teams, but do not establish a clear executive sponsor, then political disagreements and chaos are sure to grow. The effort needs a strong owner with authority and backing from leadership.
  • Commitment (time and effort) from the team to ensure success
    The truth is that these solutions take a great deal of consideration and time to get right. However, if the team has the resources, authority, and commitment to innovate, then wonderful possibilities await.

A Microapp for a Major Impact

The microapp approach allows you the freedom to dream, create a vision for the solution that will address your organization’s specific needs, and achieve it. A well-designed microapp solution will extend and amplify the benefits derived from your talent management investment.

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