When describing a software as a service (SaaS) offering, one of the common terms used is flexibility. But what does that mean? Flexible configurations? Flexible interface? Flexible deployments? Maybe all, or none, of these?
When designing CereTax, we considered all these areas of flexibility, but also focused on one more – flexibility of customization.
After working with large enterprise clients and supporting their numerous indirect tax workflows in our prior business, we consistently had requests or requirements to implement a custom process, calculation, or extract. This was difficult to accommodate as legacy applications are typically not designed to support custom routines within a production system. The alternative was to create and manage custom code that did not impact or break other routines or create a separate code branch that varies from the main programs. This was challenging at best and a nightmare at worst.
Our strategy to solve this problem within the CereTax platform was to breakdown each key process into small, independent routines (called microservices) that are connected like Legos into a workflow. Each “Lego” has two mandatory requirements – to receive and understand the output from the previous Lego, and to send information along to the next one. This means that each microprocess can be completely customized as long as it adheres to the two necessary requirements.
One of the additional benefits of this approach is the ability to expand or streamline a client workflow as needed. For example, we might have a request to create a very complex tax situs routine that uses client-specific data. In that case, step 2 could become steps 2a, 2b, and 2c. As previously described, if step 2c sends along what step 3 needs, we can accommodate this customization.
The opposite of this example is also true. If a client needs a simplified workflow, we can remove unnecessary routines to streamline the process for efficiency. Only the required or essential functions would be included in this example to limit the steps needed to complete the process.
Obviously, there is much more detail to this design as each Lego must adhere to security protocols, accomplish key tasks, and support elements for rules and configurations. But from a design perspective, the Lego analogy holds true as the processes are separate pieces that are placed together.
What truly makes the CereTax flexibility approach unique is that customization does not impact performance, other client revenue streams, or reporting. The custom workflows can be independently assigned to specific revenue streams, integrations, or business units.
We look forward to demonstrating our approach on flexibility as we are confident it will solve many of the usual challenges that occur when accommodating custom requirements.