Turbo-charging BPM Initiatives with Cloud Computing

In the past three years, a number of BPM technology vendors have introduced cloud-based tools and platforms, eager to ensure that they don’t miss out on the wave of hype and opportunity associated with cloud computing and software-as-a-service (SaaS). At first it was easy to dismiss the introduction of these offerings as cynical bandwagon-jumping; but over the past year the use of cloud-based software tools and platforms to assist in BPM initiatives has become much more of a mainstream proposition – and those vendors that jumped in with both feet at the start are starting to reap significant rewards. BPM specialist technology vendor Appian, for example, saw around 50% of its software revenue in its FY 2011 come from its cloud-based service offering.

But should there be a place in your BPM initiative for cloud-based tools or platforms?

If you’re serious about making the biggest potential impact with BPM in your organisation that you can, then the answer is probably "yes".

BPM’s value, above and beyond previous approaches to process improvement, is primarily based on its ability to break down organisational barriers and promote the sharing of information and insights about work, its efficiency and its effectiveness. BPM done right is essentially a collaborative process – and its value increases the more open and inclusive you can make that collaboration. Good BPM technology tools support knowledge sharing and tracing and collaborative insight in multiple ways; and this is where cloud computing models have the potential to turbo-charge BPM’s proposition.

It’s becoming well-understood that cloud-based applications and tools can help organisations avoid costs associated with technology infrastructure, tools and administrative resources, and that their use can improve time-to-value of projects. But cloud-based technologies in the context of BPM also have the potential to make a major difference by increasing the potential scope and scale of collaboration – both within your organisation and also beyond it (to include other players in your value chain, technology suppliers and consultants, other domain experts and so on). Having web-based tools, hosted outside your own firewall and immediately accessible at low cost, vastly decreases the cost of participation in use of those tools from all corners.

Another angle to consider when looking at the role that cloud computing needs to play in any BPM strategy is that regardless of whether you want to consider using cloud-based tools in your process improvement journey, it’s increasingly likely that some of the important systems, applications and databases used by your organisation will live ‘on the cloud’. If those IT resources are out there, then the flow of work across your organisation’s business processes is winding through the clouds; what are the implications for the way you manage your business processes?

To help provide some starting points for you as you think through these issues, my company MWD Advisors, has recently launched a free on-demand online event with short webinars that delve into these topics. "Turbo-charging BPM initiatives with cloud computing" is available now. Please do pay us a visit there – and I would love to hear your feedback!