Enterprise Software

10 things you should know about successful cloud-based BPM

Business process management offers many enticing benefits, including impressive ROI. The problem is, it often fails. See how BPM in a cloud environment can help you overcome barriers to a successful implementation.

Every few years, we come across a new technology wave that either reshapes the landscape or substantially enhances the application of existing technologies. Cloud computing is one such wave that is affecting almost everyone in the technology and business world.

The emerging trend of hosting software and applications in the cloud is significantly affecting BPM (business process management) adoption. Many enterprises have embraced BPM technologies but still face big challenges in terms of rapid hosting and implementation. BPM offers a compelling set of business transformation capabilities and demonstrable ROI, but historically, more than 50% of BPM projects have failed to meet the expectations and desired adoption level. Fortunately, combining BPM with the cloud model can overcome many of the traditional BPM challenges.

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What is a cloud-compliant BPM suite?

A cloud-based implementation derives value from three areas:

  • Economic (no capital investments, pay by use, expand/shrink resources as needed)
  • Architectural (commonly accessible environment and resources for development and self-service provisioning)
  • Strategic (outsourced ownership of infrastructure and operations enabling focus on core activities).

A BPM suite must address these value elements to be classified as cloud compliant.

Benefits of BPM on the cloud

Despite BPM's long history and well-documented benefits, about half of all BPM initiatives fail, according to findings from leading analysts. That's essentially leaving the success of a major business and technology initiative up to a coin flip! BPM in the cloud can overcome a number of the typical challenges of BPM.

1: Minimal technology constraints

No single BPM tool can meet all the requirements for an enterprise. Because BPM technology decisions may vary from problem to problem, technology choices can hinder overall BPM success. The economics of the cloud and easy provisioning inherent in the cloud model enable enterprises to test multiple technologies with minimal upfront investments. The cloud effectively eliminates technology lock-in, so that businesses can reap the benefits of BPM across the enterprise.

2: Time to market

BPM is all about creating agility, so lengthy technology implementations run counter to the BPM mission. Slow deployments are not only expensive but also reduce the benefit of BPM and can result in a loss of stakeholder buy-in for future projects. BPM in the cloud can reduce the time it takes to ready a BPM system from months to minutes or even days.

3: Collaboration across and within enterprises

BPM enables an enterprise to collaborate in terms of intra- and inter-organizational processes. However, traditional localized BPM implementations do not support external supply chain and value chain processes. Departmental BPM implementations in local environments defeat the larger objective of orchestrating end-to-end business processes, and they're reflected in the strategic KPIs (key performance indicators) and operational excellence.

Putting BPM in the cloud creates a borderless environment for supporting geographically dispersed teams and complex processes. Cloud-based BPM facilitates collaboration with partners across supply chains and improves management of processes that cut across environments.

4: Enterprise rollout

Most organizations are structured as silos, and their BPM investments are departmental. In a traditional organization, there is no motivation for anyone to have a shared infrastructure and set of assets that can be leveraged across teams. A cloud environment provides a centralized and commonly accessible BPM medium for achieving enterprise-level process excellence. Standards, open architecture, reusable components with interoperability, and knowledge management emerge as strategic needs.

5: Centralized control and governance

As organizations start rolling out BPM at the enterprise level, the focus shifts to governance, standardization, optimization, and scalability for successful adoption and realization of BPM benefits. A business process competency center (BPCC) can provide a central repository of information for addressing these needs -- and hosting it in the cloud makes it easily accessible (Figure A). The ability to collaborate and share will be facilitated due to the very nature of shared infrastructure and common environment.

Figure A

A business process competency center (BPCC) in the cloud creates a centralized repository for best practices, governance, and resource and asset management.

Five best practices to introduce cloud-based BPM

If there are so many benefits around BPM in the cloud, why hasn't the enterprise adoption of cloud-based BPM taken off? Is it due to a lack of knowledge on how to approach BPM in the cloud or the uncertainty and fear of the unknown? Or is it because of the unproven ROI? The steps described below outline best practices for successful cloud-based BPM implementations.

1: Document and educate

Start with documenting process models and conducting simulations with cloud-based modeling tools. You also need to create internal awareness about BPM, the cloud, and their combined value. Agreeing on common goals and definitions, and then modeling the initiative, reduces the project risk and the amount of change management required. Also, cloud-based BPM modeling facilitates collaboration between process contributors.

2: Create pilot projects to show ROI

Before you rush headlong into a full-scale deployment, it's a good idea to implement departmental applications requiring basic workflow, forms, rules, and case management that do not require heavy integrations and performance-intensive transaction automation. Use these small implementations as pilot projects to demonstrate ROI and time-to-market improvements to the business stakeholders.

3: Work as a team

It's likely that no single person is responsible for the success of a BPM project. Adopt collaborative processes involving geographically diversified teams and complex value chain processes to drive KPIs. Implement business activity monitoring (BAM) dashboards and analytics to monitor the KPIs and establish governance models and standards for adoption.

4: Involve the integration and infrastructure team

You can't do BPM in a vacuum. It's important to integrate your system with legacy applications, mash-ups and composite applications, and complex Web services in the cloud. This will help align diverse enterprise IT investments with cloud-based BPM. Creating a BPCC in the cloud helps in creating reuse of process assets and a common governance model.

5: Enable efficient reuse

Don't let your hard work go to waste. Build and host packaged business applications, which you can then reconfigure and reuse across geographies, lines of business, or product lines. This not only makes BPM implementation and adoption easier but also improves consistency, efficiency, and scalability.

Figure B shows a step-by-step approach to introducing BPM in the cloud in a less risky manner.

Figure B

Graded approach to introducing BPM in the cloud

Conclusion

Cloud computing offers many advantages for BPM adoption and eliminates some of the key challenges that have hindered the success of conventional BPM implementations. When you put BPM in the cloud, enterprise BPM and inter-organization process automation can become a reality. The sheer ease of deployment, reuse, shared knowledge, and collaboration aspects are bound to foster process innovation to a greater degree.


Vinaykumar Mummigatti is vice president and global head of BPM Practice at Virtusa Corporation. Vinay has more than 18 years of experience in the IT Industry, handling leadership roles in enterprise solutions, business consulting, global delivery, strategic alliances, and business operations.

3 comments
ligett
ligett

Good post. I would add that the Cloud, as a paradigm, not only offers the simplicity related to infrastructure. In such complex IT systems as ERP and BPM, the truly cloud/SaaS platform should also be simpler on the conceptual basis. In other words, not only it should be simpler to deploy (which current cloud offerings do provide), but also it should provide simplicity of configuration and operation. Why? The reason is in the concept of SaaS as a platform for savers. If the company has not large enough budgets for infrastructure, how may it have enough budget for BPM consultants and analysts? Unfortunately, the current "cloud" offerings don't provide this simplicity. They are plain old BPMs but deployed on the cloud servers and made multitenant. That's one of the tasks we undertake in ProcessMate.net as we develop our software based on a new concept that would allow managers and process participants set-up and configure their processes without the need of expensive consultants, business analysts and months-long implementation projects.

iangotts
iangotts

Excellent blog. It chimes with many of the comments in my recent article published by IRM called "BPM and the Cloud" http://bit.ly/9Rrnr2 One aspect which hasn't been covered, which is a real risk for CIOs, is the Stealth Cloud http://wp.me/pLuvX-4N. End users buying/consuming Cloud apps without the permission, support or knowledge of business. And this is most likely with BPM (hence the 'B' in the acroynm).

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Or I get fed up and want to move to another. What happens to my BPM?