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BPM in the Cloud(s)

Michael Dortch

Your Business' Processes, Its Intellectual Property and the Cloud(s)

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Aside from e-mails, how do most of the people within and connected to your business communicate critical information? Likely as not, those communications include one or more documents (or "content elements," if you must). In fact, if your business is well-run, most of its key processes are contained within documents.

So exactly where are those documents? Who has access to them? Who can edit them? Under what circumstances? And where and how are all of these rules documented, and who's managing those documents?

These questions have particular currency with the introduction of Apple's iCloud service. While much of the media attention on iCloud has been focused on music and entertainment, the service offers much potential for business use. And if iCloud is nearly as successful as, say, iTunes, the iPhone or the iPad, we can all expect to see a wave of iCloud applications and use cases aimed squarely at business users and decision makers. And responses from providers of competing solutions ranging from Box.net and DropBox to Google.

Even if iCloud use in business rises no further than the penetration of Macintosh computers in most offices, iCloud will likely raise both use and perception of cloud-based services designed to help businesspeople to share information. Including documents. Including sometimes sensitive documents. Such as those that contain critical intellectual property. Including but definitely not limited to business processes.

So what's a process-minded, security-conscious businessperson to do? Look for ways to track and protect key business information wherever it happens to be, and to know who's using what documents and content, wherever they happen to be.

A couple of examples worth noting. One is Covertix, an Israel-based provider of file-level information protection solutions. The company's flagship offering is called SmartCipher. It basically assigns a software "shadow" to each and every file that travels with that file within and outside an organization and keeps track of what happens to it and who accesses it. And a file can be almost any digital asset, and controls can be fine-tuned to tailor protections to business requirements and processes.

In May, Covertix was named a Top 100 Europe company by the good folks at Red Herring. Previous winners of the Red Herring Top 100 award include eBay, Facebook, Google, Salesforce.com and Twitter, among others. Not bad company to keep - and a company worth watching.

Another: YouSendIt.com. The company's primary focus to date has been easing and speeding the sharing of large files, a real challenge for many unassisted e-mail systems. The company offers access to its services via its Web site, numerous apps and plug-ins for Microsoft Office and Outlook, Adobe Acrobat and Photoshop and multiple Web browsers, among other applications and services. 

YouSendIt.com has made great strides in becoming a pervasive yet non-disruptive adjunct to the sharing of critical business information. And the company offers extensive auditing and tracking support, so you and your colleagues can always know who sent what to whom when. Its innovative approach to a pervasive set of challenges has enabled YouSendIt.com to grow to 18 million registered users, 400,000 subscribers and penetration of 92 percent of the Fortune 500 since its founding in 2004, according to company executives.

In September 2010, YouSendIt.com raised $15 million in its fourth round of financing, according to published reports. In January 2011, the company acquired two start-ups - Attassa, makers of add-ons for Microsoft Outlook, and Zosh, makers of an iPhone app that lets users sign and send documents from that device. The Attassa technologies are at the heart of at least some of the YouSendIt.com plug-ins. 

YouSendIt.com said at the time of the acquisitions that it would incorporate both companies' technologies into its core offerings. Which means YouSendIt.com should soon support the ability for business users to send, share, sign and securely track all types and sizes of business documents from, to and among all kinds of devices and users, whether "at rest" or "in motion."

Solutions such as those from Covertix and YouSendIt.com are helping companies to protect business-critical information today in ways that make that information easier for authorized users to share and for businesses to protect from unauthorized use. Even when that information traverses one or more clouds. If your company is using either or both successfully, leverage those successes in ways that preserve, protect and defend all of your company's intellectual property, starting with its most critical processes. 

If your company isn't using either or both, take a close look at each solution set. Whether you deploy either or not, the evolutions of Covertix and YouSendIt.com offer useful clues as to where information protection and rights management are headed. They offer equally useful guidance as to where your company's business processes, for information management and other functions, should likely be headed, too.

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Michael Dortch blogs about the rapidly evolving synergies (and possible challenges) linking BPM and cloud computing business strategies at all types of businesses -- including yours!

Michael Dortch

Michael Dortch is a veteran information entrepreneur and information technology (IT) industry analyst, consultant, speaker, writer, evangelist and provocateur. He has been striving to empower buyers, sellers and users of IT solutions since 1979. Seriously! ;-)

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