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What are the challenges of moving business processes to the cloud?

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What are the challenges of moving business processes to the cloud?

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  • Just to give it a start.

    Software exists in the cloud, business processes exist in real life.

    So the question should be:

    What are the challenges of moving software to the cloud.

  • Leaving aside the usual reliability, scalability, data integrity/ security angle, from a business perspective the biggest is cost. There's a definite misconception that running all kinds of business process in the cloud is more cost effective than in-house. Wrong. Check the small print, you'll find that FTE vs. running a Cloud Process Instance (CPI) models are very different from what a solution provider will tell you.

    Make sure you select the right processes to migrate.

    In the end the same business challenges for BPM and Cloud remain as for when everyone jumped on the bandwagon and floated their processes off to India then hastily brought them back once reality struck and customer engagement sucked.

    • On this one I'm forced to disagree. I've run IT organizations, and now I sell cloud solutions. In my experience, when you factor in the real costs of infrastructure, maintenance, redundancy, security, vendor management, and on and on, cloud solutions can be a bargain and a load off of your mind.

      • Spot on Scott - and I might add far faster time-to-value as integrating in the cloud enjoys much shorter cycle times. Challenges: Cloud vendors are not always adept at making IT feel warm and fuzzy about being good stewards of the data. Also, some organizations are challenged with getting the reporting on SLAs etc. from cloud vendors. Seemingly small obstacles when dropped into a balance sheet with the math from cloud vs. server stacks and maintenance requirements though, eh?

  • The challenge with making a business work is getting the siloed parts of the organisation to work together seamlessly. So why would you create another artificial barrier and introduce another vendor (ie cloud) into the mix, when most people can't even get it to work together in house.

    Moving to the cloud is essentially outsourcing. And with outsourcing you need to understand that "outsource" = "give up control".

    Now replace the word "outsource" with the words "give up control" in the sentence and then see if you still want to do it.

    We are going to outsource customer support. We are going to outsource recruitment. etc etc

  • I agree with Ian.

    Also, consider that people have been moving processes to shared services centers for some time. For all intents and purposes, a shared services center is kind of like a real-life cloud, right?

    Just to make sure we're on the same page though, when you say "move a process to the cloud," I'm assuming you mean its execution. Not some facet of the process, like process modeling.

  • For the most part, I don't think that deploying processes to the cloud is any harder or easier than doing it on premise.

    I can think of two aspect that might be worth further comment:

    - Is the cloud new to your organization? If so, deploying a process will be harder than on premises because ... its new and there will be a learning curve.

    - One of the hardest aspect of any BPM or Case Management implementation is always the integrations to other systems. Moving the process to the cloud makes this slightly more complex - there will be new networking and firewall concerns to consider - but these are usually quite trivial once you get up the learning curve.

    I think the danger of moving to the cloud is not a technology concern with BPM or Case Management solutions but one that is artificially driven by procurement processes in big organizations. Often the same process selects new BPM software and decides to move it to the cloud. This creates a situation where a single implementation has to learn how to develop code in a new BPMS and how to deploy and secure it in a new way.

    Not a good way to de-risk project delivery.

  • Moving any software to the cloud has its challenges but the rewards are clear. We balance the two and make a choice.

    Automated process executing in the cloud are no different to those executing on premise. The user still sees their tasks on the glass of their device and, frankly, shouldn't care where that process is executing.

    While the process execution is no different, the integration of the process with business systems may be very challenging. The difficulty of making on premise and in cloud applications communicate should not be underestimated. Networking, security, authentication, data transfer and performance may all be far from your expectations.

    To make matters worse the enterprise vendors of large CRM and ERP systems may charge significantly for permitting and facilitating access to their systems through open standards like XML and web services. Often they will want a license for every user of the system, even those who do not actually touch directly their product.

    When choosing a cloud vendor to host, or a cloud-based solution make sure there are service levels defined with financial teeth that bite hard. When selecting enterprise CRM and ERP make sure you negotiate the inclusion of unlimited access from cloud based tools ... before you need this and have no barging power!

    Legacy business process automation tools, those designed in the 80's and 90's, are not optimized for this technology platform nor for the inherently dynamic nature of businesses that have the agility to operate in the cloud.

    The best cloud based tools have already solved these issues: make those your short list.

  • The size of the challenge depends on the type of processes that are being managed in the cloud. Getting data securely passed through corporate firewalls and communicating with installed systems is the challenge for Cloud BPM. Integration. The cloud works well for processes that do not require internal database or system connections. For those processes that require tight integration with internal systems, it does not. A good API can make it happen but certainly more challenging.

  • I agree with those above who pointed out the potential difficulties of integrating cloud-based solutions, including BPM, with internal data sources like databases, ERP systems, and so forth. Performance and identity management are two issues that can make such integration tricky.

    That being said, the cloud has so many advantages that it's worth investigating even if you have heavy data integration requirements. The flexibility, ease of deployment, and cost savings (see my response to Theo) for which cloud is famous apply to BPM solutions as well.

  • What surprises me here, is that most repliers focus on "a process is a tool"

    I see software just as one of many aspects needed to manage your organization by process.

    And sure all this software can be send to the cloud. If that is cheaper, easier to maintain, while not disrupting the execution of processes, fine. But I hope companies see processes as something more than a piece of software.

    And besides that. You might not believe it, in this world there are a lot of processes that are not of such an administrative kind that supporting software is the most important aspect.

    For example healthcare. Will you help me to carry the operation room to the cloud?

    Energy sector. Isn't the cloud a little to high to put all our cables in.

    My friend is a painter, At this moment he is uploading my front door into photoshop (in the cloud of course)


    Sounds a little cynical. And it is. Why start thinking about moving all your software to the cloud when you don't know it will benefit the execution of your process.

    A process isn't a tool. A tool is just one of the things you might need in a process. Being aware of that, you might start with changing other things instead of clouding.

    Don't let your cloud become a super cell!

    • Good points Emeil - but for many organizations it will come down to this: Does your IT functional area have the resources to help execute on PI opportunities that require technology solutions. If they don't, there are options to partner with BPM vendors to solve "spot" problems where automation IS the right answer. Absolutely agree that not all PI problems require technology...in fact it may be that less than 20% of them do. But, the data I've seen points to the fact that about $1 Bill per member of the Global 2000 in BPI opportunities.

  • Nyczoo makes a point...if your IT doesn't have the resources to support process improvement, the cloud may be your option. Likewise, if you'd like to test out a system and not have disruption within IT as they try to identify servers, support apps and databases, the cloud could be a solution.

    The challenges are always the ability to connect seemlessly when the data isn't on a local or network drive. Any system that doesn't have an offline choice is suspect in this regard.

  • This is interesting... my interpretation of Cloud is outside my 4 walls and not maintained by my people, but we can request for a service and we get serviced. You cannot definitely 'outsource' or move your real-world processes to the Cloud as people are very much a part of the processes and in most cases, paper too.

    However, does this mean, I have to further deploy, employ and manage more resources within my walls to get better at managing my processes. Not necessarily, the Cloud versus Onsite debate is much like BPM versus ACM etc. There is no single answer and there never will be. It will all depend on the management, if they want it within their walls or have someone else provide the services.

    Just as many failed with outsourcing to India and many were successful as well. Bite only that which you can chew :)

  • Well, the challenge is in defining which particular business process you do not need. Otherwise, why would you move YOUR business processes to the Cloud? And who are YOU after your business process is in the Cloud?

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