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Will the cloud enable businesses to deploy BPM without IT's involvement?

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To quote a comment Connie Moore makes in the last discussion, Is BPM dead?  "I believe cloud is going to be a big kickstart for BPM suites because finally the business can deploy BPM software without IT's involvement." What do you think?


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  • Yes.

    The very best BPM solutions are no more difficult to use than Microsoft Excel and Visio. Programming is not required in the these thoroughly visual tools.

    Just as personal computers and Microsoft Office empowered business users to break free from the constraints of the IT department in the 1970's, the cloud and modern BPM tools liberate today's generation of managers. The leaders of today are computer savvy, have faith in technology and are ready to exploit the next wave when it is merely a ripple.

    And let's not forget, they are hiring talented and experienced twenty-somethings into every branch of their business that expect to coerce technology to their will. Just as they have been doing in their dorm rooms for the last four years.

    Dead? We're just at the beginning! What a great time to be involved in technology!

  • I think the cloud doesn’t remove the need for IT but it does alter the dynamic – and as Connie says “provides a kick start” (which we’ve all been waiting over 20 years to happen). Where we get to with the cloud is having the ability to develop process enabled Applications.

    For BPM to receive this kick we have to base the applications we deploy to base themselves on tried and tested technologies in the Workflow and BPM arena. Offering development and application generators as a Service (Software as a Service) business people can create custom Process-based applications to automate manual tasks.

    Core to this proposition is the concept of Application Provisioning.

    Application Provisioning is basically a mechanism whereby a user can put together an “application” based around his normal working patterns, using readily available services.

    This means that it is possible to handle any sort of business problem usually tackled by enterprise solutions. The business user will leverage the capability to associate virtually any number of web services within the context of an application. Application Provisioning is effectively an application generator within a process and is inherently more flexible and more able to comply with corporate guidelines than non-process based approaches.

    Why do we need process technologies to deliver this vision?

    There are many reasons as to why we need process technology to govern the deployment of applications and chief among them is compliance.

    User developed applications can be very disruptive and lead to anarchy and a breakdown of corporate governance and compliance. Think of all those Excel spreadsheets that are used to run most businesses – no control, no compliance no ownership. Process enablement of these types of applications will provide ownership, control and auditablity – making them compliant with the corporate demands without stifling innovation and change.

    Furthermore with the high availability of Cloud infrastructure at a low cost and innovative Cloud Services available to accomplish brave new world tasks, the business needs an assembly and orchestration layer in to fully deliver useful business advantages. As a result, the business can become more like the technology:

    • More adaptable
    • More interwoven
    • More specialized

    This also sets the business free to mix and match existing processes run on applications like SAP, Oracle, IBM Websphere, MS .Net or even early legacies with processes designed entirely on the Cloud without the need to translate business wishes into a complex requirement specification document. This means that:

    • The applications are available to use right away and on demand

    • The business avoids capital expenditures almost entirely and ensures that any operational expenditures exists only as a result of a revenue stream

    By using process based technology we are able to deliver simple to use service based applications, where, and when they are needed (Situational Applications); effectively deploying the technology as managed services along with all the other services that can be found in today’s organizations.

    So instead of buying expensive software licenses and the requisite supporting infrastructure the eventual end users of the applications will access the processes and services they need when they need them - ensuring cost effective deployment and efficient project roll-out. The ICT departments get what they need, the end users get what they need.

    Cloud based process enabled applications quickly become the ideal solution for those departments and organizations that need to develop and provision applications quickly and effectively at the lowest cost possible.

  • Up to a point. IT has an important role in organizations that goes much beyond provisioning servers and engaging software developers to build applications.

    The CIO and IT own and manage the security of individuals and the organization's data. For a simple example, if you rely on departments to remember to remove users from unmanaged (cloud) systems when employees leave it won't always happen. IT and HR have controls in place already to do that. In the cloud, managing user provision is even more important, since denying access to the corporate network no longer prevent access to organizational data.

    The cloud can help new systems get up and running faster, if the toolset is simple to build on. But any real business solution at some point will require software development, even if it is integration with internal systems. Business leaders might understand the technology, but they won't be building it. IT can help.

    The reality is that the cloud removes the need for many business applications to be built using BPM at all, since they already exist in an easily accessible (just enter your credit card number and go) form. For the rest, the CIO and IT will make sure that a department considers internal controls and mitigation risks for security, fraud and accuracy. This 'systems' is essential for any new cloud solution, including BPM, so that the auditors, CFO and CEO can sign the dreaded financial reporting attestation (SOX) each year.

    Go ahead, deploy complex BPM solutions without IT because you technically can. Just chat with the CIO and your auditors first.

  • For better or for worse: yes, it will, and yes, it does. A non-trivial percentage of our customers are business end users deploying cloud-based BPM without reliance upon—or, in some cases, even notice to—their IT departments.

    However: in order to get really interesting, BPM has to be integrated with corporate data from ERP, CRM, HRIS, and other enterprise systems. At that point, IT is going to be involved.

    As a former CIO, I think we're missing the core question here, which is: why do business units try so hard to work around IT in the first place? Well, I'd hate to run ebizQ out of disk space by diving into that topic, but suffice it to say that it should be the goal of every IT leader, manager, and staffer to know the answer to that question, and to effect the changes necessary to render it moot.

    • These days it is not even required to utilize IT to integrate, and it will continue moving in that direction.

      As for why business units try to work around IT, I think there are several considerations. 1) Taking an already over burdened department and requiring them to do work they technically shouldn't even have to do. 2) Giving control over your business applications over to people who are not really running the business.

      There is nothing more frustrating than attempting to become an agile business, but still being dependent on IT resources, effectively limiting the businesses ability to adapt and change.

  • I echo John, Phil and Scott. Yes there is plenty of room for BPM in the Cloud, but many customers will still prefer and/or still need BPM installed locally for use and development. IT will remain involved in designing and developing more sophisticated appliations. Furthermore, in many cases you want IT involved for their business acumen and technical expertise. Just becuase business can create something doesn't mean it will be built well. Successfully crafted solutions are most often the result of a team of experienced professionals reprenting multiple sides of the business.

  • In terms of process modelling and deployment of the 'intelligent operations manual' a cloud approach has enabled us to get projects launched same day rather than wait 3 months for IT to find a server. This is oftne/normally below the radar and IT are unaware.

    We coined a phrase RBI - Return Before Investment - so you are getting process improvement benefits before the invoice for the software service was due.

    Most clients using the Nimbus Cloud have migrated in-house, with IT's blessing within 6-18 months. However some, like Carphone Warehouse, continue to use the service on a full production basis.

    A longer discussion of this can be found at "So the cloud changes everything? Doh! But not how you expected it to." http://wp.me/pLuvX-ob

  • No. If not IT then another unit would have to integrate BPMS with your systems. The cloud does not make it any easier for BPM suites.

  • No, as long as a business process involves any interaction with a system IT will need to be involved. If there is no interaction with any line of business system or data how much value will it add?

  • Cloud only adds an additional layer of complexity and doesn't help anything to improve interaction and collaboration. And if it keeps the silos alive, worse still. What is needed from IT is not a monopolized distribution of data but the provision of consolidated business information (data & context) across the board of virtualization and mobile to improve the user/customer experience and put the focus on real outcomes. Way to go!

  • I've seen organizations use cloud-based systems in initial stages to overcome internal politics and bueracracy. Once the system is stable and has proven its value to the organization, business owners a) begin the budgeting process to bring the solution in house and b) engage IT, not necessarily in that order.

    It's very easy and not a "bet your job" scenario to approve a small purchase order to start using a cloud-based solution. If it doesn't work, you're out a tiny bit. If it does work, then there's little reason to not get IT involved to own the solution, should it be decided to bring the solution inside the firewall.

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    My reaction is "why the fixation on leaving out IT" You could argue that things like the cloud might hide the unreasonable requests that Business makes of IT...

    I believe 'the Cloud' is an opportunity for all involved parties to focus on solving on adding value and/or solving a problem and not about preparing to do so. It's bit like writing a book with unsharpened pencils and paper vs using the latest and greatest self-publishing options on Amazon. It's a tool and it should make life easier for anyone who uses it - Business and IT alike.

  • IT is about secure delivery; the business logic addressing the dynamic application requirements where people create all source information belongs to the "business". This approach already sees custom applications built with very little IT involvement the way it should be. The cloud is just an efficient way to use hardware and pay as you go for application requirements. Legacy is a big issue so a new "agile" process capability as a "greenfield" needs to wrap round the legacy "brownfield". Still need to meet compliance and reporting requirements otherwise anarchy so not really user build but build with the business analyst / professional seeing the bigger picture.

  • Salesforce has pushed CRM in the Cloud so easily, why is it so hard for BPM to achieve the same ? CRM is still based on process, it's front-line and customer facing but a set of processes nonetheless. But it still requires IT support.

    So to think you can remove IT completely or even partially is a myth.

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