How SaaS is transforming BPM

In this Q & A, Peter Schooff speaks with Jeff Kaplan, managing director of the THINKstrategies consulting firm, who offers insights about Software as a Service trends in BPM.

Peter Schooff: What would you say is going on right now with SaaS BPM?

Jeff Kaplan: Just like SaaS has transformed the way in which we look at almost every other enterprise application area, the same thing is happening now with the business process management space. It's being driven by a number of factors, which are common to the overall market for SaaS-obviously, the economy, and the changing competitive landscape, as well as changing customer attitudes and expectations when it comes to utilizing software and getting the greatest value from those applications.

There's been a growing frustration among organizations and end users of all sizes for a long time. Now that SaaS has established itself as a viable alternative, functionally speaking, it's become a much more appealing alternative financially as well as in terms of its value-added capabilities. So now it's beginning to touch that BPM space and there's a lot of exciting things going on there.

PS: You already touched on this, but to drill down a little bit, what exactly are the market drivers for SaaS BPM?

JK: With this economy and the competitive landscape that we have, and the changing nature of the workplace, there is a growing need to obtain information from a variety of sources that pertain to the performance of an organization and to bring that information together in such a way that people can make better decisions. But more important than that is sharing that information so that they can execute on those decisions in an effective fashion.

BPM helps to manage that process, from the collection to the dissemination to the measurement of the activities across the organization. In order for companies to survive, never mind thrive, they need greater access to that information and greater ability to act on that information. That's why we're talking about SaaS-based BPMs today.

PS: Indeed. Now, a company that already has BPM, what do they need to consider from going basically in-house to SaaS BPM? What steps do they need to take?

JK: Well, I guess there are two categories. [First,] there are those companies who are somewhat satisfied with what they have and they're possibly looking to enhance and extend that functionality. They can use some of the SaaS-based alternatives and options that are available to extend their reach and also maybe add additional functionality to the established BPM solution that's already in place.

But then there are those companies who are either frustrated that they're not getting the value they were looking for, or maybe had hesitated on making the investments. Those companies have an opportunity to start fresh with a SaaS-based alternative and do what others have done in other segments of the marketplace when it comes to SaaS: Start small, test it, see how it feels, see how it works, see what kinds of results they're able to get from it, and then extend it through various sub-segments of their business to get a fuller range of benefits from those capabilities.

PS: Do you essentially see all BPM going to the SaaS model?

JK: There's probably a good reason for most companies to move to a SaaS-based alternative. But I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon, if ever, because just like with other segments of this marketplace, there's always going to be certain organizations who feel, for whatever reason, that what they have on-premise is going to meet their needs better than a SaaS-based alternative.

So we'll continue to be living in a hybrid world where there will be a mix of both on-premise and on-demand alternatives that will become increasingly interoperable to allow folks to integrate them to get the best of both worlds.

PS: Looking ahead, what do you see for the future of SaaS BPM?

JK: I'm very excited about this new idea of Data as a Service and, beyond that, Business Process as a Service. The BPM area is ripe for this. By that, I mean being able to take the data that individual companies are generating within their organizations and aggregate that data in such a way that it doesn't risk giving away any kind of proprietary data to competitors. Instead, it allows companies to compare and contrast themselves with their peers in terms of best practices and benchmarks.

We're seeing more and more opportunities for companies to do that, while at the same time, integrating third-party data sources into their own internal-activity data and being able to compare their activity to broader market trends.

So companies like Dun & Bradstreet, Reuters and others are now providing data feeds through APIs [application programming interfaces], Web services and other dedicated cloud-integration services into these BPM services. And the BPM services themselves are reaching out to these other third-party data sources to provide that contextual data that can help organizations and executives, as well as their end users, to better understand the implications of their own internal behavior-and, again, compare and contrast that to their peers.

This Q & A was excerpted from a recent ebizQ podcast. It has been edited for editorial style, clarity and length.

About the Author

Peter Schooff is a former contributing editor for ebizQ, where he also managed the ebizQ Forum for several years. Previously, Peter managed the database operations for a major cigar company, served as writer/editor of an early Internet entertainment site and developed a computer accounting system for several retail stores. Peter can be reached at

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