BPM, SOA & Cloud Integration
How SaaS is transforming BPM
By Peter Schooff, Contributing Editor, ebizQ
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.More by Peter Schooff
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