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Editor's Note: The union of BPM and Software as a Service (SaaS) offers attractive benefits for businesses, but the approach faces significant challenges on the road to widespread adoption. Part I of this special report explores some remaining concerns and risks. Part II offers expert advice for combining BPM and SaaS.

"If you follow the Software as a Service market, the fundamental value proposition is the economics," says Jeffrey M. Kaplan, managing director of the THINKstrategies consultancy.

The economics take two forms. First, there's the cost savings associated with SaaS solutions, and, in addition, the ROI. That's because you can gain value from SaaS applications more quickly than through traditional on-premise deployment, Kaplan says. In fact, SaaS may even generate unanticipated value.

As an example, he cites a kind of crowd-sourcing phenomenon--as each customer suggests improvements, everyone who shares the SaaS benefits from the advice. Kaplan says there may be ways to share insights as well--especially with BPM: "To optimize a business process, it is very likely you would want to be able to leverage the best practices of third parties," he says.

SaaS-BPM benefits

Kaplan readily acknowledges that, right now, those additional BPM-SaaS benefits are more theoretical than demonstrable. But he predicts that BPM-SaaS marriages will become more commonplace in the coming years as organizations become comfortable with SaaS and with the idea of aggregating business information. Likewise, Kaplan believes that, moving forward, businesses will be interested in gaining greater access to the kind of aggregated information that's part of the inherent potential of SaaS.

This, he says, hints at the concept of Data as a Service (DaaS), in which raw data is brought together and packaged and priced as a secondary product. Data from multiple sources, but often generated through the primary application that the vendor has to offer, becomes a resource in its own right.

So far, says Kaplan, most SaaS vendors have been focused on just winning and retaining customers. As a result, they've had to wait for a critical mass of customers and a sufficient amount of data before they could even begin to suggest this secondary benefit. "Now that they have reached that threshold and have demonstrated that they can securely handle the individual data of specific users and aggregate that data in a way that doesn't violate trust, they are starting to experiment with ways to generate meaningful benchmark statistics," Kaplan says.


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