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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 explored concerns and risks involved in combining BPM and SaaS. Here, Part II offers expert advice for combining BPM and SaaS.



Software as a Service (SaaS) BPM can be implemented in two ways, says Sandy Kemsley, an independent BPM consultant with Kemsley Design. The first is the process-modeling side, which was the first to get traction in the market. The second—and, in Kemsley's view, "more interesting"—is the collection of BPM SaaS variants that allow you to execute on the Web.

In either form, SaaS BPM is worth looking at, Kemsley says. And for most organizations, the opportunity to offload hosting responsibilities represents an opportunity. "People make a big deal of it when a SaaS company has down time, but internal data centers aren't up 100 percent of the time, either," she notes.

The economics are compelling, too: "It's the same as any other software market. The cost of SaaS is lower, especially for small and medium-size businesses," she says. What's more, small and midsized businesses often couldn't afford BPM at all before SaaS became an option. Of course, she acknowledges, if you really grow usage, at some point the subscription costs of SaaS will become oppressive, meaning that it may make more sense to bring BPM in-house.

Advice for avoiding SaaS anxiety

"Many organizations are just plain nervous about SaaS," Kemsley says. However, SaaS companies base their reputation and business models on keeping customer data safe and secure. For publicly held companies, she says, there's little danger of one individual taking steps that would endanger the company's ability to meet its commitments. If you're looking for a gradual ramp-up to BPM, you may want to consider a company that offers both hosted and non-hosted SaaS BPM.

Also, look closely at service-level agreements (SLAs) and other agreements. Some SaaS BPM agreements are month to month, but some involve longer-term arrangements. "Be sure you understand the terms and how those terms might change if the company is purchased," Kemsley advises. And, she adds that if you find a SaaS company with a good reputation, you probably don't need to worry much.

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