Editor’s Note: In this conversation with ebizQ's Peter Schooff, consultant Jeff Kaplan offers an update on the cloud's growing influence on business in general--and on BPM in particular. Kaplan, a frequent contributor to ebizQ, is managing director of the THINKstrategies consulting firm. This Q & A, excerpted from a slightly longer podcast, has been edited for length, clarity and editorial style.

ebizQ: Where are we with enterprises and the cloud right now?
Kaplan:
As you're probably well aware, you can't go into or come out of any airport today without seeing a banner or some other display touting the business benefits of cloud computing.

In fact, the term has become so pervasive and popularized that Apple has gotten into the act with its iCloud, and there are a variety of other consumer-oriented solutions touting the terminology of “the cloud.” That popularization of the term has helped to accelerate its growth in the commercial and corporate world as well.

So we're seeing a lot of interest among enterprises of all sizes. Almost every market research firm confirms with their own surveys that upwards of 75 to 85% of corporate executives are interested in adopting some form of cloud-based service to help them achieve their corporate objectives.

ebizQ: What are some the biggest obstacles companies face when looking at and going into the cloud?
Kaplan:
First of all, there's still uncertainty about how you define this term of “the cloud.” It’s probably the worst term that the technology industry has ever come up with because it inherently is murky and hard to get your arms around. So the first issue for many companies is defining what is the cloud and, therefore, what can the cloud do for them.

The second issue, of course, is around cloud security and data privacy. That issue is still lingering in the marketplace despite the fact that there haven't been any known incursions of any major magnitude that have impacted any of the major cloud vendors.

But I'm concerned because of the lack of control associated with the cloud does give both IT and business decision makers reason to be concerned, or at least uncertain, about what the cloud means in terms of data protection and data privacy.

The next issue has to do with reliability. There have been a couple of notable service disruptions over the past year among companies as prominent as Google and Amazon and Microsoft and even Salesforce, to a limited extent. But their outages and service disruptions have only been a hassle, in most cases, as opposed to a significant disruption of most organizations’ operations.

But the most important issue for most organizations, when you get right down to it, is around integration. They're trying to integrate these services into their existing operations, trying to tap into legacy systems and data sources and even applications. So integration still is probably the most prominent practical implementation obstacle in today's enterprise environment.

ebizQ: How would you say the cloud changes the nature of BPM?
Kaplan:
BPM is becoming one of the most popular areas in which to deploy cloud solutions to improve the business processes within organizations.

Now, that's not necessarily, in every case, the overt reason why people are adopting [Software as a Service (SaaS)] or other cloud-based applications. There are only still a relative handful of BPM applications that are being touted as SaaS or cloud solutions specifically. Instead, what we're seeing is BPM being embedded into a growing assortment of enterprise apps because the SaaS or cloud vendors in those cases recognize that BPM is inherent to the success of that application’s deployment.

I'll give you an example. Salesforce.com, with their CRM solution and service- management solutions, is recognizing that having an embedded BPM tool to help govern the use of their primary application functionality is increasingly important for their enterprise customers. So they've rolled out BPM functionality embedded within their [customer relationship management (CRM)] and service-management platforms to ensure that those applications are deployed in such a way that they not only enhance but improve BPM within those organizations.

ebizQ: How will the cloud change the way organizations use BPM?
Kaplan:
It’s becoming more pervasive throughout the organization. It used to be that BPM was something that only executives were worried about and willing to do something about. Now, because it's been embedded into the applications themselves, and because those applications have far broader accessibility among end users and visibility among business unit managers, there’s an ability to share information about usage activity levels and behavior patterns that allow people to not only better manage business processes, but better measure their effectiveness.

So as these BPM tools become more and more pervasive within businesses of all sizes, those businesses are able to track behaviors in a more effective fashion and report on their performance and, therefore, improve those business processes.

Over time, the BPM tools vendors are going to find ways to aggregate the data across their user bases and provide statistical benchmark data that companies can use to compare and contrast themselves with their peers--leaving aside, of course, any proprietary data that folks might be concerned about.

ebizQ: What else do you see ahead for the cloud, and for BPM in the cloud?
Kaplan:
I think that we're going to see more rapid growth and adoption of cloud-based solutions overall. As this area of BPM begins to mature and a first round of success stories become publicized, those early successes will serve as models for others to take advantage of. You'll see more business executives seeking to emulate that success and follow on with their own deployments of cloud-based BPM as well.

So we see an acceleration in this marketplace, with it truly becoming more mainstream, and with the best practices being bred from these solutions helping to give new users greater confidence in the ways in which they adopt these solutions for themselves.

READER FEEDBACK: Are you moving some or all of your business processes to the cloud? What are your biggest challenges? Let ebizQ's staff know, and we'll address them in upcoming articles and other content. Please e-mail Site Editor Anne Stuart st editor@ebizq.net.



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 pschooff@techtarget.com.

More by Peter Schooff

About ebizQ

ebizQ is the insider’s guide to next-generation business process management. We offer a growing collection of independent editorial articles on BPM trends, issues, challenges and solutions, all targeted to business and IT BPM professionals.

We cover BPM standards, governance, technology and continuous process improvement, as well as process discovery, modeling, simulation and optimization, among many other areas. We follow case management, decision management, business rules management, operational intelligence, complex event processing and other related topics. We closely track important trends such as the rise of social BPM, mobile BPM and BPM in the cloud. We also explore BPM’s use in functional areas, such as supply chain and customer management, and in key verticals, such as financial services, health care, insurance and government.

ebizQ's other BPM-oriented content includes podcasts, webcasts, webinars, white papers, a variety of expert blogs, a lively online forum and much more.

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