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Hidden in the Cloud – The Process Platform for Enterprise Software

BPM, collaboration and the cloud are leading to the development of a new level of evolution in enterprise software

Cloud computing remains the most discussed subject in IT. Many analysts believe that it will fundamentally change how IT services are used, pointing to lower costs and accelerated time-to-market for software-based projects.

But cloud computing means more for a company than just technology. It holds the potential for establishing a new approach for innovations in business operations. The cloud forms the technological foundation for new types of collaboration that finally sweep aside the barriers separating business from IT. More people, more expertise and more business information can be integrated and aligned with business strategy, giving a company greater momentum and making it more effective.

Social media platforms like Facebook, as well as companies such as Lego and Dell, are trying out some initial ideas to explore the value these new opportunities for collaboration and participation can add. For example, any interested Lego fan can go online to the company's website (http://designbyme.lego.com/en-us/default.aspx) and use its Digital Designer tool to design their own models, including the package it comes in. You can post your models to the Lego community to work on the design with other members as a group. On Dell's IdeaStorm platform (http://www.ideastorm.com), users can not only post their product suggestions and comment on them, they can even follow how the company reacts to their ideas.

This potential makes cloud computing an important topic for companies - and tapping into this potential is one of the most exciting tasks an IT expert can have. It is an excellent opportunity to break up the bureaucratic structures and rigid application systems that impede operations, and prepare the way for agile ways of working.

In this context, the design and orientation of a business process management (BPM) solution plays a key role:

  1. BPM develops into extremely collaborative software.
  2. BPM offers a platform for linking cloud and SaaS-based applications and data as well as proprietary solutions with existing on-premise applications.
  3. BPM must make use of known strengths and consistently uncouple the process logic from content in standard operations software to make the flexibility and momentum truly tangible.

Keyword: collaboration
Depending on the orientation, BPM - and its accompanying tool environments in particular - has the reputation of being impossible to manage for anyone but process experts and IT specialists. To improve processes successfully, all of the stakeholders need to work together: business users and IT, process analysts and developers, enterprise architects and infrastructure managers, process managers and administrators. Why? Because that's the only way to implement tactical, project-based process initiatives quickly.

The prerequisite for BPM with a cooperative focus is a process and integration platform that provides a solution for collaboration - closely aligning both business and IT departments around a shared vision for process improvement. This enterprise-wide BPM solution, used as a shared standard for all departments within the company as well as suppliers and business partners, bridges the existing gap of understanding in tool environments between business and technical users.

Along with a common understanding at the content level, having access without constraints to business processes and tool environments is essential for realistic collaboration scenarios. This is precisely where cloud computing and its associated technical concepts come into play, because access "without constraints" means user-friendly (friendliest) operation, which is common for the web-based front end of a cloud. It also requires that a BPM project be launched without delay, and without being preceded by comprehensive planning, rollout and financing. Similar to social media platforms, colleagues can be invited to join in on the work as part of the collaborative process design, regardless of their location. Process knowledge and models can be shared, compared and developed as a group.

Business and technical levels can now be closely integrated with such a collaborative approach. Business processes from the process designer can be converted to executable services in IT with a high level of automation. Changes made by any stakeholder are immediately transparent at every work level. The integration of performance data from technical monitoring with key business process indicators enables collaborative dashboarding at the management level, in departments and the IT organization. On the one hand, this enables them to address a problem in business processes far more quickly. On the other, people within the business organization develop a common understanding and shared vision for process analysis, evaluation and optimization.

Flexible Operation
Using cloud computing to simplify the collaboration between process stakeholders is a key factor for improving flexibility and quickly adapting business processes to suit constantly changing market conditions. A business process can be modeled, prototyped and tested quite easily in the cloud, regardless of whether the technical operation of the service and applications will happen in the cloud or on-premise. However, it's clear that businesses are increasingly utilizing application services in the cloud. From the operational side, process and integration platforms in the future will integrate data and services from the cloud through the appropriate service levels - independent of their origin.

This combination of BPM, collaboration and the cloud is leading to the development of a new level of evolution in enterprise software because today's enterprise solutions hinder rapid business transformation. The reason: the inherent contradiction between standard software and process flexibility. The standardization of processes and organizations through software comes at a significant cost to the agility and flexibility that companies require nowadays. Merging business process modeling and process automation with the cloud offers a lasting solution to this conflict because it allows process changes to be made from a collaborative approach without requiring costly and time-intensive adaptation of applications.

More Stories By Wolfram Jost

Dr. Wolfram Jost is Chief Technology Officer for Software AG. He is responsible for Research & Development as well as Product Management and Product Marketing. Dr. Jost has written numerous articles for books and magazines and has co-authored more than 10 specialist books.

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