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Understand how to better prepare for cloud BPM trends

Move BPM to the cloud in 2016 to improve both customer experience and integration with customers and partners. BPM veterans advise enterprises on how to prepare for this transition.

In 2016, expect to see more and more enterprises moving BPM to the cloud to improve business agility, build customer loyalty and leverage new opportunities in social media and B2B supply chains. This piece explores BPM organizations' commitment to, and challenges in, improving user experience.

Projects that improve business value chains that span multiple enterprises will dominate business process management (BPM) planning and deployment in 2016. Cloud services will be the primary medium for these business workflow projects, and delivering great customer experience will be the main goal, according to BPM veterans.

What is driving BPM projects to the cloud today? E. Scott Menter, vice president of business solutions at BP Logix Inc., based in Vista, Calif., pointed to advanced capabilities that organizations can leverage in cloud BPM. These BPM trends include the ability to:

  • Design rich customer experiences through easy creation of electronic forms, reports and searches;
  • Integrate a broad range of tools, such as Dropbox and Twitter, into the customer experience;
  • Respond aggressively to changes in market requirements; and
  • Ensure full compliance with policies and regulations, without impacting product and service delivery.

Break monolithic environments into Agile environments

"2016 will be about deriving the most value out of what organizations already have and creating new value through the integrations," said Greg Wenzel, executive vice president and lead the Strategic Innovation Group (SIG) Digital Initiative at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., based in McLean, Va. He added that managing the transition can be both expensive and difficult to rebuild processes that have been in place for years.

Enterprise architects will need to adopt an API approach that is traceable to business needs and processes. Wenzel said organizations need to think about owning their own open platform and work with top service providers to ensure a flexible architecture. He said he expects to see more applications like Booz Allen's Project Jellyfish tool -- an open source tool that promises to simplify cloud management of business processes -- emerge in the upcoming year. "The challenge will be to equip the employee base with the right training and insight to use these tools most effectively," he noted.

Plan for event-driven workflows

The most significant of the BPM trends is the emergence of event-driven and ad hoc workflows, said Phil Simpson, JBoss Middleware senior principal product marketing manager at Red Hat Inc., based in Raleigh, N.C. BPM services in which processes are completely defined by business analysts ahead of time are being augmented and replaced by dynamic processes that empower knowledge workers to modify process logic on the fly and decide the next best steps. This is further driven by the ever-growing Internet of Things, which will provide the large volumes of data and events needed to feed into those decisions.

Wider usage of event-driven architectures will make it easier for enterprises to adopt intelligent, goal-seeking BPM platforms, supported by complex event processing, predictive analytics and social collaboration tools, according to Simpson.

The adoption of microservices and containers will also impact the ways BPM systems are designed, deployed and managed, this article's sources said. These changes will improve the scalability and flexibility of cloud BPM services, and will enable vendors of cloud BPM services to offer improved capabilities at lower cost.

In BPM projects, enterprise architects face the challenge of how to augment existing systems so they can offer new capabilities to their customers, according to Simpson. He advised BPM project leaders to first migrate to a modern cloud application platform, and then provision it with integration technologies that enable the management of vast amounts of data.

Leverage the cloud to deploy BPM across business units

Dermot McCauley, vice president of solutions marketing at Kofax Ltd., based in Irvine, Calif., said he sees a trend among complex enterprises to adopt the cloud for integrating business process across business units. This has been difficult in the past with on-premises integrations. "Large shared service centers are adopting cloud as a practical approach to creating global process, while allowing local business units to continue using their legacy on-premises systems," he said.

The challenge is familiarity of cloud technologies in core enterprise processes is still rare. "Beyond the use of CRM-like applications for the simple storage of sales process and customer data, the use of cloud to drive execution and management of core processes is only emerging," he said.

It's important to acknowledge that standard enterprise IT planning and architecture assumptions don't directly translate into the cloud. Enterprises should also take a measured and phased approach to implementation and rollout. "This is new to most of your staff, so build in some time for them to learn their way in what's a fundamentally new environment for enterprise scale business process applications," McCauley said.

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