Cloud, social, and BPM computing - Business Process Nirvana?

There was a time when a company needed a large computing department, dedicated professionals, hundreds and thousands of dollars worth of kit and a large budget to be able to support a business.

Nowadays it's all available for a lot less than that

Let me pull a few strands together and see if we can't do some crystal ball gazing

Is now the time to leverage these four different factors and create a low cost, cloud based, IT free, scaleable, social-media driven BPM implementation?

Think about it:
  • Business processes driven by the business rather than IT
  • Everything stored in the cloud where it is easily accessible by everyone, anywhere they have a network connection
  • Tools that are ridiculously cheap to purchase and implement and which can be picked up and easily used by the users
  • The ability to leverage readily available and well known social media tools to enable the capture and transmission of business data.

Is this a process nirvana?

The Problems

There are, of course, a number of problems with this approach. One is that, despite, what Gartner say, 1 in 5 companies running ALL their it assets through the web within 24 months is probably a little far fetched. I could see an instance where 1 in 5 run SOME of their assets through the web. But that's about it.

The second problem is more of an esoteric one: Letting the users define their processes.  In an ideal world the users would know exactly what they wanted their processes to do, they would define them as effectively and efficiently as possible and the company would benefit as a result. In the real world this doesn't happen. Many times the users do not know what they want (As Henry Ford once said 'If I asked the customer what he wanted he would tell me a more efficient horse to pull his carriage'). Furthermore a large number of current processes are designed by users and lots of them are inefficient (Look at my post on 'The Way It's Always Been Done Part 2' for a great example). Let's not forget the fact that the user base in any large organisation currently also has it's own way of accomplishing things outside the recognised 'official process' (Anyone who has ever had to replace a system where the user base is proficient in Microsoft Excel will understand the insidious nature of that little tool). But overall the problem is that if we left the users to define and manage their own systems they would probably be in a worse state than they currently are. So the solution to that is to bring in knowledgeable expertise

Which is where the third problem comes in. If I could quote from a comment Andrew Smith made in reply to a post by Sanooj Kutty at the SGiM blog
BPM professionals and any consultant for that fact, need to remember that we are seen as “outsiders”, we must tread carefully around people and internal politics, always being aware of Agendas and feelings is key to being a great consultant
Never a truer word was said.  Essentially it means - in this scenario - that bringing in external folks will only partially solve your problem. The internal politics, the hidden agendas and the plain belligerence of people not wanting to be told how to do something they've been working on sometimes for years, will always hold back a project from being successful if not appropriately managed. This is equally as applicable to internal consultants as it is to external.

The future

Despite what I have just said about the problems I don't see them as being insurmountable. But think of the ideal situation:

A company can outsource a large part of the hardware function of its IT department to a cloud provider such as Amazon or IBM. They can then create an internal capability from within the user base who are dedicated to process management. Through the use of social media they can 'crowdsource' the current 'as-is' state of a process and - using freely available and low cost tools - they can document the current state to determine a starting point for change. Using localised resource - again from within the user base - coupled with a further usage of social media, the future state of the process can be determined and - with the appropriate third-party open-source software - modeled and simulated in a 3D environment, before being pushed out to the user base via the free tools.

Of course the logic outcome of something like this is that some enterprising company will try to provide 'BPM in the Clou'd as a service indeed this is already happening. But where that differs from this is in the fact that this BPM in the cloud would still be a service (almost SaaS) which would be paid for, whereas the Process Nirvana I am talking about would - effectively - be very low cost.

So who's going to be the first to join all these dots together in a way that actually does reduce a company's overall IT bill?

Let me know when you find one, please. Or if, indeed, this is possible.

Reminder: 'The Perfect Process Project Second Edition' is now available. Don't miss the chance to get this valuable insight into how to make business processes work for you.

Click this link and follow the instructions to get this book.

All information is Copyright (C) G Comerford

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