The slow but steady shift to the cloud which characterized business process management (BPM) in 2016 is likely to accelerate next year as more companies join the ranks of "early adopters"; but biting off more than they can chew will remain a major risk for many.
That's the view of Dawie de Lange, managing director of Centurion-based cloud solutions provider XContent, who says the move to cloud is being driven by two factors -- aging on-premises infrastructure and a lack of skilled resources to support it.
In addition, particularly in the BPM space, there is growing recognition of the power of cloud to enable easy integration of disparate systems and processes which logically belong together.
"For example, in a traditional BPM environment, all HR processes from the recruitment and interview processes, the appointment of candidates, procurement of equipment for their jobs, managing their career paths including training and succession planning, right through to their resignation and exit interviews, were handled in silos. These processes were usually handled by different systems running on different platforms.
"Now, because cloud offers a single powerful platform from which all these processes can be handled, integration of the entire HR process -- including its integration with a totally disparate system such as procurement - not only makes sense, but becomes far more simple to accomplish," De Lange explains.
Breaking the process down However, he warns against attempting to automate and integrate processes with this level of complexity as an initial move-to-cloud exercise.
"In many instances, a process within an organization has become a routine workflow -- something is done by one person who then hands it on to another person who does what needs to be done and hands it on to another and so on and on until finally the process ends. But no one really understands or tracks the entire process from end-to-end. The process has generally been looked at from a reporting perspective.
"Now, digitizing the entire process requires it to be considered from a holistic business perspective. This can be overwhelming in complex processes involving different departments with their own protocols, workflow processes and systems," he says.
The solution is to break the process down into its components and to deal with each as an individual project.
"For example, as part of the HR process, there will be a need to track the training programs. That should be handled as an individual project. Once it is complete, another solution within the HR process and be tackled and so on. Because all the solutions are developed on the same platform in the cloud, integration of the entire process -- and its integration with other business processes -- will be relatively simple to achieve," he adds.
"It is best to make a blueprint which maps the entire process and to build from that. People generally think of a process at a high level but what is really needed is detail. This takes time and effort but it is essential, particularly at the design stage. Only once this has been agreed by all stakeholders, including the business owner, the IT representative and other identified role-players, should the blueprint be signed off as a detailed record of what has been agreed."
De Lange notes that while there are many exciting cloud products available for virtually every business process, there are always significant risks involved in their implementation. Unless a move to cloud is being driven by the urgency of failing legacy infrastructure, he recommends commencing the journey with non-critical processes.
"Once you become more comfortable with cloud, you can start moving critical processes over. However, it's important to remember that cloud is still new technology -- the end-point is not yet known. It's therefore essential to partner with a supplier that takes time to understand your business, clarifies the issues, identifies the risks, and is going to be able to take the journey with you," he concludes.
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