There's a feeling of satisfaction you only get when you solve a nagging technical problem. When an IT system started throwing errors, the first question I asked was one that has gotten me results time and again in these situations: What changed? After two weeks of brainstorming, fish-bone diagramming, and controlled testing, we had the answer. A driver was incompatible with our platform. Once we upgraded the driver, we were back in business.
While satisfying, stories like this are too common. IT shops have gotten good at problem-solving at all levels and generating lessons learned to reduce future problems. As an engineer, I love solving problems. This latest incident, however, led me to ask whether my IT shop should be spending time and money solving this kind of problem. My limited resources are already stretched thin across myriad projects; losing two weeks of productive time is not trivial. I wanted my team focused on delivering solutions to improve existing business processes. This could not happen unless we had a stable infrastructure – and a dedicated team to take care of everything below the applications layer.
Let’s fast-forward to my next initiative: to procure a Business Process Management (BPM) solution for my organization. I decided to publish a Request for Quotation (RFQ) for a “Cloud-based Business Process Management Solution.” The solution had to be able to model, automate and monitor business processes in the cloud.
It was an easy choice between traditional software and a cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) solution:
- spend a considerable amount of money to purchase licenses, or spend a fraction of that to purchase SaaS subscriptions;
- spend months to stand up an environment with traditional software, or spend less than a week to spin up your own environment;
- spend months architecting a software solution that is available anywhere, anytime, and on any mobile device, or get this design as a baseline offering with a cloud BPM platform; and
- have very little leverage with the vendor after licenses are purchased, or obtain support from a vendor that has skin in the game to make sure all platforms are running smoothly.
Some common risks mentioned when going to the cloud are security, integration and loss of control. Cloud solutions have made huge strides in these areas over the years.
Security: Cloud vendors have a vested interest in ensuring their solutions are secure and that they stay out of the news media related to security incidents. Additionally they are able to invest more capital on security than most individual organizations.
Integration: While not all cloud solutions are made equal, many cloud solutions today are not only able to integrate with most in-house solutions like SharePoint or relational databases securely but are also built to integrate out of the box with other cloud solutions and social sites.
Loss of control: Control is a double-edged sword. The other edge is responsibility. Going to a cloud solution may not allow you to customize your solution to a granular level, but it does give you back valuable time you can use to focus on standardizing and improving business processes instead of fine-tuning technology. Companies did have more control over their telephone calls when they had their own telephone switchboard. Can you imagine having one today?
It has been two years since I started using a cloud-based BPM solution. The organization has improved and automated several key processes without my team losing any sleep over operating system patches, driver compatibility and scheduled maintenance.
Now there is a different feel to my IT shop. It’s the feeling of satisfaction you only get when you improve business processes.
Raj Subramanian is the Chief Information Officer for the Ohio Office of Budget and Management.