What Does the Future of Business Process Software Look Like?
Insurance Experts' Forum, November 16, 2012
Some analysts have a name for the delivery of key business processes from the cloud: Business Process as a Service, or BPaaS. Sure, the term is dripping in hype and buzzworthiness, but does it represent new opportunities for insurance companies?
Recently, Robin Vasan, writing at the GigaOm site, made the case for this rapidly emerging class of services, pointing to a vast range of online process services that now can be delivered via APIs: insurance quotes and billing, customer care, call center support. credit-card checkout, e-signature, accounting, invoicing, employee recruiting and project management—just to name a few. “After years of packaged software use and the transition to open source, applications seem to be well down the path of SaaS-ification, with the next wave involving the decomposition of the various application services into APIs,” he observed.
Indeed, there are already a range of essential business functions—mainly at the primary, generic level —that can be tapped into on a moment's notice, without the need to purchase software packages. Of course, business process management is a discipline that requires a lot of collaboration, knowledge and planning, so there is no benefit to adding these APIs willy-nilly. But BPM-knowledgeable members of staff may no longer have to duke it out with IT or the finance department to get the solutions they need.
What's more likely to be adopted in the years ahead is what Andrew Bartels and Connie Moore describe as “smart process applications”—a new generation “of packaged applications that are designed specifically to support business activities that are people-intensive, highly variable, loosely structured and subject to frequent change.”
This next generation of packaged applications “will encapsulate current best practices, yet make it possible to reflect continuous improvements to an organization's structure and dynamic activities,” Bartels and Moore predict. And, yes, a lot of their functionality will be delivered via the cloud, they add.
New business process applications will be “smart” because they are based on data. “For example, in the creation and management of contracts, the data will be the repository of existing contracts and standard contract terms and conditions, while in a utility's field service activities, the data will be real-time information on electrical usage, and the location and layouts of electric distribution lines,” they write.
Integrated document capture will also play a role, as well as embedded analytical tools.
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