Cloud-Based Business Process Management (BPM)

Instructor: Archna Khubchandani

Archna has a professional post graduate diploma in system management for programming, system analysis, & design.

This lesson explores Business Process Management (BPM) in the cloud represented by Business Process as a Service (BPaaS). The lesson also explains the positioning of BPaaS within the Cloud Computing Reference Architecture (RA).

Business Process Management

Every enterprise is made up of multiple divisions or cost centers with defined process regarding how each does business. Business Process Management (BPM) is a continuous cycle of evaluating and improving organizational processes. For example, consider the vacation approval process in an HR department. Without BPM software (BPMS), a lot of email exchanges would have to occur. With BPMS, however, vacation requests can be automated, thus improving document management, increasing request speed and improving system efficiency. BPMS provides a complete suit for modeling, managing and monitoring business processes.

The BPM Life Cycle

The BPM life cycle consists of four phases. These are listed below and outlined in Figure 1:

  1. The design phase consists of identifying existing procedures and capturing these business processes into process models.
  2. The implementation phase deploys the results of the design phase. A BPMS package can be used to house these processes.
  3. The enactment phase is the runtime phase where the business processes are deployed into production and monitored by a BPMS.
  4. The evaluation phase monitors the information gathered through the enactment phase and uses it to review the business process in action. Findings of the evaluation phase are input for the next iteration of the life cycle.

Figure 1: The BPM Life Cycle
BPM Life Cycle

Cloud Computing

Delivery of servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, intelligence and many more computing services over the internet is called cloud computing. Cloud computing can lower operating costs, run your infrastructure more efficiently and scale to your needs more easily. With a cloud computing platform, you typically pay only for the cloud services and resources that you use.

Cloud computing services fall into three broad categories:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  • Software as a Service (SaaS)

As they are built on top of one another, they are collectively called a cloud computing stack. Figure 2 outlines the order of the stacking.

Figure 2: Cloud Computing Service Layer Stacking
Cloud Computing Service Layer Stacking

Cloud Types

In cloud computing, there are various types of clouds. It is critical to know when to each type should be used. The 3 cloud types are as follows:

  • Public cloud: This is owned and operated by third-party service providers for use by the general public.
  • Private cloud: This contains cloud computing resources for the exclusive use of a single enterprise.
  • Hybrid cloud: This combines elements of both the public and private clouds.

When BPM is placed in the cloud, activities that are non-computation-intensive might result in high resource use and lead to high costs. As a solution, data can be securely stored more cheaply on premise, and only computation-intensive activities can be placed in the cloud.

Cloud Providers

The three most important players and their product in the cloud market are Amazon (Amazon Web Services), Microsoft (Azure) and Google (Google App Engine). Choosing a cloud provider or a platform depends on the needs of an organization. If an organization needs full control over server settings, an IaaS solution is necessary. When a cloud user wants to deploy software on top of a specific platform, then a PaaS option would be chosen. If the company wants to just run a specific software application in the cloud, then a SaaS solution would be chosen. Other factors play into the decision as well, such as programming language and database needs.

Business Process as a Service

Any business process such as payroll, accounting or ecommerce, delivered as a service over the internet and accessible by PC and smart devices, can be considered to be a Business Process as a Service (BPaaS). For example, you are dining in a restaurant and your father's mobile phone shows an incoming alert to approve a purchase order. He is able to approve it right from the table without having to go into the office. This is the reality how enterprises work today. With BPaaS, you can access your enterprise systems from anywhere. An example of BPaaS is IBM Blueworks Live from IBM.

Figure 3: Common Cloud Management Platform Reference Architecture
Common Cloud Management Platform Reference Architecture

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