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A move to cloud computing should involve SOA and BPM

Enterprises preparing for cloud computing should involve SOA and BPM in the process to achieve transformational change.

Cloud computing is met by many skeptics today, but during the next few years more standards will emerge and most concerns about cloud security and compliance will be addressed. Ten years from now, companies that sat on the sidelines and bypassed the cloud computing movement will find it hard to compete due to higher costs of assets, less flexibility, higher headcount and a higher ratio of maintenance versus innovation. So to take advantage of these disruptive technologies, get your house in order by decoupling business processes from your software applications, a process that will involve transformational change in the form of service-oriented architecture (SOA) and business process management (BPM).

Embracing SOA allows the enterprise to create a highly configurable and agile platform so software can change at the speed of the business. Without SOA and BPM, a move to the cloud will not make financial sense, because it will cost too much to re-engineer legacy systems not built to be exposed outside corporate firewalls. Enterprises that focus today on service orientation and abstracting business processes will be in a great position to integrate with partners, customers and suppliers, regardless of their underlying technologies and infrastructure.

The first step is to eliminate waste and get business processes in order. Embracing BPM and a process-centric culture is the key to leaving wasteful legacy silos behind and moving toward an efficient and proactive operation to increase speed to market, improve customer and employee satisfaction and create more business opportunities. Yet this is not an IT effort alone.

Over the years, I have learned that if organizations treat SOA and BPM as transformational change initiatives as opposed to IT technology projects, their chances of success increase immensely. I have also learned that transformational change projects are extremely challenging and require quite a bit of evangelizing in order to get enterprises to change the way they think and act -- especially in larger and older organizations, where the culture is very set in its ways.

If organizations treat SOA and BPM as transformational change initiatives as opposed to technology projects, their chances of success increase immensely.

To succeed with large SOA and BPM efforts, organizations need a different kind of IT person. You can't just throw a bunch of technical people at a problem and get it solved. Instead, you need a leader or leaders who can sell senior management on the business value of these initiatives, devise and execute an organizational change management plan, bring in talent with the necessary skills and motivate staff members to learn new things.

In addition, the value of BPM and SOA tends to decrease and even erode if the company does not put the necessary governance in place. So enterprises that are not disciplined will most likely struggle.

Over the next five to 10 years, I see more outsourcing of business processes, infrastructure and services, including software via Software as a Service solutions and Infrastructure or Platform as a Service (IaaS/PaaS) solutions. If your business is very static, you have little need to integrate with other entities, your current business processes are efficient, your customers are extremely happy and your balance sheet is trending up, you might not follow that adoption curve.

For everyone else, it is time to start putting plans together to prepare your enterprise for a future of rapid change, declining IT budgets, increasing integration requirements, higher customer expectations and more outsourcing of processes and infrastructure. SOA and BPM are crucial to meeting those transformational change demands and can pave the path for a future of data centers in the cloud.

Mike Kavis is chief technology officer of technology startup MDot, an independent consultant and SOA blogger in Bradenton, Fla.

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