Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Is the process app store the future your business processes?

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase"Is the process app store the future of BPM?" was today's discussion on the ebizQ business process management forum. Should we buy business processes (such as travel expense processing) in an online app store, the same as we buy Angry Birds for our iPhone? As much as we would all like to believe that process applications can be delivered this way, getting a replacement business process implemented is tough. You have to:

  • find a process application that fits your needs
  • get it customized, configured and generally implemented
  • manage the change of people's attitudes and activities internally to get it to work. 
Since business processes are so much part of the DNA of a business, implementing new ones makes them extremely hard to deliver as apps. Even a simple travel expenses process or a holiday/vacation request process is done in a million different ways by a million and one businesses. Why would they want to change the way they work to fit some cheap application they bought online?

My own experience, putting pre-built process apps out on Google Marketplace is that even if small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) come to take a look, they can rarely spend the time to really dig in and understand what the app can do. A cursory single look, a "this sounds hard" internal discussion is about the best you can expect. No matter how much person-to-person hand holding you offer (and trust me, I've offered), the typical app buyer in a small business just doesn't have the time, resources or motivation to get a real process change implemented. As Ian Gotts commented on the forum:

For an SME this is too hard. Instead, they continue to run on "staff heroics"

Now I'm not saying that the apps we deliver at Consected are always perfectly simple to use! The ultimate flexibility that is rightly demanded by the buyer whatever size company, balanced against the "so simple a caveman could do it" need, makes these applications more expensive to develop than the $4.95 per user per month cap that seems to be the limit anybody will consider (often less). 

The next issue really comes from a complete lack of change management being possible when you sell through an app model. Being able to work with a customer remotely who doesn't have time to really speak to you, or any real wish to speak to you, makes any sensible change to the current business processes really hard. The best business process implementations come with a change to the way work is done, not just moving it "to the cloud". Apps give the impression that we can just install and go.

Apps need to be really well packaged if they are delivering business application functionality through a software as a service (SaaS) model. Which means that the value of a flexible process environment is lost on the end user, because too many options just get in the way. But without the flexibility they can do their job the way they need to. Somebody will work out the magic to this, though its definitely harder than it appears! 

Successful app vendors have to play a numbers game and sell large volumes to make any real money. And business processes seem to rarely fit the one size fits all requirement to make this happen. So please feel free to take a look at the Consected Instant Apps. They are free or cheap (by enterprise software standards). And although they require a little time, thought, and some communication with us to get them to really fit your needs, they can make a huge difference to your business.

A post from the Improving It blog
Let us help you improve your business today. Visit www.consected.com

No comments: