A lot has been said already regarding BPO (Business Process Outsourcing), SaaS (Software as a Service), and ‘Cloud’ computing. The ‘cloud‘ remains somewhat dubious for folks because it is a term whose definition continues to evolve. Most of what is written seems to talk to those ‘in the know’ or from a perspective of ‘everyone’ already doing it. But what about those of you who have yet to take the plunge? Who have yet to outsource their first application and/or business process?
The odds are, if your business has been around a while and reached a certain size (ambiguous definition, case dependent) you are ready to at least consider the value of outsourcing some of your processes. Outsourcing has a almost nefarious meaning at times, full of a lot of charged baggage. Stripping the baggage away, all you’re looking to do is find a way to do something less expensively that you are now, with the same or better quality of service. If that means paying someone outside your organization to do it, then so be it.
So, where do you start? Some of the best candidates are those supporting your standard business processes. These are the well-defined highly repeatable parts of your business. For instance, in a prior life, I was the SaaS product manager for a BPO (business process outsource) provider. We provided a web-based repository as well as business process workflow systems.
The web-based repository housed billions of documents. Stored content came from various sources, such as organizations wanting to get rid of paper documents (condense warehouses of paper down to a few GBs of data), and/or, wanting multi-site access to common data (engineering, product support, health, HR records, etc). A large scale, ‘cloud’, provider can often provide such services at price points you cannot touch yourself. Plus, provide remote backup data centers, higher levels of security (physical and logical), and similar.
Workflow systems are the automated processes used to do something. For instance, most companies have a defined process for getting purchase orders created, approved, and executed; same thing with expense reports. With workflow systems, we could either provide only the software component (we hosted it for you) or, we could do it all: including staffing, for things like Accounts Payable, Receivable, and so on.
A classic reason to look at using a SaaS provider for your business process workflow is very similar to why organizations use salesforce.com instead of implementing ‘yet another expensive self-hosted CRM solution.’ Someone else maintains it, upgrades it, and pays for the infrastructure capitalization.
As you begin evaluating which, if any solutions to move to the cloud, you’ll want to consider (not all inclusive):
b) Equate to a cost/transaction, cost/KB, cost/Mbit
a. Evaluate SaaS/BPO costs (most should be able to help you with ballpark type discussions)
b. Volume of transactions
c) Reporting, Security, Compliance concerns
d) Enterprise systems interoperability
a. Do target processes require access to lookup dbases in other systems?
-something that can be readily dealt with, not likely what you want for your ‘first’ move though.
b. Volume of content to store, duration
a. Can you continue carrying what you have, including planned growth
b. Budget will drive ability, internally or external, to store content, up-scale transaction (or whatever your equivalent activity is) capacity, and the like.
For some additional thoughts on BPOs and SLAs, you can read a prior post, “Getting the Services You Paid For?”