Recent surveys by Gartner have found that, while far from universally used, cloud computing is clearly a factor in business process management (BPM) initiatives. The 2010 Gartner BPM end-user adoption survey found that 40% of organisations with BPM initiatives use public or private cloud services to support at least 10% of their business processes within those BPM projects.

“Many business process improvement (BPI) leaders are looking to understand how cloud services and cloud platforms can help them improve business processes within their organisations, as well as interenterprise processes that touch partners, suppliers and customers,” says Michele Cantara, research vice-president at Gartner. “Managers of shared-service centres who are tasked with standardising business processes are investigating cloud-enabled BPM technology platforms as a foundation for business process services in a private cloud.
"External service providers (ESPs), particularly business process outsourcing providers who want to improve their margins, are also interested in using cloud-enabled BPM technology platforms to deliver one-to-many business process services in a cloud-enabled outsourcing delivery model.”
Cantara explains that BPM platform as a service (PaaS) and cloud-enabled BPM platforms are often confused. ‘BPM PaaS’ refers to the delivery of a BPM technology as a service by a cloud service provider while ‘cloud-enabled BPM platform’ refers to a BPM platform product that supports cloud services.
Seen from the demand side, the growth in public business process services and the increasing availability of BPM PaaS for constructing those business process services is fuelling increased demand for BPM cloud-enabled platform capabilities. In addition, buyers are using BPM PaaS in pilot projects to build a business case for on-premises BPM solutions; in development and test environments to avoid additional capital expenditures on software and hardware; and as an elastic deployment option to address spiky and unpredictable demand.
Buyers are using cloud-enabled BPM platforms (BPM CEAPs) to support shared business process service centres in their own private clouds. This trend is spurred by a desire not only to consolidate applications and standardise business processes to reduce costs, but also to better control and manage the work of the organisation.
The 2010 Gartner BPM end-user adoption survey showed that 13% of organisations that were doing BPM viewed BPM PaaS/BPM CEAP as one of the top five BPM technology capabilities critical to the success of their BPM efforts. Compared with North American and European organisations, significantly more Latin American and Asia/Pacific organizations considered BPM PaaS/BPM CEAPs to be among the top five most important BPM capabilities. These findings are consistent with other Gartner user surveys, which show Latin America and Asia/Pacific with the highest investments in public and private cloud services.
In all regions, more respondents in IT roles view BPM PaaS/BPM CEAP as one of the top five most important BPM capabilities. However, in North America and Latin America, a nearly equal percentage of both business and IT respondents within those regions viewed BPM PaaS/BPM CEAP as important to their BPM success. This suggests that business leaders in these regions are becoming increasingly aware of BPM PaaS/BPM CEAP.
The survey also showed that two-thirds of organisations fund BPM efforts out of a line-of-business (LOB) budget, and 47% fund BPM out of IT. Multiple responses were allowed, and 7 per cent of organizations use dual business and IT funding streams for BPM. The preponderance of LOB funding means that business process leaders are more empowered to seek out solutions that may not involve IT. BPM PaaS, combined with consulting and system integration services, and managed services from an ESP to support the entire solution on an ongoing basis, is not uncommon.
From a vendor point of view, the 2010 Gartner survey of BPM PaaS and cloud-enabled platform vendors revealed that a vendor that offers BPM cloud-enabled platform products is also likely to offer BPM PaaS. In fact, only 8% of vendors offered only their BPM platforms as a product while 59% of vendors surveyed offered the same capability both as a service and as a platform product.
A third of the vendors surveyed only offer BPM platform capabilities as cloud services. These ‘BPM PaaS only’ vendors tended to be newer and smaller entrants to the BPM market, underscoring that cloud reduces barriers to entry for new vendors. Nearly 75% of these BPM cloud-related services offered by these vendors are available worldwide, demonstrating that cloud services are an effective mechanism for enabling a worldwide reach, even for smaller vendors.