Thursday, 20 February 2014

Cloud governance and partner ecosystem

Scott Francis is a distinguished member of the BPM community. Recently I demoed Effektif and tried to convince him that it was easy to use. His blog title Effektif: Spelling It Is Harder Than Using It seems to indicate he's convinced :-)

Scott highlights some really interesting points like this one:
I think the most difficult point for Effektif, and the tools it is inspired by, is adoption by mainstream businesses. ... when you get out of startup mode and into enterprise mode (even as a single user within the enterprise) there are rules for what kind of data can be transported from one cloud environment to another. I may not be allowed to use my personal Salesforce credentials to expedite transiting data from Salesforce to some other cloud-based tooling. Enterprise IT gets involved, HIPAA comes into play.
Right on. I agree this is the challenge. Companies have switched on-premise software solutions for cloud based SaaS alternatives. This trend continues and accelerates. Some conservative CIOs will try to ignore or even forbid this from happening, but eventually it's unavoidable. In the next decade, companies will use a mix of on-premise and cloud solutions. My advice to CIOs is to embrace that fact, get involved and learn how to control that mix.

When I talk about Effektif being cloud native, most people think it's about map-reduce or horizontal scaling on the technical side. But Scott pointed out the end user concerns of being cloud native. For our customers, those are even far more important then how it's implemented. Being cloud native, Effektif will have to provide that control. Aspects like 3rd party login, OAuth, service accounts, blocking certain data from leaking out of the system, reports on which documents were shared externally, etc are crucial in that respect. That's exactly why I believe that a native cloud workflow vendor is very different from an on-premise solution that is also offered on the cloud.

The second interesting point Scott brought up is the business model for consulting partners:
So how to bridge the gap between the startup or personal users, and the enterprise user? Traditionally, this is where consulting partners come in. And the biggest challenge I see to the business models of such firms is the lack of a business model that supports implementation partners. Implementation partners can help create successful references, build out a pipeline of new customers, and innovate on top of the platform. But there has to be a path to making a living, or those implementation partners won’t show up.
I understand Scott's question like this: If workflow becomes as easy as GMail or IFTTT, then why would companies get consulting firms involved? For Effektif, that answer is straight forward. We added the simple workflow layer to the app enabling professionals to start automating basic tasks on their own without the need for consultancy. But we didn't remove the more advanced layers that allow for extra flexibility where needed.

I believe the extra simplicity will increase the demand for consultancy. The companies that will use Effektif self service, would not have used a full blown BPM system in the first place. For example: for all emails that arrive at, extract the attachment and upload it to /Accounting/Invoices/Incoming on Google Drive. That's convenient and easy. People would not install a BPM system for that. In that sense we compete with non-usage more then with other incumbent BPM systems. But many of those companies that would not have used a BPM system, might eventually expand their usage and then they need consultancy.

Companies will not loose their appetite for customization or stretching Effektif to its maximum. Workflows are an easier (*far* easier) and cheaper (*far* cheaper) approach then developing custom integration applications. For many use cases, Effektif is the basis of the solution. It's often cheaper and much less risk to extend and customize Effektif in comparison to custom development. So that interest will not go away when we raise the bar for simplicity in workflow. In fact, the opposite is true. As more companies will be able to start with workflow, more people will see more use cases to start using workflow.

In respect to customization, there is one feature on our mid term roadmap in particular that we're very excited about: Custom actions. Consulting companies or internal developers can extend Effektif by configuring their own custom action types. Other users in that organization can then start using this new action type. As an example, Signavio is adding a state update action to be used in approval workflows for Signavio process models. Separate, another example could be an action that generates a document based on a template and instance data. When using JavaScript to implement the behavior of the custom action, users don't even need their own infrastructure. We also plan to support external action workers. In that case, developers use our open API to know what actions need to be executed and signal when they are done. They can write their code in any language and deploy it anywhere, even behind the firewall inside their organization. This also enables any service provider to offer their features as actions in Effektif. That is going to be so awsome! Can't wait to get it out :-)


  1. For convenience, the link to my response is here:

    Love your thought process and accept my comments as illuminating a challenge, not as discouraging - and after all, challenges are there to be overcome or proven wrong in their formulation! :)

  2. Thanks Scott! I don't see the discouragement angle. On the contrary. I'm happy to see that you also have the same conclusion. Dealing with governance in a cloud environment is not an easy task, that is a general challenge for all BPM players. One that separates the boys from the men :-) Since we think this challenge through with a cloud mindset, I believe we actually have a head start.