Yes, I know; another .aas acronym!
Why talk about PRaaS? What are the differences with SaaS solutions? This is what I will discuss now.
PRaaS, PRocess as a Service: attempt of a definition
Reading a recent post on the excellent blog of my friend Phil Wainewright was the trigger that helped me formalize an idea that I have worked on for many years.
In his post "Thinking Beyond SaaS As We Know It", Phil referred to "Service Channel", a company which provides the management of a complex process in the Cloud: the outsourcing of cleaning and maintenance services for organizations that are geographically distributed.
What are the skills that were needed to create "Service Channel"?
- An IT team to build this service in the Cloud; yes, of course, but ... this is not essential!
- First and foremost, a team of professionals in the field of channel services, knowing all its specific characteristics and complexities, which was able to create a "service" that could be used by thousands of companies.
This is one of the key points of "Service Channel" competitiveness, which you can read on their website: "Every member of our team has a deep understanding of the challenges that facility managers and contractors face every day ..."
"Service Channel" is a good example of what could be called a PRaaS, PRocess as a Service!
I therefore propose a first definition of a PRaaS:
PRaaS has four basic characteristics:
- A service available on the Cloud.
- Provides a complete solution to manage an entire process.
- Targets not only an organization but also its external stakeholders, customers, suppliers or providers.
- Can be used directly by business professionals, without requiring the intervention of IT professionals.
PRaaS, "Process oriented software" and BPO (Business Process Outsourcing)
Why promote PRaaS, another concept in our digital world already full of neologisms and acronyms?
There is one good reason to do so. I am convinced that this represent a significant innovation, which will play a key role over the next five years.
PRaaS lies at the confluence of three major movements:- BPO, Business Process Outsourcing. For decades, companies have outsourced their "back office" to IT services providers, often located offshore in India, North Africa or Eastern Europe.
- The emergence of "Process Oriented Software" – software built around a process.
- Cloud Computing, which provides software vendors with infinite, reliable and secure computing power at a very competitive cost.
It is now possible to combine the advantages of BPO, "Process oriented software" and Cloud computing ... in a PRaaS:
- An organization can accelerate its move towards BPO, using PRaaS, to handle more specialized process-oriented tasks, focusing more on "Front Office".
- An organization that has a strong expertise in a specialized complex business process can develop and sell a powerful PRaaS to customers all around the world.
- Like Service channel, Amiando is another good example: this PRaaS supports the organisation of events and conferences. It has been used for more than 70,000 events, and the service is already available in English, French, German and Spanish.- The Cloud provides an infrastructure that can accommodate these PRaaS, freeing PRaaS developers from performance constraints and heavy investments in infrastructures.
Here is another definition of PRaaS:
A PRaaS, or when BPO encounters a "Process Oriented Software" on the Cloud.
PRaaS, one more component of the Cloud Computing environment
The rapid development of PRaaS solutions will increase the attractiveness of Cloud Computing for organizations of all sizes and all sectors.
Today, within an organization, IT departments are the main partners
of Cloud players. They implement the three main components of the Cloud Computing:
- IaaS, Infrastructure as a Service = availability of resources such as servers or storage capacity. AWS, Amazon Web Services is a leader of the IaaS.
- PaaS, Platform as a Service = tools available for development teams, to write programs in Java, Phyton or other languages. Google App Engine or Force.com are two examples of PaaS.
- SaaS, Software as a Service. This is the best known component of the Cloud. Jeff Kaplan has been publishing for more than 2 years "SaaS Showplace", a catalog which now contains more than one thousand SaaS entries.
PRaaS, the fourth cloud component I am defining today, is the first one aimed directly at business managers within an organization.
This does not mean, however, that CIOs can't play a useful role, by supporting businesses and helping these PRaaS interact with existing legacy applications.
It's a major turning point in the history of computing. IT solutions become sufficiently "Industrialized" for business users and managers to be able to select, deploy and use them directly, without IT professionnals help.
Tools for building PRaaS
To complete this picture, let's have a look at a family of tools that will complement SaaS and PRaaS: Software that can ... help build PRaaS on the Cloud.
Whatever the quality and variety of SaaS / PRaaS solutions available, organizations will always need some flexibility to manage processes that are specific to their own way of working.
Lotus Notes/Domino has been, for 15 years, one of the best tool for these specific processes.
Incoming new tools, built for Cloud Computing, are still very young, but full of promises.
Let's take the example of two French companies, that offer different approaches to build these "customized" PRaaS processes:
- RunMyProcess (RMP): RMP is a Cloud based BPM solution; its help develop processes build on top of existing SaaS solutions in the enterprise. As an example, Revevol,(I am President of this consulting company) has used RMP to automate our Google Apps orders process. (Disclaimer: Revevol is a partner of RunMyProcess).
- VDoc Software from Visiativ. I met them recently and find their approach very cleaver. Their tool allows users to quickly develop specialized autonomous process that can run on the Cloud. This will be a tool used primarily by consultants or organizations with a strong expertize in a specific activity. This tool will allow them to build ... PRaaS!
The arrival of PRaaS is great news for all businesses using IT solutions.
Within five years, a large catalog of PRaaS will cover most of the generic business support processes.
This will give IT departments more time and resources to concentrate their energy on key core business processes, which will be used as tools for competitiveness and differentiation.
Just before the publication of this post, I had many emails exchanges with Bill McNee, the President of Saugatuck, one of the best (in my view) market research organizations focusing on SaaS and Cloud Computing.
I strongly recommend that anyone interested in these topics subscribe to Saugatuck free newsletters.
While agreeing with me on the general ideas of this text, Bill was not sure we needed another acronym to define it. He feels we will have a hard time separating SaaS and PRaaS. He gave me, however, very good examples of solutions Saugatuck has already covered in their reports which, in my view, are perfect ... PRaaS, like:
- BirchStreet, e-procurement for hotels and restaurants.
- Ketera, for generic procurement management.
He made also an important comment on BPO and PRaaS; one of his ideas is that large BPO providers, like Infosys, will continue to manage the outsourced process of their large clients, but will rely, more and more, on PRaaS solutions to do it.
Updated on September 3. A very interesting post by Phil Wainewright, commenting on my PRaaS idea and giving one more example of PRaaS from a very "small" organization: WallMart.