Financial services firms should consider BPM as a service on top of cloud-enabled infrastructures.

Most financial services firms developing their cloud computing strategies and implementations are currently focused on infrastructure, and for now that’s to be expected. But what comes next? Once you’ve built your foundation (and a wise choice would be to build it on OpenStack), it’s going to be time to start thinking about capacity-, storage- and network-on-demand services; application development; and applications capable of increasing agility and business responsiveness. These next steps are essential to the reason your organization decided to build a cloud in the first place. It’s also where technologies like Business Process Management (BPM) come into play.

BPM is the ability to document, simulate, manage, automate and monitor the repeatable activities or workflows—pitches to clients, lending and borrowing processes, etc.—carried out by people and systems, and essential to the enterprise. While BPM has been around for more than a decade, it has become increasingly important as more companies automate their business processes and functions. BPM decomposes those workflows into sets of steps. It can lend transparency to an organization’s operations—a vital function if an organization wants to automate processes in a cloud-based, delivery-on-demand computing architecture.

The trouble is, without the discipline of BPM, there can be a real lack of transparency regarding an organization’s core business processes. That’s because the business processes are embedded into the applications, and every time a business process changes, the application has to change.

Financial services firms are now operating in what is the new normal: entropy. The economy continues to shift, markets are undulating, and consumers refinance mortgages multiple times, often while interest rates fluctuate frequently and wildly. It’s these conditions, against more stringent regulatory environments, that make financial services conducive to business process automation and the need for BPM. Though some large banks have implemented BPM in pockets and are beginning to reap value from them, it’s time to consider BPM across the enterprise.

And here’s where cloud computing, such as OpenStack, intersects with BPM. Now that cloud computing is more agile, and BPM tools are more mature, combining the two means business rules can be enacted in the cloud without the need for IT expertise. They can be written in plain English, using graphics bars and drag-and-drop features. Thus, BPM—and associated disciplines including business rules management, event processing and business resource planning—can serve up business information in a tactical dashboard to illustrate what is going on with day-to-day operations in a specific line of business. Plus, an operational dashboard can deliver reports, trends and forecasts. Cloud can deliver on-demand BPM, in a multi-tenant structure, and BPM can deliver transparency. Cloud-based applications are also often more transparent and can scale as BPM scales, on an as-need-basis, via tight integration with open APIs (via OpenStack). Red Hat, for example, offers the Red Hat™ Enterprise Virtualization Manager’s Representational State Transfer (REST) API.

While the Red Hat Verticals Team believes we are still in the early days of BPM as a service, business users no longer have to rely on technical IT to enact business rules and automate processes.  BPM on a secure, highly-configurable OpenStack infrastructure delivers scalability, flexibility, centralized management and the potential for on-demand delivery of business process templates and best practices to various users by industry, roles or other parameters.

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