Optimising company structures through open business processes – the cloud is the key

5 September 2014

Cloud computing advocates are still promoting this paradigm shift for the purely tactical reason of cost saving and efficiency enhancement on the infrastructure side. But the real potential of the cloud goes much further than this when combined with IT developments such as social communication and collaboration, as well as greater mobility. Thus, cloud computing can be a supporting pillar for entrepreneurial innovation, which is the most important precondition to success on intensely competitive markets.

The supreme discipline: knowledge management

Many companies have already realised that knowledge may be the most important resource and knowledge management has started to establish itself as a kind of supreme discipline. The formation and management of company knowledge must follow a strict and uniform scheme so that each employee can access the same knowledge base on a daily basis. Usually, the tight organisation of knowledge involves a far-reaching change of the existing work processes, business processes and communication structures.

This change process demands first of all new forms of collaboration and cooperation within the company, through which the existing employee strengths, i.e. diversified knowledge from different departments, the implemented IT technologies and the individual applications will be more strongly interlinked. This breakup of isolated silos of knowledge and the elimination of access barriers to often well-protected parts of the company knowledge combine more skills and expertise and consequently relevant business information with which the strategy can be more easily orientated toward customers’ expectations and the whole relationship management to suppliers can be substantially improved.

The cloud is the “missing link” to business collaboration

In conclusion, properly optimised business collaboration leads to more intelligent, dynamic, flexible and effective organisations. Enhanced collaboration within the company – but also with external business partners and customers – is by now an economic imperative. Entrepreneurial value creation occurs in distributed constellations: at geographically different places, in different time zones and within different project teams. In this context, cloud computing provides the optimal “missing link” to the breakthrough of the required business collaboration concept.

There are three central challenges behind this: organisational measures for the systematisation of the company knowledge, open communication over specified channels for project team members and the fulfilment of security requirements regarding confidential and project relevant information – especially in the context of increasing mobility when it comes to accessing company knowledge.

In order to create an undoubted and company-wide, uniform systematisation of company information – applied data formats, document identification, versioning, authorship, etc. – a powerful business collaboration application must be able to provide matured enterprise content management functionalities. The highest objectives of such a system are the far-reaching automation of secured document storage with binding workflows and the establishment of a sophisticated authorisation system to access and edit documents. Thus, the demand for open communication for authorized members in virtualized Teamrooms can be optimally met.

By establishing predefined decision stations in a business process, as special project spaces with corresponding own authorisations (only project leaders and decision makers), the whole workflow can be raised to the next quality level. The worldwide most widely used model in this context is the “stage gate process” by Robert G. Cooper in modern innovation management.

Cloud computing is the ideal IT solution when it comes to the orientation of the company towards active user collaboration. In this operation model users access their IT resources independently of their current location. Users only need web devices and access to the internet, and a networked world for their collaboration opens up. Adequate cloud services, with their strictly demand oriented price models, make a cost-efficient and transparent business collaboration approach possible. Because even more companies rely on the benefits of distributed entrepreneurial collaboration and of integration of customers in the innovation process, the prices for collaboration, coordination and communication over the internet started to sink, thus making it easier even for SMEs to enter the game.

Today’s markets push IT systems with high agility and rapid adaptability to changing framework conditions. This adaptation of IT-based business processes to incremental, as well as to disruptive market developments is the area in which cloud computing can show its full potential. The future-oriented IT model is the natural operative addition for a modern, highly flexible business process management and, as a consequence thereof, for collaboration scenarios. This high-performance combination of cloud, BPM and internal as well as external collaboration will radically change the software requirements in the future.

On application level, there will be no alternative for social communication tools (blogs, company wikis and forums) and for the seamless integration of mobile devices (watchword: BYOD) in the future. Progressively built cloud solutions will need to make available corresponding software approaches for the coming crowd sourcing practices in product development.

Paradigm shift from linear to interactive IT processes

We, IT experts, call the related paradigm shift a switch from a systems of records led IT strategy to the systems of engagement IT model. This means a turning away from central systems, databanks and data centre infrastructures that, although the managed great data volumes and transactions efficiently and steered mostly linear processes in the past, had only a limited flexibility for a short term new constellation of resources.

The new IT value-added chain puts interaction and user collaboration in the foreground. This reorientation can only be achieved by the opening of business processes towards the whole ecosystem that involves both customers and partners. Services and products will be purposefully improved by the fact that shared customer data – for example their movement and behavioural patterns towards company offers – will be used for customer oriented future developments. (watchword: user-driven innovation). On a technology level, “Systems of engagement” means exactly the previously mentioned linkage between intelligent end devices with new, mobile applications, social network solutions and data analysis methods with cloud computing infrastructures. Thus, innovative services and business models will be created with pronounced unique selling propositions that, for their part, enter in improved company structures, with which even fast-moving market mechanisms and the shortest product life cycles can be coped with.

A broad acceptance throughout the company can only be ensured with an intuitive and easily operated user interface that is similar to other, broadly used applications.

If parallel to that, but separately from the content management level, the cloud architecture puts the entire business process logic on a new footing with a flexibly usable platform, companies will benefit from optimized processes. A continuous end-to-end illustration of process-controlled workflows and easy intervention options for a fast redesign of business processes under ever-changing market conditions will provide flexibility in the product development, in customer relationship management (CRM) and in marketing and will more strongly interlink these organisational units.

Semantic understanding of information

Integrated semantic metadata models can revolutionize both know-how management (contents) as well as the process know-how and better orientate companies towards markets, customers and other relevant environments. Thus, enterprise search and digital cognition software and their integration in cloud environments are the key for the fast and precise finding of information of any kind both of structured as well as of unstructured data sources and for the consolidated representation of the company knowledge over a web interface. This ensures a precise decision-making in all business matters. On the one hand, the performance capacity of such systems is assured by a dynamic search intelligence through which semantic connections can be created between various information patterns. On the other hand, their efficiency is based on a predefined relevance model for the prioritization of the hits.

Fabasoft, with its cloud solution, is going exactly in this direction. “Mindbreeze”, our subsidiary, with its software products for the quick and intuitive finding of company data has become international trend setter in the field of semantic search tools within only a few years.

Further quick wins and benefits of the Fabasoft Cloud

With its secure B2B collaboration solution across the world, the Fabasoft Cloud has already made the IT paradigm shift to systems of engagement. With secure cloud destinations on three core markets, Fabasoft offers its clients assurance about where their data will be saved. The Teamroom concept, developed especially for the business cloud, proves to be the ideal platform for collaboration and cooperation beyond company boundaries. Cloud organisations let users form the same trusted business networks that this new IT paradigm of increased interaction requires.

Successful cloud computing needs, as a second vital element, an innovative document management system, which ensures the full and compliant transparency and traceability of the whole data handling and document exchange. Right access management to Teamrooms, certified standards for data and access security, digital auditing, and continuous document versioning satisfy this demand. The support of all data types, the easy integration in the existing IT infrastructure over open standards and mobile access to data over responsive web user interfaces and mobile apps are further cornerstones of a reliable cloud DMS.

The mobile access to confidential meeting documents  created and saved for example in the Teamroom of the CEO assistant, over the Fabasoft Cloud app for laptops, tablets and smartphones is a further milestone on the road to a modern information management. Missing documents for important meetings belong to the past. The mobile access to confidential company data must be controlled precisely over a flexible right access management. Over rights administration, these meeting documents can also be shared securely. Through the synchronisation function, available both for desktop and for mobile apps, business critical content can be made available even when the user is in offline mode. This function is priceless in situations where no Internet connection is available, for example when travelling by plane or train. Through this, every change made in company documents is automatically synchronised between the mobile device and the Fabasoft Cloud. The Österreichische Volksbanken AG (Austrian Volksbanken) is now preparing and holding its meetings online with the Fabasoft business cloud, thus targeting higher agility. Their decision for the Fabasoft business cloud was based on convincing features that are indispensable especially in the finance sector: certified end-to-end security, access protection through certificates, two-factor-authentication and digital identities. The bank’s management especially appreciates the easy and elegant access to documents and event dates over iPads.

Modern cloud IT establishing “digital” companies

Conclusion: If cloud computing is getting increasingly used in process design in the future, it can work as a transformation power that brings us to the quick -realisation of entirely digital and highly flexible companies. Thus, the cloud brings company structures into a new dimension. 

Helmut Fallmann
Member of the Managing Board

Almost 30 years ago, Helmut Fallmann founded the software group Fabasoft together with Leopold Bauernfeind. Today he is a member of the Managing Board of Fabasoft AG. Fabasoft has developed into a leading European software manufacturer and Cloud provider headquartered in Linz, Austria.

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