How Cloud-Based Workflow is Shaking Up Enterprise Software

Business and technology leaders alike have been leading a steady, increasing, and deliberate movement to shift to working on the cloud.

While data used to live predominantly in software deployed to company data centers, we now see more and more businesses and software services being offered as cloud services – and customers using them. If you’re not already doing this, you may wonder what the appeal is. We’ve got some thoughts on the subject, especially in terms of how it affects intelligent process automation.

Users Have Already Adopted It Ahead of You

You might not have noticed it, but almost everyone uses OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, or other cloud-based stores for document content. You may not have sanctioned it, but it’s simply too useful for it not to happen.

It’s easier to share things. It’s easier to find things. It syncs with desktops so everything is both local yet highly available.

And, since it’s in the cloud, it can be connected to mobile apps, desktop apps, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings like IFTTT, Zapier, Microsoft Flow – and, of course, Nintex Workflow Cloud.

The Cloud Is the Ultimate Service Bus

In an on-premises data-centric world, the challenge was to integrate documents, integrate applications, and so on. This was often accomplished either via carefully-scripted data export/import jobs or by the purchase/configuration/maintaining of expensive enterprise service bus (ESB) products. The hope was to deliver a service-oriented architecture (SOA).

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Well, the cloud has become the ultimate service bus. Most cloud SaaS offerings, certainly the successful ones, aren’t just websites, they’re web APIs, too. They’re built with and expose protocols like REST, OAuth, JSON, OData, and OpenAPI. They’re essentially designed to be connectable. And they all have DNS addresses. The only things stopping them from being connecting is knowing that they’re there and obtaining permission to do so. Which brings me to…

The Cloud Is More Secure

That’s right – I said it. The cloud is more secure than your data center.

Unless you’re the rare organization that maintains an air gap (zero connectivity other than air) between your assets and the Internet, you don’t have the resources Microsoft, Salesforce, IBM, Oracle, Google, Adobe, and countless other cloud providers have. Do you have a dedicated “red team” of people regularly trying to break into your document data from the outside? Microsoft does (as do the others). What about another team regularly trying to break in from within the company, simulating the behavior of a rogue employee? Salesforce does (as do the others).

Backups are done regularly. Backups are preserved independently, in case you get hit with a ransomware attack.

The Cloud is Cheaper

All of these data protection options benefit from economies of scale. The effort required to service and maintain one company’s assets can be reused across many companies, reducing the cost-per-company to a very low number. That’s not an option for you in your local data center.

Moreover, cloud subscription services turn fixed costs into variable costs – and most finance people love that.

The Cloud is Better-Maintained

Have you been reluctant to apply a patch because you’re afraid it might have unintended consequences, or even break something? Cloud companies worry about that for you, test it for you, and do that for you.

What about performance optimization? They’re constantly working on that as well. Hardware maintenance? Covered. Redundant offsite locations? Covered. Data sovereignty for subsidiaries in (for example) Germany? For the most part, covered.

The Cloud Makes Workflow Easier

Since we have easy scale, easy security, easy connectivity, and standard protocols for the access, format, and permission to reach data, this allows intelligent processes to be created that use them.

It used to be a matter of seeing if your native workflow design product had a connector for a specific server you ran in your data center. If it didn’t, you could build one or see if you could connect both that server and your workflow product to an enterprise service bus you’d bought for this purpose. Each of these things involved maintenance and operational costs, and they definitely involved configuration costs.

In a cloud world, if I’m designing a Nintex Workflow Cloud-hosted process and I need to connect to a cloud-hosted line-of-business (LOB) app, I can ask the person looking after that LOB app to choose a connection endpoint (e.g., the save-a-new-invoice process) and give me permission to connect to it. I sign in to that connection while designing my process, and I’m done.

It’s a different world. A better world. A cloud world.

Even Your Data Center Is (Or Will Be) Part of the Cloud

Because, realistically, almost every company continues to maintain some on-premises assets, several companies are now in the business of creating secure ways for you to expose some of your on-premises, data center-hosted assets to the cloud so they can be reached by cloud-hosted ERP, CRM, IFSS, and other LOB offerings.

Hybrid is the watchword – two-way hybrid.

What’s the Catch?

That’s easy: you don’t own it. You have limits on how much you can brand and customize it. But those limits are rarely “zero.” And those limits are there to guarantee that your service-level agreement can be maintained and that new people who used Concur for travel-and-expenses at their old company require zero training to use Concur at your company.

It’s a worthy tradeoff because ultimately, business value wins. If you can have a critical mass of functionality, tomorrow, for a predictable price that you can cancel at any time, that’s worth some limits on graphical expressiveness.

It What’s Being Done

It’s predictable, affordable, secure, usable, connectible, and the ultimate platform for building cross-product (or even single-product) intelligent processes. We’ve reached the inflection point where the cloud has ceased to be controversial and has in fact become the new normal. It’s “you’re still running that on-premises?” that has become the eye-widening observation. At the risk of one-too-many buzzwords – it’s empowering.

 

Interested in automating your processes in the cloud? Click here to try Nintex Workflow Cloud free for 30-days! 

Dan Barker

Dan is a Senior Product Manager on the Nintex Workflow Cloud team and loves working on bleeding edge technologies like IoT and machine learning. He’s been with Nintex for 2 years and previously worked at Dell and Progressive. Dan moved to Washington from Ohio in 2012 with his wife, two girls and dog Roo. When he’s not working on Nintex Workflow Cloud he enjoys golf and following his favorite Cleveland sports teams.