It is time to embrace the cloud to make document processing and workflow management more efficient. [shutterstock: 692075623, Peshkova]
Business processes like document management and workflows have been performed manually for decades. However, digitalisation has changed everything. With automated electronic workflows increasingly replacing paper-based systems, the next step will be to move these digital workflows into the cloud.
For some years now, software manufacturers have been providing document-processing solutions that can be deployed either on-premise or in the cloud as software as a service. The latter technological innovation is likely to become increasingly popular thanks to the considerable advantages of cloud-based process design and document processing.
Instead of requiring high initial investments, cloud-based solutions can be employed on a pay-per-use basis. Furthermore, the cloud offers standardized solutions that can be deployed rapidly and easily adapted to changing throughputs.
While research has revealed that some organizations continue to harbor reservations about the cloud, cloud computing has nonetheless become extremely widespread. Bitkom Research and KPMG have found that 66 percent of organizations in Germany now deploy cloud computing, while 21 percent are considering migrating to the cloud.
Nevertheless, many companies have been a little slower to adopt the cloud than manufacturers would like. In 2017, cloud solutions accounted for just 16 percent of SAP’s global revenue. Meanwhile, surveys conducted by the WMD Group have revealed that just 15 percent of its German customers are certain or likely to use a cloud solution for invoice processing and workflow management.
The strategic use of multicloud solutions
Many organizations use the cloud, yet the market share of cloud solutions is still within the lower double-digit percentage range in several fields of application. How is this possible? The answer: the cloud’s uneven market penetration. For example, CRM applications and storage systems are frequently run on networks installed off-premise – in other words, in the cloud.
However, in supply chain management and merchandise management, cloud applications are still rarely used, with market penetration in each of these areas at just 4.3 percent. Market penetration in the field of ERP is at 19.2 percent.
These disparities can be partly explained by the fact that there is no generic cloud that covers every single need. Instead, there is a wide array of models, each of which specializes in different areas (e.g. infrastructure, storage, archiving, etc.) and use cases (e.g. CRM or ERP systems).
As a result, most companies tend to opt for a multi-cloud approach. Indeed, according to the systems integrator and cloud provider T-Systems, this is the most effective and future-proof way of using the cloud.
SAP innovation cycles to boost use of the cloud
Innovation cycles help explain why the cloud and cloud computing have become particularly important for SAP users. A large number of SAP customers intends to migrate from traditional ERP systems to S/4 Hana within the next two to five years. Forty-nine percent of WMD customers plan to migrate to S/4 Hana between 2020 and 2023.
Similarly, a recent survey conducted by DSAG, the German SAP User Group, found that 53 percent of respondents intend to migrate between 2019 and 2021.
For organizations that use SAP, these migration projects will be complex, expensive, and time-consuming. These organizations will inevitably review and evaluate the underlying technologies and platforms, too. The cloud has become extremely important, especially for SAP customers; ever more often, even the more conservative users are not directly opposed to cloud computing.
Workflow management solutions
Organizations need workflow management solutions that are easy to use and enable staff to meet their specific objectives and collaborate across departments. Platform-independence is another must, as this makes more flexibility possible. Mobile availability is also extremely important for business-critical processes that demand rapid response times.
The best way to ensure that a workflow management solution meets these requirements is to migrate it to the cloud. This approach removes the need to install, operate, and maintain the necessary infrastructure.
In addition, cloud-based workflow solutions are scalable, so organizations do not have to invest in their own server hardware if they wish to expand their operations. Furthermore, cloud-based solutions can also be tailored to specific requirements and they provide a central location for storing data.
Gartner predicts that in the case of more than a third of companies, over 50 percent of their financial transactions will be cloud-based by 2020. As there is no single cloud provider that can cater for all business processes on one platform, flexible, hybrid, and multicloud models are likely to be popular in the future. Hybrid models combine on-premise and public-cloud environments; the term is also sometimes used to refer to a combination of public and private clouds.
In hybrid models, the document-based processes associated with financial transactions—such as digital mailroom, document reading, document distribution, and archiving—take place in the cloud, while processes related to purchasing, finance, and order fulfillment continue to be performed on premise. Nonetheless, the on-premise and cloud-based systems are connected.
WMD, which is currently migrating more and more of its functionalities to the cloud, deploys such a hybrid model. The cloud provides an ideal home for the workflow and document-exchange processes necessary for interdepartmental collaboration, as cloud computing services offer the flexibility and mobility to securely and effectively integrate collaboration into an organization’s ECM processes and value chains.