I was talking with Anna today about my idea about BPSL, and she asked me a simple yet pretty powerful question, "What would it look like if people started doing it?".
Good question Anna, and I suppose the key thing is if you were to walk through a standard commercial interaction between all the parties involved, what would that sound and look like? So I thought about it, and employed some local actors to help tell the story.
First, let's start with the "supplier":
This is the organization who has a high-value internal system that currently resides in a legacy application or process that if exposed to the outside world via the web, could make some cash. They will be interested in how do they "hoist" their system into the BPSL in a way that doesn't impede or affect their core business, but allows them exploit their existing investment.
The next player is the "provider":
They own and operate the BPSL infrastructure. This is fundamentally a highly scalable web infrastructure capable of providing the integration environment for "suppliers" to connect with "value-adders", focusing more on service levels, performance, scalability, security, etc. They seek out the premium "suppliers" and hook them into their BPSL, then on-sell that to "value-adders". The key to their business is creating a single model that attracts top shelf "suppliers" so that they differentiate in the market based on the most valuable "suppliers" and best service (core focus). The primary challenge for BPSL operators is in creating a service layer that provides a rich integration experience through industry tools and practices. For example, offering whole Business Processes for integration into end-user applications rather than atomic end-points.
Next is the "value-adder":
They are the traditional ISV who is looking to shed some of the high-risk, high-maintenance aspects of their applications, and replace them with Business Processes offered via the web. They see the value in sharing the risk and cost of high-value elements of their application across their customer segment, so instead of creating an integration piece into a financial institution that costs $40,000 to build and maintain; they'd rather consume a pay-per-use Business Process via the cloud. This allows them to reduce the up-front cost of their software to the market, institute a service cost model (pass the pay per use model to the consumer), and expand their customer base by targeting users based on volume use rather than once off purchase. They also pass the risk and cost of providing that aspect of their solution to the BPSL, who shoulders it across a range of "value-adders" in multiple verticals and horizontals.
And finally, the most important person, the "consumer":
Not always as suave and debonair as my "actor", but certainly always as savvy. They are looking for applications that integrate a range of business actions into one experience, and provides a service charge model where my expense is proportional to my use. Again, this is important because while I really want that high-value application, and don't mind paying for the application infrastructure (UI, framework, etc), I don't want to pay one big whack for the high-value components within, but rather a small charge each time I execute that process. That way, when I'm doing well, I don't mind paying well, and vice versa for the hard times. It helps me smooth out the peaks and troughs, which also helps keep me in the game.
Now, for the most part, the architecture required to support this model isn't all that complicated or burdensome, but the challenge lies in creating the guts for the BPSL. Essentially, there needs to be some way to create a layer that is capable of servicing two requirements; the first is the subscription services for "value-adders" to consume business processes at runtime via the web, and the second is the execution services that run the business processes as cast by the "value-adders".
Over the next few months, we're (many people... not sure who yet) going to be looking at how to get that happening, from all aspects from the Enterprises acting as "suppliers", the hosters acting as "providers", the ISVs acting as "value-adders", and customers acting as "consumers".
We will also makes sure all of this comes out as some form of blueprint/cookbook that you can grab and run so you can get hooked in quickly and easily.
Thanks to the struggling actors who contributed their time and celebrity to my "role play" ;)