The pressure to reduce costs and respond rapidly to new opportunities in changing markets continues unabated, as the economy remains tight.

The need for business process management has never been greater, but there is a growing school of thought that says organisations that focus too much on process miss the big vision and the big opportunities.

BPM has become synonymous with continuous improvement. That is, if you can carry out a process, such as invoice fulfilment, at 5% lower cost year-on-year then you are winning. But this assumes that these improvements are significant to the business. Sure, they may be nice to have and contribute to the bottom line, but are they what really matters?

Although most organisations put the majority of their time and effort into improving these iterative business processes, improving on them may not be what makes a difference to customers or your business.

Instead, it is the awkward, seldom performed business task which can be much more important to the customer than their frequency suggests. This could include handling complaints, launching new products, accessing new markets, and enabling joint ventures.

This is where cloud computing may offer a distinct advantage. Many cloud propositions are about low-cost utility applications and on-demand computing power, but there is more.

Most types of business process application are now offered in a cloud hosted form. Deploying them in ad hock circumstances will take less time than in-house application, and the business impact could be greater where speed to market is a factor.

At the same time, a range of cloud packages are now on the market to track, analyse and report on business process improvement – so as quickly as you can deploy, you can also measure performance.

This does not mean that incremental improvement in day-to-day business processes become unimportant. But cloud computing could help canny CIOs keep up with changing business goals in a challenging economic environment.