Many would know that multi-tenancy is an architectural pattern where a single installation of the software can serve multiple tenants. The term multi-tenancy has been used widely in the space of SaaS and in fact whether or not multitenancy is required is the first decision point in a SaaS architecture. But one of the common myths among architects is that this architectural pattern makes sense only for SaaS application. It is not true and there are few other areas where applying this pattern brings a lot of value. One such space is BPO Applications. First let us see the similarity between an Enterprise SaaS application and a BPO application.
A SaaS is a software provided as a service to different customers for managing a business process or a set of business processes. For example, HR Payroll Processing Application Offered as SaaS
On the other hand, BPOs also offer services to different customers for a business process or a set of business process and mostly use an application to manage this service. For example assume a BPO offering payroll processing service to their customers. They would most likely use an application to manage this service. Hence, indirectly this payroll processing application is required to manage the process of multiple customers which mandates them to have most of the characteristics of a SaaS software.
In fact it is interesting to note that a BPO application needs additional multi-tenancy features compared to a SaaS application. For example, cross cutting access and reporting across tenants which usually is not required in a typical SaaS application. The following table compares some of the prime similarity and differences in multi-tenancy requirement between a SaaS application and a BPO application
|Main Users||Tenant/Customer Instance accessed by Tenant users||Tenant/Customer instance data accessed by Tenants as well as representative serving the tenant from BPO|
|Product Administration||SaaS provider team -Limited responsibility such as provisioning tenant, setting up license and billing info||Complete set of BPO users both responsible for product administration as in SaaS and in addition various activities within the tenant’s instance|
|Data Sharing||Complete Isolation between tenantsIsolation of data between tenant and the SaaS provider as well||Complete Isolation between tenantsBPO users can access tenant’s data as per the privilege set. Tenant stratification required to specify which BPO users/ teams can service which customers|
It is encouraging to see that a lot of BPOs have realized the need to have a multi-tenant system to increase their operational efficiency and are quickly adopting it. There is also one another reason why there is a huge pull now towards this direction. Earlier the BPOs services were operating more at a head count level where their core aim was to deliver the service in any which way the customer needs. They were more driven by the customers and most of the time used the software at the customer’s end. Also the need of their customers varied drastically due to which they could not come up with single software to fit all the needs. With the experience gained so far BPO’s maturity levels have increased to an extent where they are able to influence the customers on the standards . The customers also clearly see a value they get because of the BPO’s experience in the area and most of them are willing to adapt to the BPO’s best standards including software. Hence, the BPOs now have a huge set of customers with similar needs, which in turn creates provision for the BPOs to increase their internal efficiency. To achieve this BPOs have started building lots of applications to automate their operations and these applications have slowly become the back bone of the service they offer. Many of such BPOs which started managing their applications in a single tenant model are now realizing the pain as the number of customer instances have grown beyond a level. This is when they see the value of a multi-tenant architecture and a lot of BPOs have gradually taken steps to move their existing applications to this model.
It would not be incorrect to state that in future almost all of the application built in successful BPOs will be multi-tenant applications.
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Nice post. One side of the story is for the bpo’s to look at multiple customers in silos and offering silo view of their reports to their customers. The flip side of the story would be customers engaging multiple bpo’s for their needs and insisting on multi-tenant applications to support their consolidated view of their operations from multiple providers.