Q&A about BPM

I had an email recently from a self-proclaimed BPMS newbie, and I thought that I’d publish his questions and my answers. Feel free to drop in your comments on any of these.

Q1. I couldn’t find any single BPMS product built on PHP language. All of them were built using either Java or .NET. Are there any php-based BPMS products in the market?

A1. I’m unaware of any BPM products built on PHP. Most products are targeted at inside-the-firewall applications, and PHP is less commonly used there than for outward-facing applications.

Q2. Most BPMS vendors ignored Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). Could you please give me list of vendors offering BPMS product for SMEs?

A2. Okay, this isn’t really my answer since I’m not going to start a vendor war in the comments (or in my inbox) by naming the vendors that I listed back in reply, but suffice to say that the smaller and newer vendors came to mind. If you have any thoughts on a particular product and its suitability for the SME market, join the conversation in the comments section.

Q3. I tried to explore BPMS products available on the market. I couldn’t find any product that is fully web-based. I want a BPMS product that all of its software (modelling tool, work portal, dashboard, etc.) can be access through web using a “plain” standard-compliant web browser (without Java Applet, ActiveX, etc). Are there any fully web-based BPMS product in the market?

A3. This is something that I constantly nag the vendors about. As far as I know, no one is offering the modelling and administration tools in a zero-footprint browser environment yet, and many of them don’t even offer browser-based solutions at all. In all cases that I know of, the standard work portal for users tends to be a much more lightweight environment.

Q4. It looks like there’s no vendors offering BPMS as a service (like salesforce.com). Do you know any vendor offering BPMS as a service?

A4. There was one, The Process Factory, which was backed by Global 360 but they lost their funding earlier this year — there was an article about them last year (www.it-analysis.com/content.php?articleid=12707) and I know a couple of the people who were involved in it. Other than that, none that I’m aware of although I’m sure that there are some niche players in the market.

8 thoughts on “Q&A about BPM”

  1. Regarding question 3, there is a vendor that has a 100% web-based product, including modeling and administration. Appian. Our BPM Suite, including the fully BPMN-compliant Appian Process Modeler is entirely thin requiring zero downloads (no Java or ActiveX). We decided to take this approach because we figured a modeling environment in an IDE would never be suitable for a business user. What business user has an Integrated Development Environment on their desktop? The browser-based approach makes it much easier to distribute process-modeling capabilities throughout an organization and, regarding question 4, positions us nicely when the market for BPM as a service does take off.

  2. Philip, thanks for your comment about Appian. The screenshots on your website show a desktop Process Modeler rather than a web-based version. In the Forrester report that you have on your site, it mentions that you do have a fully web-based process modeler, but notes that it only works in IE, which implies that there’s something non-standard about your implementation. Are there any updates since then, or can you elaborate?

  3. Believe it or not, the screenshots you link to are screenshots of our 100% thin process modeling environment. It is surprising at first glance because we’ve mimicked some of the standard client application look and feel (toolbars, left-nav, etc.) to make it as easy to use as possible. We win a lot of deals based on ease of use. Drag and drop, zoom, cut & paste – all the power of a client application provided seamlessly over the web.

    In fact, Appian has always had a thin-client approach to process modeling because we believe in getting process management capabilities in the hands of more users, particularly on the business side. What better way to distribute process design capabilities throughout an organization than over the Internet? No client installs, much simpler upgrade paths.

    The issue you mention with browsers is a common one for cutting edge web technologies. To do complex graphic rendering over the web you have to use vector-based languages like Vector Markup Language (VML) or Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG). Unfortunately, VML is used in IE and SVG is used in Firefox. They are both “standards” but each browser only supports one! This means that until they coordinate a little better, web development companies are stuck having to duplicate code with switch statements in order to support both browsers. This is what Google Maps does, for instance. To see a simple example of how a statement in VML would be written in SVG, take a look at the wikipedia entry for VML here. We’ve got plans to support Firefox in this manner but figured we’d start with the browser that clearly dominates business desktops – Internet Explorer.

  4. A possible better answer on Q3 (and I have no commercial relation with the company):

    Cordys provides a full Ajax browser client for process modelling and service/SOA linking.

    Roeland Loggen

  5. Philip, thanks for the follow-up. I’m completely on board with your reasons for a web-based process modeller, that’s why I push for it every chance that I get.

    As an aside, over 30% of Column 2 readers use Firefox, so you might want to hurry up on that Firefox support. 🙂

  6. Neil, thanks for the comment, I only just fished it out of the “pending” bucket since I’ve been deluged with spam the past several days.

    It certainly looks like Cordys is providing the workflow functionality within the Webex offering, although that’s not as full featured as I would hope for a complete SaaS BPMS.

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