Not so long ago BPM (business process management) vendors could afford to specialize. Now they’re moving as fast as they can to bring the spheres of collaborative workflow and system-centric processes together.
One vendor cooking up a complete BPM stew is Appian, whose solution combines human-oriented document management and collaboration capabilities with a services-oriented, event-driven architecture for weaving enterprise systems into process flows. Appian Enterprise 5, which shipped last week, brings a long list of improvements stretching from easy configuration of exception-friendly processes to integration with Microsoft Outlook. In a recent demo, Appian reps walked me through some of the key new features.
One feature that has always set Appian apart from the crowd is a built-in analytics engine that helps users identify process bottlenecks and improve workflows over time. Thanks to a highly configurable AJAX GUI, it’s a snap to extend these BAM (business activity monitoring) capabilities to each client: You can add new columns easily and define not only relevant task metrics (total time allotted, past due, etc.) to display but also custom drill down paths (to task details, a report, a dashboard, or even another application).
The AJAX interface also makes quick work of process modeling. Here the Appian folks showed me two neat enhancements. First was the capability to configure “start” events that occur outside the system. In the demo, a help desk provisioning workflow was triggered by an incoming e-mail. Second, and more important, was the capability to configure exceptions within activities, no coding necessary. The example: an incoming e-mail bringing the provisioning process to a halt or steering it in another direction. Appian says exceptions could also be triggered by rules, thresholds, or timers -- whatever the business process requires.
Appian Enterprise 5
Cost: Starts at $500 per seat, declining from that price point based on total number of seats purchased; per solution package; or per enterprise license for large purchases. Average license price is $145K
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