Appian puts polish into BPM
Appian Enterprise 5.1 bolsters collaborative workflow with flexible features and slick modeling
I look at four key elements when gauging the potential ROI and success of a BPM package: adaptability to existing platforms and applications, process insight and activity monitoring, usability, and the strength of the rules engine. On all counts, Appian Enterprise 5.1 fills the bill with its full-featured, people-centric, process-management suite.
For developing, deploying, and managing complex human workflows, Appian’s AJAX-backed modeling environment and wizard-like configuration tool is one of the easiest I’ve ever used. Onboard activity monitoring and data analytics are also first rate, and in-flight process management features -- specifically, on-the-fly exception handling -- are extensive as well as easy to configure. New features, including customizable reporting filters, made-to-order dashboard views, and live drill-down objects within reports, enhance the already insightful visuals.
Appian lacks some of the tools required for complex, system-to-system integration found in competing products such as Tibco and BEA’s FuegoBPM. Orchestration capabilities are strong, but automating advanced system-to-system processes demands additional features to fully manage ACID-grade transactions, notably compensation and rollback, fault handling over long-running processes, the capability to execute on multiple partner variables, and Web services execution platform support (say, via BPEL4WS) that fully addresses run-time transaction semantics. More significantly, the simulation tools essential to iteratively test and improve process performance fall short, lacking the means for historical comparisons and forecasting and paling to the likes of Lombardi TeamWorks, for example.
Nevertheless, Appian’s strong general monitoring and feedback loops take up some of the slack. And first-rate support for human workflows, including good document management and collaborative workspaces integrated directly into processes, set Appian apart from the pack.
Providing a rich blend of process routing and decision-making support features, Appian Enterprise 5.1 is one of the strongest BPM suites in the market today, especially at its price point. Appian has all the key ingredients for efficiently and flexibly weaving together people and the information and processes they’re entrusted with managing.
Appian’s event-driven processing engine rides the J2EE rails, requiring a Java app server and database for its processing logic and application data. The setup was straightforward. Appian supports both high availability and fail-over configurations (active-active and active fail-over). Admins will find the included diagnostic scripts beneficial in tweaking system performance going forward.
Client deployment offers you the option of either an AJAX-driven, browser-based portal -- no plug-ins required -- or an Outlook 2003 plug-in delivering comparable views and interactions to the desktop. Either way, you get swift and easy access to processes, rules, forms, people, and reports that will be a clear boon to usability and adoption. Good user and group management facilitates personalized content delivery as well as skills-based workflow routing.
Comprehensive dashboards provide clear views of task status and process pipeline activity. I was able to traverse and sift data to readily view overdue tasks and stuck processes in need of manual intervention.