What does it mean to build an application? Two companies are announcing vastly different yet intriguing answers to that question today.
Cardiff, the document management subsidiary of enterprise search stalwart Autonomy, is rolling out version 5.0 of LiquidOffice, a BPM (business process management) solution that centers on forms-based document workflow. What’s notable about this release is that it enables the workflow participants to digitally sign documents via BlackBerry – or by voice approval. The biggest problem with workflow apps is that they come to a grinding halt when one human link in the chain is missing in action, so reaching out to mobile devices should have significant effect on keeping the flow in motion.
Courtesy of Autonomy Cardiff CEO Mark Seamans, I saw a demo of the product and it’s really quite slick. A smidgeon of BlackBerry client software enables users to give the thumbs up or thumbs down on the fly – with notification to that effect immediately registering on the server. Same deal with voice approval: The app can call BlackBerry-less mobile users on their cell phones so they can approve or not using voice identification. It even records the voice response and attaches the sound file to the workflow. (“You say you don’t remember approving that? Well, listen to this…”)
Another nice touch: If users get confused by a form, they can get human advice, thanks to an auto-generated a list of people the system knows are heavy users of that form -- complete with presence info, so no time is wasted with voice mail. And the workflow development environment itself looks Visio-like and easy to use. Of course, as with any meta-app, LiquidOffice BPM applications need to connect to a variety of systems, and even with support for Web services and application specific adapters courtesy of iWay, that kind of stuff can get complicated fast.
On a completely different note, DreamFactory is announcing a new Developer Portal that includes a free SaaS (software-as-a-service) IDE for developing Web applications on Salesforce.com’s AppExchange platform. DreamFactory has made its name by creating popular AppExchange offerings, led by DreamTeam for project management.
In this case I saw the demo via WebEx -- appropriately enough, since the IDE also taps into the APIs of WebEx’s new Connect platform, which provides various services for collaborative Internet applications. Plus, it lets developers avail themselves of Amazon’s S3 storage service. The entire IDE demo ran in a Salesforce tab.
You could mash up various features of these services on your own, of course, if you had the time. But the Web-based IDE makes it easy to create apps that span open Internet APIs and live within a Salesforce or AppExchange environment. And come to think of it, Salesforce users could save a bundle if they moved their database from Salesforce to S3, which costs 15 cents per gig per month. Food for thought.