Who wants ‘cloud-native’ business process?

No, not link-baiting on the perils of putting your important business process into the cloud but actually a question. For a couple of years (at least) it has been clear that ‘modern’ applications are being built with the set of technologies loosely termed ‘HTML5’. And most BPM suites have responded lately with a RESTful API. But it always feels to me that these are traditional enterprise applications wrapped in a light sprinkling of cloudy fairy dust.

Where are the tools that support genuine ‘business processes’ to be integrated with lightweight micro-sites by my existing web agency? Where are the data-binding tools that allow me to use messages triggered from standard HTML pages to control process-driven applications? Where the dynamically scalable, utility computing platform that can host my BPMN models? Which suite lets me tell it the task or project management tool where I want my user tasks to show up? If you too have been hunting, read on…

For some time now KnowProcess has been delivering projects that rely on the features above married with HTML 5 features like offline use, localStorage and richer form validation. We picked our favourite open source BPM engine and gradually built the infrastructure around it to make a BPMS worthy of being termed a cloud-native. A couple of examples: Syncapt is performing a number of marketing automation such as lead management and customer care follow ups. Trakeo is helping of organisations reduce their environmental and social impacts within the complex environments of statutory and voluntary regulation.

Now at last we’re getting around to making it available as a stand-alone service. You’ll be able to create an account and immediately start using the built in processes. And of course you’ll be able to deploy your own too using our built in service tasks. There’s a little way to go yet, sorting out the developer documentation and so on but if it sounds interesting why not get in touch and we’ll get you on the early adopter programme: info (at) knowprocess.com or @knowprocess

Oh, how much does it cost you say? True to its cloud pedigree, it will be a freemium model so expect a small use-based subscription for the service. We owe a lot to existing open source projects and if you want you’ll be able to deploy it yourself on your own kit you’ll be able to though of course we feel you’ll miss much of the benefit that way. The plan is to find an open source home for it soon, perhaps even within an existing project.

 

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Simplifying BPM and the zero code hypothesis, themes from #BPMNext

A week now since I got back from BPMNext and I’m still buzzing with the seeds of ideas planted there. First up, I felt motivated to write on the recurrent theme on how to ‘simplify BPM’ and its cousin ‘Zero-Coding’ applications. The latter remains as controversial as ever and perhaps always will so I think I’ll state up front my agreement with Scott Francis’ diplomatic conclusion in his piece on ‘the zero code hypothesis’ that:
It looks like those of us writing code will have some work to do for a few more years yet.
But there are two important corollaries to this hypothesis that I think worthy of mention.
‘Zero code’ is often a short-hand for “empowering ‘real’ users who are unfamiliar with code”. And that is both a worthy and necessary goal. After all, the days when a genius such as Isaac Newton could reach the pinnacle of several fields in one lifetime are long behind us. In the modern world we are all specialists. So if we believe BPM suites are powerful tools for managing our work then we need to strive to make them available to experts in all manner of fields. Let’s not give up on ‘zero code’ whilst acknowledging the limitations of our best efforts to date.
Looking back over BPMNext, we saw some examples of how we can already allow these ‘real’ users to solve some of the simpler problems. For example: the first speaker was Brian Reale of Colossa showing how with 10 minutes and no design environment he could create effective mobile data capture tools to compliment more traditional BPM installs. Not the only use for ProcessMaker, but a sweet spot that makes sense to me. At almost the other end of the conference we saw Keith Swenson show¬†cognoscenti’s implementation of what he terms a ‘Personal Assistant’ starting to automate simple and repetitive work without getting in the way of the expert user. And others too showed how some part of what we traditionally call BPM can be placed in the hands of non-coders.
Secondly, the best of these higher-level tools allow those that are coders to be dramatically more productive. This is why I got into BPM in the first place: rather than forcing users to cobble together a coherent workflow from spreadsheets, post-it notes and highly specialised desktop applications we can smoothly hand work from one person to the next and optimise whatever makes sense to within the clear boundary of a service task on a BPMN diagram.
Not least amongst this category is BP3’s own Brazos UI framework for providing responsive UIs specifically for interacting with RESTful BPM servers. And whilst it is undoubtedly early days, camunda sponsored BPMN.io shows promise to allow a truly capable and embeddable tool for presenting, annotating and even authoring business processes. Plus @JakobFreund gets kudos for shameless geekery – laugh-out-loud! Two projects I will follow with interest.
The current trend for specialised web applications that do one thing really well and offer APIs to access their functionality is truly the opportunity for BPM to ‘cross-the-chasm’ that Paul Harmon spoke of in his keynote at last year’s BPMNext. And one I am busy working on at Syncapt. But that sounds like another post….