Process Application Platforms 2017: Bonitasoft
This report assesses the capabilities of Bonitasoft’s Process Application Platform, and also examines the partners and intellectual property that Bonitasoft’s can offer customers exploring associated technology implementations. This assessment report forms part of a series of reports from MWD Advisors which assesses business process application technology offerings – technology-related capabilities which support organisations wanting to design, develop, deploy, monitor and optimise partially- or wholly-automated business processes.
We strongly encourage you to read this report in conjunction with our accompanying Assessment Framework report at https://www.mwdadvisors.com/2016/10/25/process-application-platforms/
Bonitasoft has undergone two important shifts in focus recently. Firstly, the introduction of a Business Data Model capability and a sophisticated UI Designer have supported its shift beyond BPM to offering a broad process application development platform. Secondly, Bonitasoft has clarified its position as a ‘low-code’ platform provider: rather than embracing ‘citizen developers’ wanting to build simple things quickly, it’s pursuing more complicated use cases being addressed by collaborating multi-disciplinary design and development teams with ‘classic’ development skills.
One of the biggest strengths of Bonita BPM is the extent to which teams can customise and change application behaviour layer-by-layer: the use of ‘contracts’ and REST APIs as core architectural elements ensures a clean separation between user interface, core logic and data management/integration logic. However the process monitoring and optimisation capabilities on offer are currently less well-developed.
Support for different types of work
Automated work: Bonita BPM does a decent job in helping you build and run process applications that work ‘straight-through’; you can design flows that operate asynchronously and reactively in response to external events, and if you license the Performance Edition there’s clustering functionality for the BPM Engine.
Transactional work: Bonita BPM’s primary focus is on supporting transactional work scenarios, and it covers all the core functionality bases well. A solid organisation model for your process applications and support for many important workflow patterns is a big help, and UI flexibility is a significant contributor. Support for monitoring and optimisation isn’t so strong, although Bonitasoft plans improvements in coming releases.
Exploratory work: Bonitasoft doesn’t explicitly address exploratory work scenarios and doesn’t offer a targeted case management capability, but some of the underlying platform capabilities needed to support the common features of exploratory work scenario requirements are present nevertheless.
Rapid prototyping / quick-start
Although Bonita BPM has a Business Data Modelling capability, Bonitasoft hasn’t elected to do what some other vendors have done and create a specialised ‘data-centric application’ development capability that enables teams to rapidly prototype or deliver simple forms-and-data applications quickly.
Bonita BPM’s ‘living applications’ capability gives you a lot of flexibility, and if you choose one of the paid-for Subscription Editions of Bonita BPM there’s some support for team working, code locking and versioning. However more advanced change management capabilities found in more expensive platforms (visual impact analysis, configuration management, process migration, and so on) are missing.
User experience options
UX flexibility is one of Bonita BPM’s strongest points. There’s a simple out-of-the-box process application UI, but the ability to create sophisticated custom application user experiences stands out. An extensive set of REST APIs means going further (and potentially even creating your own domain-specific tools) is also an option.
Bonita BPM is available as an on-premise licensed product, and is also supported as a hosted platform – though Bonitasoft does not offer Bonita BPM as a managed hosted service itself. If you want to use a cloud platform, Bonitasoft supports deployment on AWS (public cloud) and CloudFoundry (private cloud).
Inside Bonitasoft’s platform
Bonitasoft’s Process Application Platform offering revolves around Bonita BPM, which (depending on the edition you choose to license) provides a range of design-time and runtime capabilities for creating and deploying process applications flexibly, particularly where user experience customisation is important. Bonitasoft doesn’t currently offer Bonita BPM as a cloud-based service, but Bonitasoft does support customers who choose to deploy and manage it themselves on the AWS cloud platform. Bonita BPM is currently at version 7.4.
In addition to Bonita BPM, Bonitasoft also offers a range of education, support and implementation services (as well as working through implementation partners).
Key tools and capabilities
The main elements of Bonita BPM are as follows:
- BPM Studio. This is an Eclipse-based (desktop-resident) toolset used for defining all the key aspects of your process applications (processes, data, rules, organisation models, integration points and application user interfaces).
- BPM Engine. This is the runtime platform for Bonita BPM process applications.
- BPM Portal. This is a web application that serves both as an administration interface for your Bonita BPM process applications (and as a host for performance reports); and as a container for simple process application user interfaces (for example, hosting standardised user task lists and forms) if you choose not to develop your own custom application front-ends.
Bonitasoft provides Bonita BPM in four editions, as follows:
- Community Edition is an open-source, community-supported version of the technology, licensed under the GNU GPL, that’s free to download. It contains all the core features of the product; you can develop, run and manage process applications using Community Edition with no restrictions.
- Subscription Editions are supported by Bonitasoft on a commercial basis and add extra features that improve Bonita BPM’s capabilities in three key areas:
- Teamwork – adds a team repository and code management facilities, as well as supporting the definition of multiple user profiles for BPM Studio that you can use to create tailored tools for different kinds of users (analysts, developers, and so on). Teamwork Edition also includes a richer set of user interface widgets and a broader set of connectors for commercial business applications (such as SAP).
- Efficiency – includes all Teamwork features, and adds Process Monitoring and case visualisation, the ability to change process dependencies dynamically at runtime (connector implementations, application parameters, form implementations and so on), additional UI widgets, and mobile support for BPM Portal.
- Performance – includes all Teamwork and Efficiency features, and adds support for multi-server clustering and failover, multi-tenancy and error management functionality.
User experience options
Bonita BPM provides you with three main choices regarding user experience for your process applications.
Firstly, there’s an off-the-shelf user experience option that uses the web-based BPM Portal to host straightforward user task lists and forms that you can easily configure (to a limited extent) using BPM Studio. Here, each business process is made available for invocation directly from within the BPM Studio (to anyone with relevant permissions). There’s a mobile web app available for BPM Portal on iOS and Android devices, too.
Secondly, Bonita BPM Studio includes a specialised UI Designer tool that enables you to create discrete, stand-alone web-based application user experiences for your process applications. These user experiences are composed from collections of custom menus, pages and forms – and the resulting experiences are role-based, so you can easily create applications that present personalised information and functionality to individuals with particular roles (see Mapping, Modeling and Application design below for more information).
Lastly, there’s a comprehensive set of REST APIs exposed by the Bonita BPM runtime if you want to build completely custom user experiences for your process applications. There are APIs not only for invoking processes and getting and setting data in processes and tasks, but also APIs that enable you to programmatically create new applications and their constituent parts – allowing you, if you want, to build custom tools or embed Bonita BPM in a broader platform.
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