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PHOTO: Skeeze

Take your definitions of enterprise content management (ECM) and business process management (BPM) and set them aside, before you go out of business or get run over. 

Information is alive, up-to-date, intelligent and in-flow in the digital era. Or at least it should be.

After all, if Mickey Mouse can pick your daughter out of the crowd and wish her Happy Birthday by name when you are visiting Disney World, reception at your local hospital should be able to identify you and have your admission forms filled out with the latest information when you arrive at the emergency room in an ambulance.

We have the technology. Or at least we're getting closer.

Activiti 1.5

Yesterday Maidenhead, UK-based ECM and BPM technology provider Alfresco announced Activiti 1.5, a new release of its open standards business process management software.

Its most interesting feature is that it gives users one-click access to any connected database, and the ability to process or model that data for use in new business applications.

  • If you are a developer, Activiti might look like a cool open source tool to use to build digital-native applications. 
  • If you are a business process owner, it is a technology that you might use to make sure that information flows across a process as intended and with as little human intervention as necessary. 
  • And if you are a consumer, it might be something that delivers your information to the right place, at the right time, in the right context , safely and securely, alleviating your need to provide the same information over, and over again, as is still too often the case in financial, healthcare and other settings.

According to Paul Hampton, director of product marketing, Alfresco, Activiti is being used by a health care provider to speed expectant mothers through admission while they are in route to the hospital, saving them from having to go through all of the tedium when they arrive.

And while Activiti aims to provide improved productivity and customer experiences, it is also capable of keeping information in sync and up-to-date when needed while at the same time preserving records for compliance and other reasons.

Hard to Get to Simple

Sometimes things that seem to be within reach are hard to deliver. Alfresco co-founder and CTO John Newton told CMSWire Alfresco has been working on Activiti since the beginning of the decade when it was purely a liberally licensed open source workflow project with contributors employed by companies like Google, Spring Source and VMware, among others.

Since then Alfresco has, more or less, brought Activiti in house, hired a top notch team (which recently left) and forked the open source project.

Newton said Alfresco has spent "at least $7 million" building it out and that he sees it as an important part of the company's future. Consider that, at least visually, it appears to carry the same weight as Alfresco One, the ECM platform for which it is best known, on the company's website.

It is only recently that we have focused on monetization (with Activiti), said Newton. It seems to be working out. Hampton said that 20 percent of the company's new named business last year came from Activiti and that he expects that percentage to grow as Activiti 1.5 hits the market because there’s nothing as powerful and agile in the market.

According to Hampton it is a tool built for customer-centric business because using it companies can build applications around the role an individual plays in the business process.

Activiti with Alfresco One and More

BPM (though some might call them case management or workflow) capabilities have been available in conjunction with the best Enterprise Content Management (ECM) platforms for some time now. 

In its most recent Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Content Management, Gartner analysts Karen A. Hobert, Gavin Tay and Joe Mariano noted there is "a new organizational emphasis on creating and improving content centric processes that boost productivity, foster digital business, and facilitate the use and sharing of information "and that there is "a corresponding evolution of ECM functionality to support the use of content in business processes."

So, perhaps Alfresco has hit the target with Activiti, especially in light of the way it works with its ECM platform Alfresco One as well as content repositories from the likes of OpenText, Documentum and SharePoint. 

In fact, according to Newton, at least one of his customers is using Activiti in conjunction with Documentum. Other Documentum customers are, according to Newton and Hampton, so impressed with their Activiti experience that they are considering moving to Alfresco One. (We asked, they wouldn't provide customer names).

But it's not just ECM users who have BPM needs that Alfresco is trying to reach. 

"Pegasystems and jBPM users are interested in us too," said Newton. 

This, of course, might play out well for Alfresco which plans to go public as soon as market conditions are right. "We are at scale and we have revenue to support it. But the market isn't predictable," he added, noting that Alfresco has $40 million in cash, so it can wait.