Appian just announced the launch of Appian 6 (which will be released in a few weeks).? Among the benefits touted are a further refined design interface (aligned with the theme of process acceleration), which appears to offer better re-use of various components within Appian:
New BPM Application Design interface, allowing customers to quickly navigate all shared components and form these components into logical BPM Applications for simple management and quick migration between environments.? The re-usable library of components includes Processes, Rules, Groups and Roles, Reports, Content Management Structures, Documents, Portal Pages and Collaboration Areas.
From what's described in the release, it isn't clear how this feature set compares to other BPM offerings, but at least on paper, this functionality would bring Appian 6 up to par with best-of-breed BPM Software.? Of course, the devil is in the details, and would reveal whether their implementation of the new design environment is more or less productive than another environment (which is why we recommend customers actually try to build something and lay hands on the tools they are buying).
Next, it looks like Appian is extending the XML definition of the process to include all the artifacts defined by the design environment, rather than "just process and rules".? This allows for versioning the XML in source control tools, and makes it easier to migrate the process definitions without losing assets.? However, I have to say that I would have expected Appian to support this well before version 6, and this is a feature that at least some other vendors have supported since circa 2003.? Still I'd rather have it than not, and hopefully it is a stepping stone to additional functionality for import/export in the future (BPMN2? XPDL 2.1? native support for a version control system?).
The new user interface approach sounds (to me) like an improvement over the old, as well as something possibly differentiating to quite a few other vendors' offerings - including the ability for particular "process applications" to have good meaningful URLs.? This is a seemingly simple innovation but it can be *important* for adoption of BPM in an organization.
We'll have to check out the beta and/or general availability release and see how some of these features manifest in the coming weeks, as time allows (or, perhaps someone else will do it for us and we can read their review instead!). I'm also curious what, if any, impact Appian 6 has on Appian Anywhere, their SaaS solution - is Appian Anywhere moving to Appian 6, or have they split the codebase?? Or is Appian 6 incorporating improvements introduced into Appian Anywhere?
There's more information in a release from MWD, a pretty reliable source of information in the BPM market.? The main point of emphasis in MWD's report is that the product release is focused on bringing together the methodology and the technology to deliver BPM applications more easily - which I think is one of the real strengths of a good BPMS.