Bizagi Modeler is one the largest free to download BPM modelling tools in the market with over 2.5 million downloads. What I did not know until a month ago was that there was another free to download product available from Bizagi, called Studio. Both Studio and Modeler with Server make Bizagi's BPM Suite which provides a complete BPMS capability and the majority of these products are free to download!
Who are Bizagi? Bizagi - which is short for business agility - was established in 1989 to support the continuous improvement of business processes and to provide a powerful, yet simple, business collaboration platform that brought business and IT together. Bizagi's founders met whilst studying engineering at Universidad de los Andes in Columbia, over 25 years ago. Their experience with BPM started when developing ERP solutions for Apple in the 1980s. After delivering successful projects they found that their clients often asked for changes that were difficult and time-consuming to realise. This led them to the understanding that an off-the-shelf solution, whilst providing a means for standardising business process to best of breed, did not allow for either the agility needed in business today nor the need to differentiate one business from its rivals in the market. The company's headquarters are in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, UK.
The most well-known product from Bizagi is Modeler. Initially the Modeler was part of the suite, but was moved out when Bizagi decided to offer freemium software. I have been using Modeler myself for the last 3 year on my own projects and pro-bono work. In that time I have developed models for the operations of a charity as well as the administration of county hockey, amongst others. Modeler is a free to download product that provides support for BPM notation. I have found it simple to use and very quick to pick up how to use it. The current version added the capability of simulation through a partnership with Lanner, that incorporates the latter's WITNESS products with Modeler.
It was during a briefing with Jolanta Pilecka, Bizagi's CMO in their Amersham headquarters, that I was made aware that Studio was a free download product. What is Studio? It is a complete development environment for the automation of business processes from process models (a version of Modeler), through the definition of data models for each process, to a form designer to a rule designer and then finally an integration tool that allows you to relate forms, data and even processes to applications and databases and even emails! So over the last 3 weeks I have set myself the target of implementing a system using Studio.
So far I have imported a process from a previous process model that I had defined in Modeler. There is one word of warning here; the version of Modeler used in Studio is one back from the current one available for download. Pilecka informed that this being worked on and both Modelers will be the same in early 2014. I also defined a new process in the Studio Process Modeler. One other very useful capability available is the ability to download a set of predefined process widgets that are also available for free and help to speed up the development. I downloaded one and found it really good and, of course, you are able to change it if you want to. The process widgets available include:
- Help desk
- Purchase request
- Vacation leave request
- Accounts payable
- Personal loan request
- Change management
- On and off-boarding
- Claims and complaints.
The next step is to define the data that the process is going to use. Here I would recommend for the first time user to look at the free video course that takes you to this stage of the automation process. The reason I say this is that you define an entity that is all of the data that is going to be used by the process and for each data item that is going to be created or referenced in the process you say from which entity (table) it is going to come from. Once you understand the way the product works it becomes very easy to use. The only thing that I found missing that I would have liked to have seen was the ability to define set values for certain fields rather than just a true/false capability. However this can be overcome by creating a rule for the item.
Once we have the data for the process, you progress to the definition of forms. This starts by presenting the process to you and you select a process step for which you want to define a form. The forms editor is then brought up. The editor has a set of control capabilities like tables, as well as allowing you to select data items from the entities you have defined. Once again I would recommend using the free download course for this section before attempting to use the editor - I learnt from experience!
I have just started to use the rule definition capability. This has a very nice feature of being able to define the format of an email that might be sent between steps in which you can insert data definitions as well as text.
I have so far been impressed with the capabilities of this free to download BPM development environment. With the fact that the education courses available cover not only using the product but also the use of BPMN modelling. This, in conjunction with the user forum, shows that there is a real degree of support. I would like to see the help be a little more context sensitive but then I'm picky!
The bigger picture
The bigger picture is then covered by Bizagi Server which allows you to run your processes in a live environment. This is where you have to pay Bizagi for a license. The licensing model is very simple, being based on named users. A separate CAL (Client Access License) is needed for each unique user. Bizagi Server is available in multiple editions to support the varying needs of organisations. The entry-level is Xpress Edition and is aimed at departmental solutions/Pilot projects. There are 2 corporate editions (Enterprise .NET and Enterprise JEE) which are similar in functionality but work on different hardware platforms. The latest Suite version is 10.2 and was released in October 2013. The new features include:
- The ability to customise the Bizagi Portal to fit corporate guidelines;
- Support for Oracle 11g;
- The use of AJAX-based technology to update web content;
- The ability to print multiple reports with one click;
- The ability to export a table's content to Excel or PDF;
- The Forms Designer and Work Portal now take advantage of the latest version of jQuery for improved performance.
Bizagi's team are also involved in the development of BPM standards, working alongside IBM, SAP and Oracle at OMG committees. In the last 5 years, the company has won a number of high-profile customers including Adidas, Audi, and GE; and in November 2013 BAE Systems Military Air and Information (MAI) division selected the product for business transformations.
At the WfMC BPM Awards in October, Bizagi customers were well represented with both Adidas (who have implemented nine projects to date and delivered automation across various departments) and Colpensiones (who automated more than 118 business processes that all went live in a record time of 9 months) winning gold. Two other Bizagi customers, Anida (part of BBVA) and Prince Sultan Military Medical City (PSMMC) were shortlisted as finalists. This is an impressive achievement, considering WfMC selected from a total of 50 projects.
What about the future? Well I was told by Pilecka that the next release will include integration with SharePoint to drive the collaborative BPM approach and "advanced case management". This is based on the OMG Case Management Modeling Specification of May 2013 (OMG Document bmi/2011-05-08).
Bizagi is definitely a company and product set worth including if you are assessing a BPM solution. What I really like is that it isn't just for the big corporate but also for SMEs; in that it fits the requirement and skills available to support SMEs so that they can support the needs of agile businesses.