Recently the Activiti team started exploring which parts of BPM could be brought to the cloud effectively. The first thing we realized is that on the cloud, a requirement is self-service by professional consumers. This means that end users should be able to manage the apps they use. Up to now, BPM systems were managed by in-house IT departments.
Immediately it became clear that hosting traditional BPM engine on the cloud is a big technical challenge with a relative low value for professional consumers. We have to look for new ways to deliver BPM on the cloud.
BPM is about combining automatic steps with human task forms. Building task forms on the cloud is a valid concept. Look for example at Formstack. Combining such task forms in a process is a great idea I think. But the generic automatic steps in BPM processes are more problematic on the cloud.
What are those automatic steps that people want to do on the cloud? Well there is plenty of choice. Read data from a google spreadsheet, or salesforce account, then build a document that is uploaded to google docs or dropbox. It could be doable to let professional consumers build process descriptions in a web browser.
But what is often overlooked is that the data used in processes is too complex for end users. For example, from a human perspective, the data read from the spreadsheet is the same as the data that has to be put in a PDF in some subsequent step in the process. But the building blocks that are used to compose workflow processes have to rely on concrete technical datatypes. There is almost always data conversion and projection necessary between those steps in a process. Specifying technical data type-conversions in a workflow is too complex for professional consumers.
We have to make it simpler.
On the other hand, the trend to Advanced Case Management (ACM) really fits well into the cloud. Dynamic management of tasks without a predefined flow matches perfect with the professional consumer needs and capabilities. The ability to associate documents and other forms of content makes it a great match. An extra dimension is added by the fact that a cloud solution for ACM enables seamless B2B collaboration.
This already gives an initial insight in the direction that the Activiti team is currently looking forward towards bringing BPM to the cloud.