Combining ECM and BPM: Is Alfresco’s New Acronym the Wave of the Future?

On February 9, Alfresco Software announced an advancement to the integration of enterprise content management (ECM) and business process management (BPM) in the form of updates to its products Alfresco One and Alfresco Activi.

In its press release, Alfresco cites a statement from a recent report by 451 Research that says, “ECM and BPM are converging into a market we refer to as PCM [Process and Collaboration Management].”

Alfresco One is the firm’s enterprise-class ECM platform; it is an open ECM platform that allows customization and integration with applications and procedures such as Microsoft SharePoint and Office, Google Docs, SAP, and more. Alfresco Activi is an enterprise BPM platform that allows users to design, deploy and run process modules. The Feb. 9 announcement included a number of additions and upgrades to both products.

New capabilities in Alfresco One include Easy Content Model Management, which allows users to configure Alfresco in a “no code” environment; and Smart Folders that allow users to access content based on “what it is” rather than “where it is,” providing a consumer-like “intelligent playlist” experience.

New capabilities in the latest version of Activiti 1.4 include an enhanced BPMN 2.0 process engine, which allows process forms improvement, process model creation and performance enhancements; no-code development for business rules to automatically drive process decisions; and tighter integration with cloud file sync-and-share solutions, which allows Alfresco to bring process to the cloud world.

“Because every piece of content is tied to a business process and vice versa, an integrated content management and business process solution can deliver great value to enterprise and government. Alfresco’s modern and open approach to these solutions has always recognized this critical interdependency,” said John Newton, co-founder and CTO of Alfresco in a prepared statement. “This integration raises the bar across the industry and demonstrates Alfresco’s commitment to providing a better alternative to legacy approaches to how content and processes need to be managed in today’s business environment.”

See the full press release here.

Our Take

The concept of processes and content nearly always being tied together is a logical one, and integrates well into the new market of PCM. The company cites the example of a financial services company processing a loan application, which involves managing multiple documents from applicants as well as internally created files. In this case, the Alfresco integrated solution brings together process and content into a single solution that simplifies the workflow and improves customer service. It also captures approval flows and relevant content to help a company address its compliance requirements.

Also enhancing the ability to manage collaboration is the no-code configuration and development announced in both releases, allowing non-technical users to configure the products to their needs.

Ultimately, the concept of integrating BPM and ECM is not a new one. The need to access a document while performing a process is well established. The ability to do so, however, is frequently hit or miss. Although some products designed to do both have been available, it has been just as common to see cobbled-together approaches that come with their own sets of issues. An offering from a single provider, designing its products to work together is key to a truly integrated offering, and in doing so Alfresco has made a big leap in the world of PCM.

is BPO Media and Research’s editorial director. As a writer and editor, she has specialized in the office technology industry for more than 20 years, focusing on areas including print and imaging hardware and supplies, workflow automation, software, digital transformation, document management and cybersecurity.