Software AG opened a beta version of its social network for business process management (BPM), a year after it first announced the service.
ArisAlign runs in Amazon Web Services' cloud and is based on ARIS, a business process modeling tool developed by IDS Scheer, another German company Software AG acquired last July.
Software AG first announced its plans for the social network, then called AlignSpace, at the Cebit trade show last year. It said that business process modeling practitioners would be able to use it for everything from exchanging tricks of the trade to the early stages of modeling specific projects. At that stage, though, the company offered little more than screen shots of the service, with no real interaction.
At this year's show it is offering live demonstrations of a beta version of the service and free accounts to anyone who wants one.
ArisAlign includes forums where practitioners can discuss their problems and a social network where they can collaborate with people inside and outside the enterprise on the discovery of business processes.
To help non-specialists contribute to the discovery process, the site uses a metaphor of whiteboards and sticky notes to organise information. Anyone can add a new "sticky" to the workspace, each one representing an activity, with the activities organised into columns to represent the stages in a process. Users can add detailed comments and other information to the stickies through a tabbed interface.
The beta nature of the service shows up in its usability: Browsing the activities to find new details added by other users requires clicking on each sticky and flicking through the tabs, or consulting a Facebook-style stream of information about recent actions. Neither the stickies nor the stream is searchable, and the stream can't be filtered to show only information about particular activities.
"That's high on my wishlist," said Software AG's Thomas Stoesser, one of those behind ArisAlign.
Software AG built ArisAlign on Amazon Web Services because "it's cost-effective, it saved us a lot in hosting fees," said Matt Green. The company is still developing its software-as-a-service strategy and learning what it takes to move applications to the cloud, he said. Going with Amazon Web Services allowed Software AG to reuse existing products, such as its own portal platform. Using Google's App Engine would have required a complete rebuild, he said.