The Great Unknown: BPM Open Source

This summer, we will highlight the three best read and three most shared blogs on BPM Leader.
In line with the spirits of the Olympic Games, we will award these blogs with a gold, silver or bronze medal.

Today’s blog by Alberto del Rio has won the bronze medal for best read blog.

Happy reading!
Reint Jan, publisher at BPM Leader 


One of the most controversial issues when we board a BPM project is the choice of the final BPMS used  to support our processes or applications developed with them. In this blog, I do not want to talk about the selection of the BPMS (that is a series of posts that I have outstanding), but rather to present an option I think so far is unknown or, at least in my opinion, always underestimated: the BPMS Open Source.

As I say, I will not discuss how to choose a BPMS system over an other, but if there is one rule more or less fixed, it will be that for each project there is always a product with advantages over another, as I say for a project in particular. I would generally distrust the people who propose a BPMS system without ever having bothered to ask what the objectives of the project are. Generally speaking, it is often advisable to conduct a POC with at least two different BPMS systems.

Open source systems are no longer unstable systems developed by amateurs in their free time (actually they never have been that, but some companies are interested to transfer this feeling). They have become fully functional products backed by reputable companies that simply have developed a different business model and they currently offer products that can compete with proprietary software.

First, we must make clear what a BPM Open Source is not. It is not free software, it’s simply software that can be used, developed, maintained and updated without a fee, but it is not free, because usually it has a cost.

Second, open source BPM is not software to “play with” to develop a POC and then develop the projects using other (proprietary) products. As I said, open source BPM systems are fully functional and there are now large companies that have already opted for this type of product for their processes.

* If anyone wants a more detailed references do not hesitate to contact me

This shows that the business model works to save costs (always depending on the project) especially in Europe where the crisis has struck with more force and where such systems are betting on more strongly, achieving its goal.

Also in recent years with the rise of process-based systems, there have appeared quite a number of Open Source BPM systems. For anyone here who do not know these, just a few names for at least the most prominent: Bonita (BonitaSoft), jBPM (Red Hat) and Activiti (Alfresco), the latter being the youngest and somewhat more immature, but since it is belonging to Alfresco, there will be a future awaiting for Activiti.

The question you may ask is (if you unfamiliar with the free software model): how do these guys make money? Well, that’s very simple, let me explain that below:

As said, anyone can use the open source products developed by these companies, and even can modify its source code adapting it to your own needs without the need to pay anything. You can even put it into production legally without buying any license, but also without any liability by the open source company (which makes sense). However, most of these companies offer an additional software package that makes life easier for developers which includes many features that are usually required for most customers. This optional package requires a small annual payment. In adition, if you want to support your production environment,  like correction of bugs in a personalized way, maximum response times, and support in general, you’d also need to purchase a license similar to a commercial software license, except that in most cases, the license itself is based on the hardware usage and not per user, resulting in very, very considerable savings.

But I won’t stop repeating myself: selecting and using one BPMS system over another depends on the needs of your project.

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By Alberto del Rio @ Decide Soluciones | August 7, 2012

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