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View the Source, Luke

Jed Fonner
May 10, 2012

The concept of code ownership is always a touchy topic. When a vendor builds a custom application for you, who owns the code of that application? Your contract hopefully says that you do, but what does that really mean? Can you access the source code of the application, and if so, can you understand the source in order to fix a bug or make enhancements? Unless your developers were embedded in the contractor's development team, chances are that you can't.

This ability to "view the source" is at the heart of the various advantages a BPM software platform has over packaged applications, also known as Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) software.

The beauty of building applications using a BPM platform like Appian is that you truly own your applications. This is because all decent BPM platforms include a graphical modeler where an application's pieces are configured, not coded. Instead of needing access to the underlying Java/C++ code, you only need access to the underlying configuration for Process Models, Rules, User Interfaces, etc.

For example, at any time you can view the source configuration for a BPM application simply by opening the Process Models in the modeler. And of course, because all good BPM suites use BPMN notation, the Process Models can be understood by anyone familiar with this industry standard notation. The same concept of configuration over coding applies to Rules, Constants, Data Structures, etc.

This is important because having access to your application source means you can see exactly how and why your application is working the way it is. Need to trace back and see why a certain decision was made? Just open the history of the model and view the gateway and rule logic that led to the final state. In addition, if you see an opportunity to improve your business processes, you can easily enhance your application if you have access to the source. You aren't at the mercy of a consultant's coding expertise (and hourly fee) or a vendor's development roadmap.

In addition, truly advanced BPM suites provide full export capability, allowing you to export an entire application as a collection of XML files. This is especially important if you are running your BPM applications in the cloud. The website recently highlighted the problem of cloud providers holding customer applications hostage. With responsible cloud BPM suites like Appian, customers need not worry because the customers themselves have the ability to export their entire application whenever they like.

With a BPM platform like Appian, you always have access to the source configuration for your applications. With that comes a degree of control that is simply not possible with COTS software. To learn more about the advantages of BPM software over packaged applications, read our "Don't License Another Software Application Until You Read This!" white paper.

Jed Fonner

Appian Architect

Jed Fonner