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Salesforce Puts Process Development In Cloud

Visual Process Manager is a tool for building business processes and custom applications in the Force.com platform.

Salesforce technologists have put Salesforce.com applications in the cloud. Now they think it should be possible to build business processes based on that business logic -- and run them in the cloud as well.

The company is now offering Visual Process Manager for its Force.com platform, a means of visually designing business processes, equipping them with wizards that help the end user through the business process, and executing the business process in the product's Real-time Process Engine. The engine enforces business rules governing the process, said Ariel Kelman, Salesforce.com VP of platform marketing.

"We think customers should be able to draw a business process on a (digital) white board, click on the design and run the process in the cloud," he said in an interview. Examples of business processes that might be designed and run in the cloud include setting the script that a sales professional will follow when visiting a prospect, handling customer service issues or product returns, managing contracts, and managing Sarbanes Oxley compliance.

The Visual Process Manager also includes a Process Simulator that lets a business process developer simulate a newly designed process for the purpose of identifying bottlenecks and streamlining future versions. "It should make automating processes a whole lot easier," Kelman claimed.

Business processes can be built using parts of customized applications on the Force.com platform as well. Salesforce.com offers Apex as a business logic language for building database-centric applications to run on Force.com. By deploying a business process in the cloud where it's designed, the designer "eliminates the infrastructure burden that stands between a customer and the business process they want to automate," Kelman said.

That is, normally a business process would be developed outside the environment where it's going to be run and it needs to be transposed into a production environment. The need for such developer resources frequently slows new business process creation.

The Process Designer part of the product includes logic and workflow components used in many business processes, such as forms for obtaining user information, questions and choices, task assignments, decision trees and approval processes.

The Visual Process Manager became available recently to existing Enterprise and Unlimited Edition customers at a price of $50 per user per month.

Salesforce.com says customers have built 135,000 custom applications to run on the Force.com platform. In effect, these applications run in the same Salesforce.com online data centers that host Salesforce.com CRM and ERP applications.

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