Camunda Platform Review

Component reusability saves us development time, but the learning curve is too steep


What is our primary use case?

We use Camunda for the automation of the workflow and business process designer. We use the module cockpit and the workflow engine to orchestrate the process. We are a consulting company and we're not doing this for internal purposes. We mostly do this for projects, and these projects are for our clients.

The environment where we work is very dynamic and is changing a lot. So based on the circumstances, we mostly work on the delivery parts, as in project deliveries. At the beginning of the year, we have a clear scope, clear targets, but down the road, we face a lot of challenges where we face many dependencies. We need to constantly go around the dependencies and change things back and forth.

We have a lot of experience in the development, on the ERP, and so forth. We have seen that investing in a tool like Camunda is valuable, especially because it's an open-source product. When you do the customization, you'll be enriching and increasing the automation possibility of the product. So, the value is always increasing.

What is most valuable?

The best feature is the automation.

Camunda supports microservices and you can do multiple things. The most important thing is that you can reuse components that you have within the product. For example, let's say that I developed a workflow for a quality review; that is a workflow that can be reused in any new process. I can just ship it, plug-and-play, copy it, and reuse all of the features and components that are there. It means that I won't be spending too much time in terms of development to put it in place. To me, that is the most valuable thing about the product.

What needs improvement?

The only drawback is the time that it takes to have a complete set of workflows implemented on the Camunda platform. This is from drawing the modeling and the workflow up to the production release.

The support definitely has to be improved.

Second, it needs to be more intuitive. As it is now, to develop an automated process in Camunda, you would need to involve a front end developer, backend developer, and sometimes, someone who has experience with modeling. Where in Appian and Pega, you would be able to simply reduce these overheads by creating the process, the flow, and converting it within certain boundaries into the automated process.

The visualization part can definitely be improved. You can see the process moving live, but if you have a complex design where you would like to show the process in a different shape, that takes a lot of customization and a lot of coding effort to put this in place. The visualization needs not a little or a medium amount of work, but rather, it requires a lot of improvement. At the end of the day, we have the process, we have the workflow, we have the event, we have everything. However, what the people see at the end of the day is what they believe. So sometimes we know that we do have a lot of data and a lot of information, but we fail to represent this information in a way that meets or addresses the business requirements. Better visualization capabilities would help in this regard.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been working with Camunda BPM for almost two years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I would say that it is stable, at least up to a certain extent. Whenever there is an update to the product available, we go ahead and update it to the latest.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

This is a scalable platform. We have about 600 users and about 20 superusers. The superusers are developers, admins, and process engineers. They are a mix of process, business support, mobile app developers, and so forth.

How are customer service and technical support?

Support is an area that is in need of improvement.

First, they don't have a strong knowledge center. If there is a challenge or there is an issue and you would like to look around, it's not straightforward. Their knowledge center does not address most of the challenges that a person who goes through the cycle from scratch. In building the process and building the products and building the workflow, a person will go through a painful process if they don't have enough experience.

When I say enough experience, I mean a minimum of 16 to 18 months. If someone doesn't have this experience on Camunda, it will be difficult and they will suffer to get things up to speed. The learning curve is too high, so they can do more if they enrich their knowledge center.

The second problem is that the support services from Camunda are not straightforward. When we communicate with them, they have to evaluate you. Sometimes they charge you per workflow, but there is no standard model. It is difficult for us because we have an agreement with the client that at the beginning of that project, we put in our estimation as to the required resources in terms of the infrastructure resources, and in terms of logistic resources, and support. With Camunda, because of the undefined or non-standard costing, that becomes a challenge.

So sometimes we go to a client and we see that the support costs will be much higher than the benefit of the digitalization. That's an example where we decide to do only the modeling for that client using Camunda and the classic workflow development will take place. This is the case, especially for small and medium businesses. For enterprise clients, definitely, we always go with full-fledged support.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I have limited experience with Appian and Pega BPM, but my most in-depth experience is with Camunda BPM. We did a pilot project with Appian for one or two months and we did one with Pega for about one month.

During our evaluation, we have seen that there are pros and cons to all of them.

We also used K2 as one of the platforms, as well as Microsoft BPM. The Microsoft product was a combination between Dynamics and SharePoint and so forth, it was really rigid. Similarly, K2 has a lot of limitations.

This is important because once we get the business requirements, we adapt to the system. We don't force the business to change, especially in this region. We are in the Middle East, Gulf area, and working with the government sector means that they have their own standards that we need to comply with. They have their own procedures where the tools, the IT, and the process have to be adjusted to meet their requirements. For example, consider a supply chain and the procurement process. This is different from one organization to another.

This is the main thing that holds us back from investing in a system like Pega. Pega, to a certain extent, is good. It has most of the capabilities. It also gives you the room to customize to the extent that you feel fit. However, the cost is too high. When we talk about the licensing costs and the customization costs, it's extremely expensive and out of reach.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was not straightforward. The complex part was to load or update the backlogged events. So if I have a process, which is already past the flow to a certain stage, after the implementation, if I did not start from scratch, you would need to make the data or the workflow that you have current with the process. Making it current with the live process monitoring is a nightmare. It takes a lot of development effort, a lot of data validation, and a lot of workarounds to bring this up to speed.

I have not seen that there is too much support in being able to bring in existing services. For example, if someone has an existing process, an existing instance with existing data, which is not linked, there is no explanation of what the best approach is and how to load and how to bring this into the new process and make it current, covering the backlog.

This is especially true if the backlog is something that would be crucial for some of the processes that are down-line. For example, in the case where you have a successor process where it depends on the predecessor too much in terms of the decision, and also in terms of that project. Normally, we deal with delivery on projects, so we look at the delivery and the forecast and the delays. So to see the project delays, sometimes we need to go back in time to see whether the delay was in the first stage or on the second stage or on the third stage. Based on this analysis, we always create our baseline by the end of the year and reiterate on our scopes at the beginning of the year.

What about the implementation team?

We have an in-house team of two resources that maintain the product.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

The cost of this solution is better than some competing products.

What other advice do I have?

My advice for anybody who is considering Camunda BPM is that they implementing a PoC first.

I would rate this solution a six out of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Hybrid Cloud
**Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: partner
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