More BPMN in the Cloud - Signavio

I've taken an interest in cloud-based modeling tools, so I decided to check out a new one from Signavio. This is a German company related somehow to Gero Decker and colleagues at HPI, the authors of that steamy BPMN "novella," The Process. A 30-day trial is free. Here's a quick review.

  • You have to sign a click-through agreement in German to get started. Oh well, who reads those things anyway?
  • You can invite others to share your online space, which stores models in a repository.
  • The BPMN editor requires Firefox 3.0 to run. They don't tell you that until you actually try to create a diagram. That's annoying.
  • Besides BPMN they also support ARIS EPC. OK, it's Germany...
  • It supports the ful BPMN 1.x palette, and the website says they are adding BPMN 2.0 "soon." Very nice. Lombardi Blueprint has just a limited subset. For BPMN 2.0 support, they seem fired up about Conversations and Choreography... strange.
  • Also, unlike Blueprint you can actually export the diagram info in XML. It's a proprietary format but easily mapped via xslt to xpdl or BPMN 2.0.
  • All the BPMN 1.x attributes can be edited in a popup property sheet. But they don't seem to change the diagram. For instance, you can set a task type, but there is no icon in the diagram. I suppose that applies to things like loop markers, etc., as well.
  • There is no documentation or help. But you can email questions to them for help. Yeah, right. Weak.
  • Hovering over a hotspot on a selected node in the diagram, there is a graphical "menu" of connector and node shapes, similar to Lombardi Blueprint except a bit harder to use. If you want to draw a second sequence flow out of a node, you need to draw one to a dummy activity, move the sequence flow to the real target, and then delete the dummy activity. At least that's the only way I could figure out how to do it. (Blueprint is only slightly better.)
  • From a collapsed subprocess, hyperlink to a separate diagram to create the expanded view. The model keeps them together (at least for navigation). That's pretty nice.
  • No label allowed on a gateway. What's up with that? You need to add it as a text annotation.
  • You can save versions in the repository, but it doesn't have the nice snapshot and revert capabilities of Blueprint.
After the trial period, of course, you have to pay. The price seems high for what you get. It's EUR 30 per month for the basic edition and EUR 75 per month for the enterprise edition. Not sure if that's per team or per user... I guess that would make a difference. The enterprise edition has a lot more functionality, like saving to xpdl or bpel (I assume saving to bpmn 2.0 will be enterprise-only too, not sure...)

The thing that I'm not crazy about is that the diagrams just don't look that good. Mostly the problem is lack of bendpoints in the connectors, and the way labels look. For this kind of money I would expect better. For example, here is a diagram used for the Level 1 ("Descriptive BPMN") portability work in XPDL, first in Signavio and then in the ITP desktop tool I use in my training.



Others might disagree, but for me there's no comparison. And if you don't need to export to xpdl or do simulation or validation, the ITP tool is free. The funny thing is, Signavio is based on a free online BPMN editor called Oryx, available from HPI's website, and the Oryx diagrams look better.


I'm not sure what Signavio's value-add is, maybe the online team repository, but in the diagram itself it looks like a value-subtract.