Salesforce.com unveils business process tools

Visual Process Designer is aimed at the point-and-click crowd

Salesforce.com is broadening the range of its Force.com cloud development platform with a new visual tool set for designing business processes, the company announced Wednesday.

Visual Process Manager is the result of Salesforce.com's recent acquisition of U.K. firm Informavores. Using a flowchart-style, drag-and-drop interface, users can design a wide variety of business processes, from call center scripts to employee performance management. The tool employs building blocks such as question forms and decision trees.

It has four components, including the process designer, a "wizard builder" for creating step-by-step guides for end-users, a simulation tool for testing processes before they go live, and a process execution engine.

Completed processes, such as for getting an insurance quote, could also be surfaced through a corporate Web site, allowing the public to access them, said Ariel Kelman, vice president of platform marketing.

Pricing is US$50 per user per month for customers of Salesforce.com's Enterprise or Unlimited editions.

Visual Process Manager joins Salesforce.com's existing development tool set, which includes the Apex programming language and the Visualforce user interface design environment.

The announcement represents Salesforce.com's desire to increase the number of users that are developing software on its platform, said 451 Group analyst China Martens.

Several years ago, when the company first introduced Force.com, its focus on Apex and more sophisticated programming models meant it lost a big audience, Martens said. "They didn't go for the point-and-click guys," she said. "Lower-end people haven't really jumped on board as much as they thought they would."

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