The Camunda BPM tool can help you with workflow management and business process automation. Let us show you its advantages, possible bottlenecks and existing alternatives – based on the experience we acquired when building a few complex proof-of-concept systems that used Camunda.
Managing workflows and business processes is incredibly important nowadays. It helps companies save time and money – a report by Forrester highlighted that BPM (Business Process Management) projects result in 30-50% productivity gains for processes involving back-office employees (primarily). When it comes to knowledge workers, the productivity gains are around 15-30%.
Long story short, taking care of your workflows is one of the best ways to gain an advantage over your competitors. Good software – like Camunda – can help you do that much easier. In the last months, we’ve built a few proof-of-concept (PoC) Camunda systems for our clients (mainly from the aviation industry). Here’s what we’ve learned.
Basic definitions – BPMN, Workflow, Process Modeler
Before we move to details, let us first present some basic definitions you’ll need to understand the content of this article.
The term “workflow” refers to a series of connected steps that make up a process. It is typically used to refer to the automated processes that are used by businesses and organizations to ensure that their operations run smoothly. Workflow management is the process of managing and organizing the various steps of a workflow, ensuring that the steps are executed in the correct order and at the right time.
When we write about the “process modeler”, we mean a software application used to create and manage business processes. It helps organizations better visualize, analyze, and improve their business processes. The process modeler usually provides an intuitive graphical interface which makes it easy to create and edit models. It also allows users to simulate the process and analyze its performance.
BPMN, or Business Process Model and Notation, is an industry-standard graphical representation of workflow management. It is a set of symbols, shapes, and notations that represent business processes. It provides a common language for business process modeling and allows business analysts, IT departments, and other stakeholders to visualize, understand, and manage process flow.
What is Camunda?
Camunda is a powerful open-source (in the case of Community Edition) platform that allows users to model, execute, and monitor business processes throughout their lifecycle. It was created in 2013 by a Berlin-based company that forked another popular BMP product – Alfresco Activiti (you’ll find a comparison of these solutions later in the article).
Camunda is a lightweight workflow and decision automation engine that enables users to create and deploy process models in various formats. It’s efficient and has a wide range of features that allow users to create and manage automated processes.
Camunda is available in two variants: the free Camunda 7, also known as the Community Edition, and the commercialized Camunda 8 – Enterprise Edition. Pricing of the latter starts at $49/month (though, to make things more confusing, there’s also a limited free version). However, the first pricing plan only includes one deployed model, up to 10 users, 50 decision instances, and 50 process instances per month.
Which edition to choose?
In theory, the Enterprise Edition is the more powerful option. However, both of our Camunda-based proofs of concept (PoC) were made using the Community version, and in our opinion, it doesn’t lack any features. It might be slightly harder to implement since it may require some workarounds here and there, but it gives you everything you need in a BPM platform.
It’s also worth noting that Camunda 7’s Full Support will last at least until April 2027, so you don’t have to worry about being left behind.
Here are the most important reasons to consider using Camunda in your business:
- Native BPMN notations – Camunda platform uses native BMPN notations which makes generated workflow models generic and easy to migrate between different solutions.
- Easy-to-understand, up-to-date documentation – with BPMN notation, you can define many business requirements using a diagram. Such documentation is easily understood by both business stakeholders and technical people, which is undoubtedly a great asset in the software development process. The developed flow diagrams always reflect the state of production at a given moment, because the same diagrams appear as analytical documentation and are used directly in the application code.
- Cloud support – you can use Camunda in a cloud environment without any issues.
- The ability to change the workflow on the flow – you can change the workflow “live” because Camunda supports versioning.
- Robust DB support – you can use Camunda with many well-known databases such as MySQL, MariaDB, Oracle DB, IBM DB2, Postgres, Aurora, MSSQL, H2, and CockRoachDB.
- Good performance and scalability – Camunda can be used in big companies processing lots of data and it’s easy to scale.
- Access to production history – you have a history of what was deployed in the production environment, which makes the management of the solution itself easier.
- It’s free – you can use the Community Edition to great effect without paying a single dollar.
- Tried and tested – Camunda is a well-known solution, and there’s no point in reinventing the wheel if you have a process engine ready to use.
- Well-known standards – Camunda uses XML / JSON and the BPMN 2.0 standard, instead of solutions owned and used by only one company. Thanks to this, process modeling is not very complicated – a mid-level Analyst will easily be able to do it.
Camunda BPM – challenges and problems
Camunda also has some limitations you need to consider. Here are some of the most important issues that we noticed when working with this technology:
- It’s a good foundation, but still, just a foundation – Camunda is a powerful workflow engine, but it’ll still require some software development.
- Internal use only – this is a tool to use within your company. If you want to make it available outside, share it with someone (or even use it inside the company, but with different access ranges), then you’ll have to consider security (SSO, Yaml). For example, in our project, we’ve added our own abstraction layer to the existing API to ensure proper security.
- Front-end has to be developed – in theory, Camunda does create a front-end component, but it just isn’t very good. In most cases, you’ll have to develop a custom solution instead.
🤔 Are you thinking about implementing Camunda in your company? Just let us know using the contact form below, and we’ll arrange free consultations to share our know-how with you.
Of course, Camunda isn’t the only BPMsolution on the market. There are many alternatives with varying degrees of focus on process automation (sometimes, such features are parts of bigger systems). In this section, we’ll highlight some of them and show you how they compare with Camunda.
Camunda vs Activiti
Alfresco Activiti is the solution that Camunda was initially based on, but nowadays, there are some serious differences between them. It’s also an open-source, free BPM platform (with a commercial version called Alfresco Process Services).
Activiti offers several useful features, such as (among other things):
- Cloud Connectors – a way to simplify system-to-system interactions
- Application Service – a scalable, distributed layer for application aggregation
- Notification Service – GraphQL integration offers subscription and Websocket handling
- Query and Audit Services – both are independent of storage and highly scalable
- Runtime Bundle – runtimes that easily integrate with a cloud environment
Camunda vs Activity – differences
- Camunda allows you to use FormBuilder with Angular. You can create form definitions in the Camunda modeler and then use them on the front end with the Camunda API. Activiti doesn’t offer this functionality
- Camunda offers a higher number of ready-made connectors than Activiti
- Camunda has a great ready-made UI and dashboards – it’s a tool that can be used and understood not only by developers but also business stakeholders. In Activiti, dashboards have to be custom-developed
Camunda vs Webcon
Webcon is a low-code BPM platform created by a Polish company of the same name. It’s a more comprehensive tool than Camunda with a wider array of uses, focused more on process automation than modeling. However, it can also help you diagnose and map your workflows.
Here are some of the notable features of Webcon:
- Workflow Designer – you can design workflows using a drag&drop interface
- Workflow Automation – you can build dynamic forms without coding, and you can access them on various browsers and devices.
- Digital Forms – a powerful editor that allows you to define the logic of your apps
- Document Automation – you can base BPM workflows on external events, using data from CRM, ERP, etc.
Camunda vs Webcon – differences
- Webcon is a bit like a low-code platform – you can do more things without costly software development
- If someone wants an almost ready-made solution, Webcon is a solid option
- More complex solutions still require development, and it is especially hard to combine Webcon with ready-made components and technologies – for such projects Camunda is a better choice
Camunda vs PowerApps
Microsoft PowerApps is a cloud-based platform for building and sharing business applications. It’s a complex solution that offers plenty of possibilities besides BPM – for example, it enables developers and non-developers alike to create apps quickly and easily, without coding. However, this tool can also be used to create business process flows.
Here are some of the features offered by PowerApps:
- PowerApps Studio – you can build apps from pre-built components, using a drag&drop interface without any coding required
- PowerApps Gallery – provides users with a range of templates for creating various types of systems, such as surveys, forms, and more
- PowerApps Admin Center – allows users to manage their apps, including assigning roles and permissions, managing data sources, and setting up notifications
- PowerApps Monitor – allows users to track the usage and performance of their apps, helping them to optimize their apps for maximum efficiency
Camunda vs PowerApps – differences
- It’s a Microsoft product – you can expect stellar support from a big, international company
- PowerApps work similarly to Webcon, which means they’re easy to use – but they also give you more options and possibilities than the Polish solution
- If you’re planning to use PowerApps’ features other than those BPM-related, it may be convenient to have them all on one platform
- PowerApps are quite expensive – the costs listed on the website may not seem like much (starting price is €4,20 per user per month) but they quickly add up
- PowerApps is not a specialized BPM solution, and Camunda is still a better choice for complex, enterprise-grade custom projects focused mostly on business process modelling
Other BPM and process automation/orchestration solutions
Here are some other Camunda alternatives you might consider for your projects. In no particular order:
Summary: Camunda BPM is worth considering
As you can see, Camunda is a powerful choice for a business process management platform. It offers plenty of great features and advantages. The cool thing about it, however, is that you get pretty much all of the important things in the Community Edition, so the solution is also very cost-effective.
Are you considering Camunda for your IT project? Save yourself some hassle and contact us at email@example.com (or use the contact form is below). We’ll happily help you make the best out of this technology.
Camunda BPM FAQ
Here are answers to some common Camunda BPM questions you can find on the Internet.
What is Camunda?
It is an open-source human workflow management system that helps organizations automate their processes, improve visibility and collaboration, and optimize their operations.
What is the use of Camunda BPM?
You can use Camunda BPM to design, optimize, manage, and automate business processes.
What is the point of Camunda?
Camunda helps companies improve the efficiency of their internal processes, and optimize user tasks, which results in better productivity.
Is Camunda a database?
Camunda is not a database per se, but it comes with an embedded DB called H2, which you can use in a Java environment.
What does Camunda Enterprise cost?
Camunda Enterprise Edition pricing starts at $49/month.