Salesforce Introduces Visual App Modeling

Andy Patrizio

Updated · Feb 04, 2010 (NYSE: CRM) today introduced Visual Process Manager for, a new rapid application development tool for users to build applications visually, entering just basic information like the data fields, and generating all of the code behind the scenes.

The Visual Process Manager toolset allows non-programmers to create complex business process applications by drawing boxes with interconnects. It's reminiscent of the ability to sketch out application flow design in Microsoft Visio or modeling languages like UML . The Process Wizard then handles building the app, simulation testing, and generating UI screens.

“Customers want to solve the problem of business processes. Our conversations with CIOs are increasingly going in that area. It used to be line-of-business executives would say ‘build me this app.' Now it's more of a collaborative discussion on how to automate these business processes,” Ariel Kelman, vice president of marketing, told

Visual Process Manager will support the development of applications across the enterprise, from HR automation for adding new employees, to maintaining government regulation compliance, to call centers that want to script the process of answering calls. “These companies are trying to document best practices for how an employee should work and this helps them do it,” Kelman said.

Since it's part of the platform, businesses can create business processes within their current Sales Cloud 2 and Service Cloud 2 deployments or custom applications. They can also export the forms they create to appear on the Web, so a Web page can embed forms to take user input.

The new offering's Process Designer component is where the application is drawn. It comes with a library of process components such as presentation components like forms, questions, and choices, and logic components, like task assignments, decision trees, and approval processes. The application is built by dragging and dropping these components on a canvas and building connections between them.

The Process Wizard Builder enables companies to create their own design wizards for building new applications. The Process Simulator lets developers test the application before deploying it, and the Real-time Process Engine generates the code and runs the app.

Kelman said Salesforce's customers pushed it in this direction because they didn't want to do all that manual coding.

“We had visual tools to design simple forms, but if you wanted a sophisticated UI logic flows, you would use code development tools to create HTML, JavaScript and Flash. A lot of customers built apps this way, but once we saw this was a common usage case, we felt it was important to offer a better way,” he said. Visual Process Manager is now generally available to existing Enterprise and Unlimited Edition subscribers for $50 per user per month. “Users” means both developers and end users of the application alike.

Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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