The announcement from Lombardi Software that it will add a software-as-a-service (SaaS) component, dubbed Blueprint to its on-premises business process modelling (BPM) suite highlights both the continuing growth of the hosted model and its limitations.

In offering Blueprint, Lombardi becomes one of the first vendors to offer a SaaS solution for BPM. However, Blueprint is not Lombardi's entire BPM suite. Rather it is one component, covering the preliminary process discovery portion of BPM during which people-to-people collaboration is essential. An end-to-end SaaS solution for BPM may still be a way off.

The hosted solution uses a shared workspace within the browser that non-technical users can use, but it also supports the BPM Notation standard for business analysts comfortable working with a standard industry tool.

The underlying data model for the on-premises and SaaS components are identical so that once the processes that need improvement are defined the data is sent back and forth to the hosted solution behind the firewall through a feed similar to RSS.

According to Phil Gilbert, Lombardi chef technology officer, SaaS is the right delivery mechanism to tap the many different players who only understand their piece of the workflow puzzle.

"No one understands big processes from end to end," Gilbert said, adding that he believes in order to assemble a cross-functional team of players, especially when that team is in many cases global and on different systems, SaaS can be used to lower the barrier of participation.

The biggest roadblock to the deployment of an end-to-end SaaS solution for BPM or for any other core enterprise application remains access to the data, he said.

For example, to deploy a full BPM SaaS solution a company would have to send proprietary data outside the firewall. "We are a long way off before major companies are willing to transmit their mission critical data across the web," Gilbert said.