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Building a strong foundation for BPM software through Open Source

Contributor: Craig Sharp
Posted: 08/19/2014
Craig Sharp
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In preparation for the our week long webinar event, BPM Open House, PEX Network Editor, Craig Sharp, spoke to Miguel Valdês Faura, CEO and co-founder of Bonitasoft about the company’s open source strategy and the importance of an open source culture in spreading the good word of BPM.

Craig Sharp: I wanted to start the interview by finding out a little bit about you. I understand you have quite an interesting backstory, your entry into the industry, so if you could tell us a little bit about where you began your career in BPM?

Miguel Valdês Faura: Of course. It was actually my first job after university. That was back in 2000 and at that time I decided to leave my country of origin, Spain, and the city of Barcelona, to move north to France.

My first job was in a research lab called Inria, where I was working with a team of researchers on technologies and different ways you can improve collaboration between people, and BPM started to be really close to me. So in this team the technology for collaboration that we created and implemented is what we today promote and deliver as part of Bonita BPM, so everything started in 2000 in this research lab.

Craig Sharp: How did the concept for the open source platform come about?

Miguel Valdês Faura: As I mentioned, we were looking for new ways to improve our collaboration inside companies and this is also all about processes, so we were looking to a new technology to improve this collaboration. So this is the beginning of the story of Bonita, I was developing this technology and I decided to push really hard on using open source as a way to promote this technology. So this is how everything started.

Craig Sharp: And how did the company, Bonitasoft, come about?

Miguel Valdês Faura: That happened later on, in 2009. Why we had to wait that long is that we wanted to be sure we really understood the market. We had the chance to work, not only on a research lab, but also on the industry. We actually transferred the technology from this research lab to one major system integrator in France -- Bull -- and we were implementing projects in different industries ranging from aeronautics to banking to insurance with Bonita BPM, but also with other technologies in the BPM space. We decided to wait until we were sure that we first had the knowledge of the technology ready to go, a community of people already using it worldwide, concrete implementations and a really good knowledge of our competition, who was doing it. So when we had all that, we thought that we were ready to create what is today this international company called Bonitasoft. That was in 2009.

Craig Sharp: So it was important to you that a strong foundation was built first for the company?

Miguel Valdês Faura: Exactly. And, I think that when we look to the other success stories in open source, with open source business models, most of them started that way. First, you see people that were really involved in a market and they see something that needs to be improved, so they start working on a technology. Then they open this technology to other people that are going to contribute, and most of the successful open source technologies, starting from Linux and ending with, for example, Talend recently. Everything started with people that really know a market segment and want to supply some innovation and then they open this innovation to others. So that’s exactly what we did.

Craig Sharp: You’ve mentioned open source; of course open source is a key selling point of Bonita BPM. Why do you feel so strongly, though, that open source BPM solutions are important?

Miguel Valdês Faura: I think open source plays a key role in democratizing and making technologies more accessible in any enterprise software market. So that happened in any other market like BI, ESB market, portal market, document management, CRM. In all those markets we’ve seen how strong open source companies are behind them, and I think that that’s exactly what we started in 2009 with Bonitasoft. We wanted to democratize the market. We wanted to bring it to a mature but a little bit closed market dominated by big vendors, targeting a small number of projects in organizations, to have more people adopting it from small organizations to big organizations, but different departments in big organizations as well, and so to make this technology more accessible, I think that’s what open source in the enterprise market is bringing. So, it’s expanding the market opportunity by having more people using your software. Of course it is also driving innovation, because to make that happen, the software needs to be easier to use than traditional software, it needs to also bring results really fast, but at the same time it’s scalable to be sure that you can target mission critical deployment in Fortune 500 companies. So that’s the idea about everything that we did at Bonitasoft and I think that this is a valid statement for any enterprise software market.

Craig Sharp: Okay, thank you. Finally, Miguel, I wanted to ask you, what do you feel are the key reasons that a business should adopt a BPM platform?

Miguel Valdês Faura: It depends on the maturity of every company, but most companies start with [one department], because they feel a need for automated process in the organization in only one department and of course automating those processes, it’s one of the key targets of a BPM solution. Then we see people that are a little bit more mature, that they want to not only automate those processes but build new services, build new business applications and improve overall the operational performance of their company or one department or one division. But at the end of the day -- and this is a key metric that we are pushing from the very beginning at Bonitasoft -- people are on a daily basis building new business applications, and there are two ways to build those business applications: Either you hardcode and you do custom code those applications using your favorite language, or you decide to use a BPM solution in which you put all the business logic in process and then you build applications that are going to be easier to maintain. I would say that, again, it depends. Automating processes, gaining an operational efficiency and performance but, again, I think that the opportunity is definitely bigger. That’s what we have seen in the last couple of years, because any company that needs at some point to create a new business application or improve an existing application will leverage or would see the benefit of using a BPM solution.

Craig Sharp: Thank you. There’s one final question I want to ask it’s unplanned, but I feel it’s quite relevant to our conversation. There are a number of BPM solutions out there. Business process management is a complex topic at the best of times. Given the number of different software solutions that are out there, the different business models that they follow, the different services that they offer, it can be quite daunting for some people starting on this process. What do you feel are the first steps in a BPM journey to adopting a platform?

Miguel Valdês Faura: The best way to start is to think about a first process that you want to improve or a new service that you want to create because it’s missing in the organization, and that this is going to be the most complex one to implement but it’s going to bring immediate results. So sometimes, most of the BPM vendors say it as well: OK, you review the scope and start by something really simple. I would say start by something really simple but that has a really big impact in the organization. So, for example, if something is not working well in your human resources department -- and this is a major problem for you starting from the CEO to any one of the managers in the organization. If this is really a pain for you, start with this one. It’s not a mission-critical project for your business, but it’s going to bring immediate results. So that will be my suggestion. Start with something that is small, but at the same time can have a big impact as soon as you address it.

Craig Sharp
Contributor: Craig Sharp