Provider Profiles: Bonitasoft

Craig Sharp

"Pay it forward" is a well-known phrase, but for the uninitiated, it is the act of the beneficiary of a good deed repaying it to others instead of the original benefactor. In the same way that today’s executive might’ve been given an opportunity or leg up by a mentor of the past only to then do the same for the next generation of employees, software developers are now also getting in on the act.

"Pay it forward," as well as being a catchy phrase loaded with positive sentiment, is also a good way to sum up software development company Bonitasoft. Started in June of 2009, the independent software developer is the creator of Bonita BPM, an open source BPM solution with an optional premium upgrade and support package.

Previously a team within Bull, a European system integrator, the three Bonitasoft founders had plenty of experience already in process management, having managed the BPM division for their employer prior to starting out on their own.

Bonitasoft CEO Miguel Valdês Faura remembers it clearly, "At the time we were managing the BPM division for Bull, the French integrator, and we thought that was the right moment to create an international company. We had the right technology and we’d already had some concrete success [with Bonita BPM], we also had the knowledge at this stage by not only implementing our own solution, but also implementing competing technologies with people like Oracle, IBM, Tibco."

Miguel and his partners were well aware that their start-up would be an underdog in the industry, but thrived on their challenger status. New customers would be taking a risk by investing in their young company. To overcome this risk and build trust, Miguel took an unconventional approach by releasing Bonita BPM as open source for anyone and everyone to review and use.

A full open source version of Bonita BPM was developed and released, providing a way for companies to try the new, untested product from the new, untested upstart without risking large amounts of infrastructure budget on an expensive new system. Once customers were happy, they’d then have the option of upgrading to a paid-for subscription which comes with additional features and technical support.

"I think the nature of the BPM market was perfect for an open source company. Competitors in 2009 were all traditional software companies, selling people a license for $300,000-$400,000 a project, usually targeting Fortune 500 companies. There was something missing; what if you’re not one of those big Fortune 500 companies? What if you are but just don’t have the budget to afford one of those solutions or you feel they’re simply too complex to make the investment? We thought the best way to change the game was to bend the rules a little and go for an open source solution," Miguel said. "Bonitasoft offers its technology for free, so it’s worth giving it a try, no?"

And try it they did. Today Bonitasoft boasts over 1000 clients, with big names including Accenture, Orange Telecom, Cisco and Rightmove UK all now using Bonita BPM. "Today we have customers in 70 different countries, the whole company has been built with an international offering in mind, and that’s not something that you do step by step. You are exposed to this from day one."

Giving the development heroes freedom of choice

Bonitasoft takes pride in its international customer base, and feels that it’s reflected within the company also. Miguel is particularly proud and is happy to highlight the cultural smorgasboard that has been pivotal to the company’s success. "We have 25 nationalities among 140 employees in the company. I think it’s been vital. Since 2009 Bonitasoft has been exposed to the international market, managing this growth at an international level hasn’t been easy, but it’s certainly been vital."

Miguel has a very clear idea of the kind of person who thrives at Bonitasoft HQ. When asked about the company culture, it’s apparent that this isn’t a company for the docile or indifferent people. "We’re looking for people that are seeking a new challenge. I always say if you’re just looking for a job, don’t come here, but if you’re looking for a challenge and you want to be challenged on a day-to-day basis, then Bonitasoft is the place for you."

Having only recently reached the 1000th customer milestone, Bonitasoft has been in celebration mode. I ask where the company is going next? What’s on the horizon? Miguel, of course, tells me the same thing that many software providers do – the future lies in user-friendliness and the future lies in the cloud. But his reasoning is flawless: It all comes back to Bonitasoft’s idea of sharing innovation and paying it forward – freedom of choice for software users.

"We want developers to be heroes. We want developers to delight their business users and we are convinced that the developers are the key players in a BPM implementation. We want to release a lot of new capabilities and modules that are going to make the lives of those guys easier."

"1000 customers in 70 countries: It was a very nice milestone for us, but we’ll continue to expand our reach and seek out new opportunities. We have an alpha trial for our cloud offering currently under way. Why? Because we want to bring the freedom to our users to choose how and where they can access their software, we’re making life easier for people and giving them choices, so the cloud platform is going to be key to our future."

Written by Craig Sharp