How an open source business process management suite helps CIOs reduce maintenance costs. Let’s meet Bonitasoft.
Business Process Management isn’t usually thought of as something pretty: it’s usually described with masculine words such as efficient, effective or value-generating. But when researchers at France’s National Institute for Research in Computer Science (INRIA) were looking for a name for their collaborative workflow project, they turned to Spanish engineer Miguel Valdés Faura. He said their BPM solution would be the sexiest on the market, and called it ‘Bonita,’ which means pretty in Spanish.
So what is BPM? Basically, it’s a way of making businesses and organizations work better. In many cases that means automating processes such as managing loan requests in banks, or recording insurance claims.
What makes Bonitasoft ‘sexy’ is their recognition that automating a process is often not the last step. This is particularly true since the digital revolution accelerated the pace of technological change – meaning many businesses need to constantly update their processes. The way this is usually done is by building applications on top of existing processes, which can be messy – even for IT wizards.
Bonitasoft strives to make processes as easy to use as they are to build, with a platform enabling companies to develop applications and maintain them over time, which is very sexy indeed (especially for Chief Information Officers).
The CIO’s main responsibility is to manage their organization’s computer systems. Often, 85% of their budget is swallowed by maintenance, when what they really want to do is build new technology to expand their businesses. The Bonitasoft platform reduces maintenance costs significantly by making it easy to make improvements.
The story began in 2001 at INRIA when researcher François Charoy and engineer Miguel Valdés Faura released the first version of the Bonita open source project. Bonita was then used in industry, where the project was incubated for several years at French computer firm Bull. In 2009, Miguel was joined by Charles Souillard and Rodrigue Le Gall, and together they founded Bonitasoft – transforming the publicly funded research project into a commercial company.
Today, they are an international team of a hundred people in France and the United States spread between four offices: Paris, Grenoble (where it all began, and where the R&D team is located), San Francisco and New York. Clients include many members of the French stock market index CAC 40 and the Fortune 100 largest companies in the United States. In all, they have 1,000 customers in 75 countries.
BPM is, of course, a crowded market. Bonitasoft beat off competition by designing a lighter, scalable, modular and more customizable solution. Because it was also available in open source, customers had a free try. They could download it, start using it, and pay for the commercial version only when they were satisfied. Bonitasoft also introduced a subscription model, a rarity in 2009 that has been much copied since.
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