Bonitasoft, Part 1: An Upbeat Provider of Open Source BPM Software

One area where open source software providers seem to be doing quite well is business process management (BPM), a discipline that focuses on continuously improving business processes, while taking an outside-in, customer-centric perspective. Think of solutions like Colosa’s ProcessMaker, Intalio, and Alfresco Software’s Activiti. In addition, while Red Hat is expected to make major announcements about its BPM offering (based on the 2012 Polymita acquisition and the Drools business rules engine), Bonitasoft has been for some time now posting stellar results. Bonitasoft is growing fast, with more than 2 million downloads, more than 600 customers, more than 100 employees, and a community of over 60,000 contributors (community members). Adding over 150 new customers per month and having its software downloaded every few seconds is not something to sneeze at.

Bonitasoft’s Genesis

Bonitasoft is a software company based on an open source technology that was created back in 2001 by its cofounder and current CEO Miguel Valdes Faura. The Bonita open source project began at the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA) to see if Java could be used to develop a high-performing process execution engine. Several years later, Miguel Valdés-Faura (CEO), Rodrigue Le Gall, and Charles Souillard founded Bonitasoft to bring a more complete solution to market. They have since blended the studio, portal (user experience), and execution engine components into one piece of software (see Figure 1). A business process management suite (BPMS) is generally defined as a set of technology tools for modeling, automating, monitoring, managing, and optimizing business processes.

Figure 1. Bonita Open BPM Modules and Features

The other thing that was missing in the marketplace was an affordable BPM solution that allowed organization and organizations within organizations to deploy process improvement applications quickly. Most BPM offerings consist of a monolithic BPMS. They need top-down initiation to flow through the entire organization (meaning projects end up spanning several years). Bonitasoft’s feeling is that nine out of ten times that is an impractical way to approach the problem. Instead, one really needs to start at the department level and work outward from that. With an open source and open (in terms of interoperability) provider like BonitaSoft, that is exactly what companies and their departments are able to get.

Today, the Bonita BPM supports six languages—English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German—and its community has contributed packs in many other languages, including Japanese. Between 2009 and 2013, the vendor raised more than $29 million by Ventech, Auriga Partners, and Serena Capital, as an indication of these investors’ confidence in the company’s growth potential.

Bonita Open BPM Difference

Bonitasoft believes that process owners represent an underserved market. The bigger BPM vendors look for global projects, but most projects are smaller than that. It is the department head or department manager who is responsible for the execution of process within an organization. It could be the head of human resources (HR) or the director of finance. Bonitasoft’s approach is to present an affordable solution in a subscription model, so it doesn’t need to be a large capital expenditure. The vendor is going to those department heads and saying “You have a problem. A good yet inexpensive BPM suite can help solve that problem.”

Bonitasoft’s best engagements are companies that have human-centric processes, where people and systems need to come together to execute a process. A lot of process owners believe the whiteboard is their BPMS. Bonitasoft disagrees and enjoys talking to forward-thinking process owners who believe that technology is a process enabler. That is who BonitaSoft wants to speak to—business users (process owners) that want to build more productive processes for their department, more quickly discover bottlenecks in their process, process more items with the same headcount, react more quickly with real-time monitoring, and get the IT staff to deliver the system they expected.

On the other hand, Bonitasoft helps technical users (IT staff) easily capture business requirements, quickly deploy Web-based process driven applications for the end users, quickly connect end users to other systems, monitor the performance of the application to ensure no loss of productivity, and prove technical value through increased departmental productivity. Last but not least, end users can better prioritize tasks, more quickly complete the tasks assigned to them, gain a better understanding of what has been completed during the process, and collaborate with other users to more quickly complete the process.

Western Europe, Spanish-speaking Latin America, and the U.S. have been and will continue to be Bonitasoft’s core selling regions. The vendor has dedicated sales, consulting, and marketing support for all of those regions. As for industry segments, it is seeing a lot of success in financial services, both in banking and insurance. In Europe, it is seeing a lot of pickup in public sector administration. Finally, in higher education, there has been significant growth, especially in North America. Figure 2 show some usage scenario examples. For the most recent Bonita BPM 6 release highlights, see my recent blog post.

Figure 2. Bonitasoft Typical Use Cases

Bonitasoft has more than 130 system integrator (SI) and technology partners worldwide, and claims to be fielding new applications every day. Some of the better-known names include Bull, Capgemini, Accenture, and Open Symmetry. Independent software vendors (ISVs), comprise about a dozen alliances, headed by names like Talend, Enkata, ComOps, and Serengeti Systems. The partner channel contributes about 20 percent of the revenue base. The vendor is continuing to roll out tools to improve the training of its SI partners to make sure they’re doing the best to serve their joint customers. Bonitasoft is also actively growing its ISV sales channel, investing in making its product more customizable.

As for major enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) alliances, there is strong connectivity to SAP, Oracle/Siebel,, and SugarCRM. These are better described as technology partnerships, not formal alliances. BonitaSoft works together with those companies to make sure Bonita BPM has a strong connection into those ERP and CRM systems. The real answer to integration and leveraging data is in Bonitasoft’s partnership with Talend’s enterprise system bus (ESB), which makes data integration available to all types of organizations. The two vendors work closely to make sure their technologies work well together. Much of the complexity of big data has to do with data manipulation required before it goes into the data warehouse. Many customers are using BonitaSoft to pull data out of one system, manipulate it, and put it into the data warehouse, where Talend-based integration can help.

A La Carte Menu for All Needs and Tastes

The basic open source Bonita BPM Community Edition is free, while other for-a-fee offerings come in multiple tiers of subscription packs. For every project, there is “what” a company needs to succeed and “how” it can achieve success using those “what” capabilities. For projects based on Bonitasoft products, the “what” includes the annual subscription pack with additional features to enable further development as well as maintenance and customer support.

“How” the company can achieve success is by maximizing the Bonitasoft tools in the way they were intended. This can come about through training on Bonitasoft products, as well as by consulting experts in delivering solutions, and by following industry best-practice methods and templates. Customers can accelerate their project with productivity features for teamwork and remote deployment, thoroughly tested connectors, Web applications templates, and documentation generation. They can also secure their project from the beginning with different customer support levels for incident management and bug fixing. Figures 3 and 4 outline the various customer choices of Bonita Open offerings.

Figure 3. Subscription Packs

Figure 4. Bonita Open Editions

Recommended Reading
Oracle Closes the Business-IT Gap with the Latest Oracle BPM Suite 11g Upgrade
AuraPortal: A BPM Vendor Worth Checking Out
PegaWorld 2011 Revisited

Part 2 will feature an interview with Bonitasoft’s vice president of marketing, Mac McConnell.
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