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Bonitasoft, Part 2: Interview with Marketing VP Mac McConnell

Written By: Predrag Jakovljevic
Published On: August 2 2013

Part 1 offered some background on Bonitasoft, provider of open source business process management (BPM) software, and highlighted its approach of targeting process owners.

macmcconnell.pngTo further flesh out Bonitasoft’s value prop, we recently talked to Mac McConnell, Bonitasoft’s vice president of marketing. He is responsible for all aspects of global marketing, including brand awareness, communications, demand and lead generation, and go-to-market strategy. He comes to Bonitasoft from BlueBird Strategies, a San Francisco-based lead generation advisory firm that he co-founded and served as managing partner. Previously, McConnell was Global Marketing Lead for Sun Microsystems’ mid-market group, where he developed successful programs that generated over $400 million in sales pipeline.

TEC: Are there any evident remaining white spaces (functional gaps, based on customer inquiries and competitive face-offs) in your offering, and how do you plan to fill them?
MM: We’re seeing three big movements in BPM right now: mobile, the connections to other systems, and analytics (both on process data and business data). We have solid capabilities in each area and are beginning to see good customer uptake, so we’re devoting a lot of research and development resources to these areas.

TEC: Do you have predictive analytics (next best offer, etc.) capabilities, such as those offered by IBM SPSS and Pegasystems/Chordiant, to name a couple?
MM: Not in the traditional sense, but what we do have is a very robust decision engine that would allow you to preprogram specific paths based on information the system sees.

TEC: Is social media a requirement for your target market, and what are you doing in that regard?
MM: We’re not seeing a need for “social BPM” per se. Our customers are not coming to us looking for that. What they’re looking for is an increase in process-driven application adoption. The best way to do that is to link the business process with installed social apps; it could be Salesforce Chatter, it could be Jive, it could be outside social streams like Facebook or LinkedIn. Because we are so passionate about openness and connectivity, that’s the best way that solve the social needs of our customers. We have a good connection with the social systems they have in place.

TEC: Is mobility a requirement for your target market?
MM: Yes, there are two elements of mobility in the BPM space. One is process initiation. Say somebody wants to complete a form, take a picture, send a tweet, or send an e-mail from his or her device. The BPM needs to be listening and monitoring those channels to physically kick off the process.

The second element of mobility is to allow process to continue through the mobile device. So if you have a process approver somewhere in the system, that person can do his or her job on a mobile device. We are focusing a lot of effort in both of those areas to make sure process can be kicked off through some mobile action as well as to make sure anybody who’s involved in the process can take appropriate actions using a mobile device.

TEC: How about multitenant cloud BPM? Don't you feel a bit behind the times offering on-premises only?
MM: No, we don’t feel behind the times, as we are already cloud-enabled. Customers are deploying their process application to either private or public clouds. That is a bit of a confusing thing for the BPM industry—what does “cloud-enabled” mean? Is it designing the process in the cloud? Or running the process in the cloud? With Bonitasoft, you can run your process application in the cloud.

We have not seen demand from companies wanting to design their process in the cloud, and we don’t think that’s going to change. You lose significant functionality if you have to shift your very high-powered process design studio to the cloud. Instead customers want to work with their teams designing their process in a local environment, and then deploy to the cloud so it can be accessed from anywhere. Bonita already supports that.

TEC: How do you view the host of other open source BPM players (e.g., ProcessMaker, Red Hat/Polymita/Drools, Activity, etc.)? Are they a disruptive threat to you, and the BPM market in general, or not really?
MM: Our roots are in open source, so we are really big fans and supporters of other open source BPM projects. The big difference is that most of those open source BPM players do not have complete BPM suites. They don’t have robust studio functionality coupled with a user portal, form builder, and execution engine all wrapped up in system that can create a process-driven application (see Figure 5). Because of the missing functionality of those tools, we don’t view them as a direct threat, and instead find ourselves bumping up against name-brand, proprietary players in sales cycles.

bonita-bpms-clean.png
Figure 5. Bonita Open BPMS

TEC: What is keeping you up at night? What do you fear the most in the market?
MM: There are two big things. One is not ever realizing the BPM dream that we’ve all been talking about for 20-plus years. The continuing confusion and difficulty of applying good process to an organization is holding all BPM players back. As we’ve seen in the recent economic downturn, companies have cut down on human staff and tried to make up for it with systems. That’s putting a lot of pressure on the people that are left, just to get their daily tasks done. They no longer have time to think holistically and be forward thinking about how they can improve this process for themselves, for the organization, and for the end users who have to execute these processes.

Second, more business applications will be building workflow engines and BPM capabilities into their applications. I could see it being a requirement for HR, sales, or finance applications to have a process management component to it. That creates opportunity for Bonitasoft in our partnerships with ISVs and technology providers, but it also creates some risk. If BPM is native in every application, there isn’t as much of a need for an independent BPMS like us. That said, that’s a longer-view fear. There are so many different technologies competing with each other; Bonitasoft has a nice position as an open standards-based BPM that facilitates communication with various businesses. Right now we’re in a sweet spot. As applications evolve there could be a fear that BPM becomes part of your standard cloud and desktop applications.

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