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IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: The Current State of Technology in the Domain of Business Process Management

July 31, 2019 No Comments

IT Briefcase talks to Miguel Valdes Faura, CEO and co-founder of Bonitasoft, on the 10th anniversary of his company about the current state of technology in the domain of Business Process Management. Miguel rather famously claimed “BPM is not dead” at BPM2017. Where is BPM today?

Miguel talked with us about new technology developments in Cloud, Robotic Process Automation, digital process automation, and low code platforms for developers – all of which have pumped new life into this decades-old technology.

  • Bonitasoft has just released its Cloud edition. What are the advantages of deployment of business processes on the cloud?

Cloud deployments are done on the latest technology stack managed and maintained by a dedicated team that’s external to the enterprise using it for its applications. This offers a number of advantages to a company that deploys mission-critical business processes on a cloud. Reduced cost is one of them; the business does not need to invest in provisioning infrastructure, or in a team to maintain it and guarantee availability or continuity of service.

Another advantage is lower risk. Essentially every company that deploys business processes has its own specific combination of technologies for development, testing, pre-production, and production. Ensuring that every element works, and trouble-shooting when it doesn’t, is a pretty substantial undertaking. Deploying on a cloud means using tested, dependable infrastructure, and the cloud team responsible for it knows it well to handle problems when they arise.

Cloud deployment also generally enables cost-effective and fast scalability, as the company using it can pay for more cloud infrastructure and support only when it’s needed.

  • RPA is a hot technology right now. Does RPA replace the need for BPM?

Business process management back in the day was seen as a great tool for automation. Build a process and automate work by integrating enterprise information systems where possible, for example adding to and drawing information from databases, CRM, ERP, and other platforms. We’d say that BPM was used to orchestrate work among people, systems, and processes.

Now we are seeing the impact of robotic process automation on business processes, adding a whole new digital dimension to this orchestration. It adds a workforce of software robots that can take over repetitive, tedious tasks, and automate those too.

So now, with RPA added to the mix, these processes interact with robots in a similar way they used to interact with humans. The BPM process engine calls an RPA robot to complete a task; conversely, the RPA system can call back to the process to continue the workflow once its task(s) are done.

So today’s digital process automation orchestrates work among people, systems, processes, and a digital workforce. RPA does not replace the need for BPM – it augments it.

  • What’s the first step in using RPA and BPM effectively?

Define the end-to-end process fully! In the same way that automating an inefficient process won’t bring much value – during the process design phase, we should be looking at how we can make the entire process more efficient – simply adding RPA to isolated tasks may make those individual tasks faster and more accurate, but won’t improve the whole process end-to-end.

  • More and more low-code tools are claiming to be for citizen developers.  You’ve said Bonita is a low-code platform. How does it support citizen developers?

Bonita started as a platform for professional developers as they were (and still are) underserved by a large majority of BPM/DPA providers. Over the years we’ve been focused on enabling the collaboration between professional and citizen developers. We’ve done that by keeping all the freedom that professional developers always had with Bonita and by adding new low-code tools and capabilities to allow citizen developers to participate in complex digital process automation projects. For example, citizen developers can graphically define processes, user interfaces and business data and collaborate with professional developers when new modules or services (ie widgets, connectors, scripts, Rest APis) are required. All that, while applying agile and continuous delivery approaches and leveraging reusability capabilities of the platform.

  • What do you think professional developers want from a digital process automation platform?

Professional developers want freedom! They need open extensibility, graphical tooling and coding options, DevOps and continuous delivery, a range of deployment options, and scalability.

Digital transformation is all about building new capabilities quickly, seeing what works and doesn’t work, making changes based on feedback and leveraging agility. Building software today means using native integration with technologies such as Github for collaboration and repository management, Docker to automate delivery, Jenkins for continuous integration and Ansible for application and platform provisioning and deployment. Low-code platforms for developers should allow them to use their preferred methods and frameworks.

Whether an application is deployed on-premise, through SaaS or on a public, private or hybrid Cloud, professional developers want to have a clear view on the architecture of the apps that will be built with the platform so they can model and design those apps for performance and scaling, improve communication between application components and services and decouple user interfaces and data from business processes. A clear view on the architecture coupled with extensibility capabilities and freedom to code are essential for developers to build enterprise apps that run and scale on different environments.

  • You have talked about “developers’ freedom.” What does that mean?

Developers may love to code but they generally don’t like to reinvent the wheel. If there is an easy-to-use, powerful and graphical way to design a web page or to graphically configure the parameters of a process there will always be someone who will be happy to use it. And for those who need tooling for complexity and a high level of customization, they want the option to code using their favorite javascript library, or use an XML file to configure process parameters.

A developer’s ability to select only the component(s) they need from a complete platform – for example, just the process engine, or maybe the process engine and user interface designer – offers flexibility.

Developers want the freedom to extend a library, framework or platform and improve it – for example, by adding a new connector to a third party system, or adding a missing REST API. Freedom to replace one service or component by another – for example, replacing the default authentication or SSO service. Freedom to combine it with other preferred solutions – for example, use a specific transaction manager, database, application server or continuous integration tool.

Low-code platforms for developers still need to permit freedom to code.

  • What advice can you offer to CIOs and others who need to move into digital process automation?

Digital Process Automation technologies will enable CIO’s and their teams to take a more active role in digital transformation and innovation initiatives. So I would recommend to start by defining different digital transformation use cases, automation patterns, and collaboration flows between professional and citizen developers. Rethink core processes as a means to generate ideas for innovation. Use process-based automation to keep processes moving and monitor them for improvement and intervention; use RPA to replace simple repetitive tasks and act as digital assistants to augment human judgment and action. The ultimate result is real end-to-end digital transformation.

  • Congratulations on celebrating your 10th anniversary! What are you most proud of, and what’s next for Bonitasoft and Bonita?

It’s easy to tell you what I’m most proud of – it’s the Bonitasoft team. We have talented, motivated people who rise to challenges every day, and they have grown as the company has grown. For example today there are three Bonitasofters on the executive management team now who have come up through the ranks: our Chief Technical Officer, our VP of Product, and our VP of People, and there many others who have moved into different positions as their career paths evolve.

We are growing our partnerships in North America and Europe, as our consulting and integrator partners are delivering Bonita applications and processes for their customers worldwide. And for Bonita, we are aiming to create more and better tools for the best possible collaboration between professional and citizen developers, and we continue to innovate to accelerate process automation initiatives.

  • Any concluding thoughts?

BPM is definitely not dead, and pushing its evolution into digital process automation is challenging and rewarding for the Bonitasoft team. Our technical, sales, marketing, and other  teams have all shifted over the past few years to put themselves in the customers’ place, to put users at the heart of their work. We’re looking forward to the next decade together.

Miguel July 2014 200x300 IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: The Current State of Technology in the Domain of Business Process Management

 Miguel Valdes Faura, CEO and co-founder of Bonitasoft



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