IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: The “Glue” That Holds Modern Systems Together with Mac McConnell, BonitasoftNovember 21, 2013 No Comments
In the interview below, Mac McConnell from Bonitasoft offers expert advice for organizations looking to overcome data management and data integration challenges, and accentuates the value of BPM and SOA within this equation.
- Q. With the evolution of cloud computing and big data, new integration challenges have arisen. As more and more information is moved back and forth, what will be the “glue” that holds on premise and off premise systems together?
A. Yes, new challenges have arisen with the evolution of cloud computing and big data. Organizations are now required to manage and orchestrate many different environments, databases, applications, data locations, and more. The challenge is not managing these independently, but organizing them into a system that helps achieve business goals. I would argue that Business Process Management (BPM) technologies are well situated to be this glue.
BPM adds more capabilities than traditional data integration technologies, most notably linking data to the people that need it to make decisions and the ability to develop applications for them to interact with data – independent of where it is housed.
One conversation that keeps bubbling up is around the hybrid cloud, where organizations make an active decision to host certain apps or data on premise, while others are hosted in the cloud. Each organization is approaching this decision differently, but the common question is how do we keep these apps from becoming silos due to their location. This is a perfect scenario for BPM, where multiple apps and data sources can be turned into a singular process-driven business application that connects disparate systems and people.
- Q. How important is SOA to this equation?
A. SOA is enormously importantly to this equation and this is why Bonitasoft rebuilt Bonita BPM from the ground up using a SOA approach. Depending on the use case, there are significant developer benefits to having open access points, not just to Bonita BPM as a whole, but to the various components of Bonita BPM. For example, integrating directly with the Bonita Engine or Bonita Portal allows developers more flexibility in building their apps than being forced to go through a single access point. Our foundation is open source; this goes beyond source code availability to a belief that open software allows for more freedom and IT/business innovation to solve real problems.
- Q. In your opinion, is open source still as relevant to the enterprise as it was 10 years ago? And if so, why?
A. The definition of open source has expanded. It’s more relevant today to the enterprise than it was 10 years ago because it means more than source code. It is an approach to developing software, building a company and most importantly offering value to organizations. Our mission is to democratize the BPM market so that all organizations can use this empowering technology. Further, today’s tech ecosystem is more complex—you have cloud, on-premise, big data, and more. The open source approach gives maximum freedom to make smart and unique software decisions.
- Q. As enterprise organizations try to manage both integration and the “human” elements of running a business, what are the key benefits of bridging the gap between business and IT?
A. Everyone has been talking about how to bridge the gap between IT and business for a long time. I wish people would move away from that concept and realize that both IT and business want to empower the business and provide tools to grow revenue, increase membership or reach core metrics. It’s time to do away with the notion that IT departments are the bottlenecks in an organizations’ progression forward and that some bridge between the two needs to be built.
Ideally, what needs to happen that business people need to be clearer on their needs and ask IT for their recommendations on how to solve real business problems. This is where integration and the human element are essential. People still make decisions. The key is helping people make better decisions through apps and data.
- Q. What advice can you offer to help with the change management challenges that may arise?
A. The best advice I can offer is to question everything. “Why do we do it that way?” Why don’t we do it a different way?” “Why do we use this app?” “What data is needed to make a decision?” But, and this is a pretty big but, don’t get paralyzed by your question cycle. It is meant to gain input, develop consensus, build buy-in, and not to stall your project.
One way to achieving this is to begin with a proof of concept. People need to touch, feel and see things. It’s important for them to see the tangible product and how it will look and feel for users. This lowers people’s anxiety level about what is coming and you will definitely learn a lot along the way.
At Bonitasoft, when we roll out a new process-driven application we tour the company and talk about the who, what, where, when, why and how’s of what we are doing. Recently, we did a mini internal road show for the roll-out of a human resources process and related application. We showed the benefits and tactics of how this new process approach would work. It was beneficial to all to have the business leaders in the company behind it. You’re visually letting folks see, touch and feel the way the technology is being applied and how it can fix the problem.
- Q. How can BPM help to break down some of the barriers?
A. Silos and the lack of community are so detrimental to a business. As you can imagine, processes often span several different organizations within a company. My experience is that BPM can really be the process and “glue” to tear the silos down. It enables working together, having multiple people make commitments and be involved in the process, hence helping each other out to make sure its successful and seeing their role in completing a process— the backbone of process.
- Q. How are Bonitasoft and Talend currently working together to help organizations overcome data management and data validation challenges?
A. Bonitasoft and Talend have a great relationship that helps organization with their data management and integration challenges. We continue to work very closely together on product development and product integration.
As customers are struggling with data integration, Talend has discovered a lot has to do with data process. How do you take it from many different systems and put it somewhere else? How do you standardize, update and manipulate data? It all comes back to process. That’s where Bonita and Talend have really been able to come together. We’ve been able to integrate Bonita BPM with Talend’s data tools to create tangible something bigger than the parts.
- Q. Can you please tell us a little about Bonita BPM Community and Subscription Editions and the solutions they are offering to the enterprise today?
A. We have four software products: Bonita BPM Community Edition (open source), Teamwork Subscription, Efficiency Subscription and Performance Subscription.
It all starts with Bonita BPM Community Edition, the core of everything we do, which is a full functioning BPM suite available for download. Including in the subscription is software, support, and maintenance. All included in one transparent price.
Bonita BPM combines three solutions in one: an innovative studio for process modeling, a powerful BPM and workflow engine, and a breakthrough user interface. As mentioned earlier, it creates process-driven applications quickly.
With Teamwork subscription pack, there are additional features and functionally. Users now can work within team collaboration with a shared BPM repository. There is a much more powerful web form designer and widgets form available so users can define common forms or field widgets once and reuse them again and again. The highlight of the teamwork subscription is the addition of wizards and how graphically easier it is to build. Users can use the Web Services wizard to define XML request graphically using XML tools, including browsing the WS interface.
Efficiency subscription pack is the addition of process templates for our customers. The process templates are pre-defined process maps and diagrams based on best practices. They accelerate development and deployment of processes and make it easier to configure your connectors. Also, this is where our mobile interface is included for managing and acting on all your process apps.
The Performance Subscription is for managing mission-critical processes. There are more resources and options for monitoring and ensuring your applications are working correctly. Administers can monitor the following information of Java Virtual Machine nodes: JVM environment (Operating System, JVM details), used memory, number of threads and system load average. The tools help identify any bottlenecks and understand computing resources. More importantly, with Performance subscription pack, users will be notified if a process step fails due to an error on a connector, Groovy script, or data initialization it, skips the failed step and continue the process.
- Q. Where do you see open source and BPM heading over the next ten years, and what solutions will Bonitasoft have in place to accommodate that evolution?
A. BPM market will change a lot. There is the merger of data integration, app dev applications and process management technology. Organizations are going to want to continue to build custom apps to empower their business, not rely on off the shelf products that everyone is using and dilute what is unique to an organization. BPM can do this today, but in the future will bring you better and even more customizable options.
We will have processes that become less rigid, intelligent and reactive – almost attaching to data, making a vision and finding that path through the process. There will be more feedback from end users for business analysts and developers on what’s working and what’s not working.
The ultimate thing from Bonitasoft and the BPM landscape is the idea of attaching a process to real business objective. You can set a strategic goal, for example, such as wanting to grow your business by 50 percent. To make that goal you’re going to have to affect a lot of different processes on a lot of different people. If you were to attach a certain processes to this goal, it will help to align the entire business to see what is possible to achieve that strategic goal.
Mac McConnell, Vice President of Marketing, BonitaSoft. Mac is responsible for all aspects of global marketing, including brand awareness, communications, demand and lead generation, and go to market. 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, Mac was Global Marketing Lead for Sun Microsystems’ mid-market group, where he developed successful programs that generated over $400 million in sales pipeline. He has also held prominent sales roles at JPMorganChase and Deutsche Banc Alex Brown. Mac holds an M.B.A. from the University of San Francisco and a B.A. from Colgate UniversityAPPLICATION INTEGRATION, CLOUD DATA, DATA and ANALYTICS , DATA PRIVACY, Fresh Ink, MOBILE DATA