Last week, Bonitasoft, a provider of the leading open-source digital process automation (DPA) platform, announced that the Bonita platform would be available in a new managed Cloud edition that is fully operated by Bonitasoft. To find out more about the company, its platform, digital process automation, and more, VMblog spoke with the company's CEO and co-founder, Miguel Valdés Faura.
VMblog: Bonitasoft will celebrate 10 years this month. How has the company evolved over this time?
Miguel Valdés Faura: Our most dramatic change as a company came a few years ago, when we shifted to a company-wide customer-centric focus on the value of our flagship product, the Bonita digital business automation platform - not just in Sales and Marketing, but also in Customer Support, Customer Success, Services, and even R&D. Our developers no longer talk just about developing individual features; they focus on the benefit they deliver to end users. As a result, we have seen both better sales success and increased customer satisfaction with Bonita.
We have also shifted our strategic focus from supporting primarily "operational" projects to powering "strategic" projects with Bonita. Competitive business strategy is about doing things differently, not simply doing them better. More and more enterprises aren't just looking to improve their operational processes, that is, to reduce costs, increase margins and improve productivity. There is a rapidly growing demand for digital transformation and business automation, to apply process automation initiatives to do things differently and create unique value. We look for opportunities to help them with that.
VMblog: What should developers look for in a Digital Process Automation Platform?
Faura: Developers like freedom. They want to have the choice of the right tools and components for their needs. Front end developers want UI design freedom, back-end developers want tooling and extension points - to adding connectors and APIs, for example, to be able to integrate everything they need in the enterprise IS stack. DevOps wants to be able to integrate and deploy changes in a secure and straightforward way. The Dev team wants the freedom to replace one service or component with another (to replace default authentication or SSO service for example). And as everyone in the technical team has their favorite other best of breed solutions for their daily work, they should be able to use a particular transaction manager, database, application server or continuous integration tool.
VMblog: Low-code platforms seem to be often aimed at citizen developers to create business applications. Is Bonita a platform for citizen developers?
Faura: Although there is a lot of buzz around citizen developers, our own focus is to enable collaboration between professional and citizen developers to support critical projects and business processes. These projects can be quite complex and need to be highly integrated with an enterprise's other IS systems. Then they need to be tested and deployed in specific environments. But even if a skilled citizen developer can create a complex integrated application, who will test, deploy, and maintain it?
Let's not forget that low-code is also important to professional developers. What low code means with respect to the professional developer are things like drag-and-drop process design, open and extensible APIs so developers can integrate third-party systems, tooling and frameworks, tools, re-usable components (both out-of-the-box and custom-built ones), extension points. Developers like to develop in different ways - some really like to code, others like to "click," or reuse a lot. Today's development teams have a real mix of strengths and talents, made up of front end and back end developers, architects, citizen developers and so on. A good low-code platform aimed to support developers can serve a wide range of development styles and needs.
VMblog: Why is critical collaboration capability important between professional and citizen developers for business automation?
Faura: Citizen developers can include business analysts on the application development team, who also have a role to play in defining the overall business processes and the needs of the end users. Collaboration capabilities for application design, user interface design should be provided for these users. But further, giving non-technical users the ability to change elements of the application (for example, in the user forms) without having to go back to the development team for every change is an important aspect of empowerment.
VMblog: With the current craze around RPA technologies, what are the points of vigilance and questions to ask?
Faura: Applying RPA is about delegating a set of existing human tasks to a software robot. But when those tasks are part of a larger process, there is no actual rethinking of the process itself and how it might be done more efficiently, that is, from an overall perspective.
Adding robots here and there to speed up repetitive tasks can be a quick win. There is a low barrier to entry in terms of change management and cost. But if end-to-end process improvement and orchestration of human plus robot tasks is not taken into consideration, in the long run the quick win isn't enough to bring maximum value to the business.
Transformation implies orchestrating both humans and robots, and getting the full value of each. Each should do what they are best at.
VMblog: You have mentioned an "innovative application of AI" in Bonita - what does that mean?
Faura: Good information leads to better decisions. Using AI to enhance human decision-making gives users more control to optimize processes, and provides good data on which to base decisions to change inefficiencies in processes overall.
We have incorporated a unique process mining approach into the Bonita platform. Unlike the more common data mining approaches which focus on business data, or traditional process mining approaches which focus on process "discovery" and conformance checking, any existing business process can be mined with this innovative algorithm. It yields both previous and real-time data that can be used to predict potential blockages and flag them so process managers can then take action to prevent bottlenecks and delays. With good information, businesses can further collaborate with IT on ways to improve the underlying process.
VMblog: What is next for Bonitasoft and the Bonita platform?
Faura: We have just released our PaaS offer, Bonita Cloud, a Cloud version that is fully operated by Bonitasoft. We'll be continuing to add self-serving capabilities to Bonita Cloud of course! In the same vein, we are continuing to improve capabilities for DevOps. Those teams use the Bonita platform for continuous delivery - independent of where the applications are ultimately deployed, as it is agnostic for deployments on premise, on a private or public Cloud or on the Bonita Cloud.
Until recently we have been rather narrowly focused on providing low-code capability for professional developers, and now we are widening a bit to be able to offer more power to the hands of "citizen developers" aka less technical business users and, even more important, to improve collaboration between them.
We're also working on further componentization and scalability of the Bonita automation engine, to make it even more lightweight and embeddable into applications developed externally to the Bonita platform, in particular, distributed applications.
VMblog: Finally, where can readers go for more information on Bonitasoft?
Faura: Our web site has a lot of useful information about low-code, RPA, process mining, and DevOps: www.bonitasoft.com