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Open-source BPM startup BonitaSoft raises $11 million

Can the cloud and platform-as-a-service breathe life back into business process management? $11 million for BonitaSoft thinks yes.

Miguel Valdés Faura, BonitaSoft CEO
Miguel Valdés Faura, BonitaSoft CEO

A recent Gartner survey found that business process management spending will increase significantly this year, with 54 percent of medium and large companies planning a 5 percent increase or more in their BPM spending this year and 20 percent of companies planning to up their BPM spending by at least 10 percent.

This week, venture-backed startup BonitaSoft announced a new $11 million round of financing to take advantage of the growth in the market.

Gartner explained the market growth by pointing to increased interest in software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools, which offer a cheaper entry point, and a shift toward funding BPM projects from business-unit budgets rather than IT, reflecting an emphasis on BPM's business benefits.

I wrote about BonitaSoft back in September of 2010 when they first expanded their operations from Europe to the U.S. I recently checked in with BonitaSoft co-founder and CEO Miguel Valdés Faura to hear his take on today's opportunities for BPM. Here is our e-mail Q&A:

Q: Since it's been awhile since we last connected, can you give me an update on BonitaSoft?
Valdés Faura: In the past year BonitaSoft achieved a number of significant milestones. We expanded internationally in 2010, opening offices in Boston, San Francisco, and Beijing. Last year, BonitaSoft recorded our 500,000th download as well as 100th paying customer. Today we have more than 180 paying customers in 35 countries and more than 900,000 downloads.

It's been interesting to see the BPM market grow over the last year. Who is using BPM today?
Valdés Faura: A few months ago, BonitaSoft conducted a survey among its 8,000 community members and we found that the split between BPM users is roughly 50 percent business profiles and 50 percent IT professionals. This was surprising because of everything we hear about business and IT being at odds. The two organizational entities have vastly different objectives, cultures, and incentives, which can lead to misunderstanding, mistrust, and expensive IT investments that don't offer enough business value. What this survey told us is that the spending is increasing because people are recognizing that the right kind of BPM can bridge the gap between business and IT if it's powerful and flexible enough for developers and intuitive enough for corporate.

What kind of BPM trends are you seeing?
Valdés Faura: We're seeing the democratization of BPM in that it's becoming more mainstream and being used by companies of all sizes, different kinds of users, and various projects.

Another trend that I'd highlight is the long-overdue rise in prominence of the business architect. I suspect that this is due to a confluence of a number of things: increasing business requirements in terms of highest possible efficiency, the rarity of such broad skills on both the business and IT side, as well as the maturity of best practices and expectations around what a business architect must deliver.

For that last point in particular, I feel it's analogous to our friends in the business intelligence sector. Twenty years ago, we just wanted reporting, and then the requirements and tools evolved into more sophisticated tooling and engines for analysis, and finally into what today is called business intelligence. Years ago, a data warehouse and corresponding skill sets were considered "nice-to-haves" or "side projects," and today they are entering into mission-critical and are already accepted as such for many organizations.

HP recently acquired Autonomy, which offers enterprise search software that includes workflow and some business process features. Does HP have ambitions in BPM software?
Valdés Faura: HP's Autonomy acquisition puts the spotlight again on the board's reasoning for selecting Leo Apotheker as its CEO. Adding to its recent acquisitions of 3Par in data storage and the Vertica analytic database, it's clear that HP has information management dominance firmly in its sights. Add to this its recent disclosures of exiting the PC business and the jettisoning of at least part of the WebOS business, HP has certainly placed heavy bets on information management and the cloud.

Orchestrating information flow will become increasingly critical for HP, particularly in cloud environments, and BPM software is the recognized cornerstone for orchestrating information flow. It all adds up.

And that points also, perhaps more interestingly, I think, to the potential of BPM within platform-as-a-service, something that Gartner described in their application development keynote presentations in 2010.

With HP potentially joining the bevy of proprietary vendors offering some form of business process management solution, is there a place for open-source BPM?
Valdés Faura: As with the majority of enterprise software, BPM has traditionally been dominated by heavyweight, proprietary vendors supplying their technologies to large accounts through lengthy, complex, expensive business and information systems re-engineering projects. In this highly competitive and consolidated market, there is an enormous untapped opportunity for technology suite providers that specialize in BPM and seek to make it mainstream.