An Audience With….Hans Hantson of AgilePoint

Hans heads up AgilePoint’s European, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) operations in Oudenaarde and leads the company’s expansion in the market. Hans is a long time veteran in the Belgian business process management software market with over 5 years of experience. The Oudenaarde office provides sales, consulting and customer support to AgilePoint’s current and future EMEA customers and key business partners. Prior to Agilepoint he has worked as an ICT Consultant for companies like Baxter Healthcare and BBL.



2009 was seen as a fairly turbulent for most but towards the end year many kicked off major change programs focused on process transformation. How do you expect 2010 will unfold for the BPM industry generally and for BPM Vendors ?


Based on our observation, we have not seen BPM adaption being tempered by the recession. As a matter of fact, we have seen many organizations actually deeming BPM an imperative initiative during this down economy to help them derive differentiated competitiveness such as saving costs through automation efficiency, gaining better insight into operations to pin-point improvements needed, making better and timely business decisions, integrated with and serving partners and customers more effectively, etc.. As organizations looks to do more with less, they are looking to invest in innovation to improve their processes and operations. As identified by leading analysts, BPM adaptions is one of the significant investments organizations are making during this time to remain competitive. 


Do you expect clients to alter their buying criteria as a result of the downturn and concentrate on initial cost first rather than ROI or the need for BPM itself to support strategy ?


Budgets will be altered for sure, the main question is how they are using this available budget. On short term it can maybe look good to lower budget and use the money to keep systems up and running and support the business. However I’m sure on long term this is not a proper approach. When the market and economy is growing again, they will have to span a quite long barrier between the new and adjust business needs and what they have in place to support it. 


Companies should invest in the first place in a very reliable, stable BPM Suite which can support there current and future needs. For example: If you want to build a large apartment block, and have only budget today for 5 levels, but your vision is to raise this to 50 levels, will you save on the underlying fundaments or pick the cheapest solution? 


From the first day the company started with AgilePoint, we had a mission statement in: Think Big, Start Small and Scale Fast. This is how most of our customers are working and even some of them have gained big business in 2009, with adapting this mission in the way they work and adapt BPM.


Ascentn has recently changed it’s name to AgilePoint, why was that ?


AgilePoint is the name we have been using for years as the brand of our core BPM Suite Product. Most people where knowing our product name and where sometimes confused by the name Ascentn (and the not so easy way to pronounce it). 


AgilePoint is a much closer reflection of our vision of bringing BPM as mean stream solution into the companies in order to be more Agile and streamline their business processes.


After undertaking an exciting rebranding process, AgilePoint was very pleased to announce the new name and tagline “the power of smart process”. We received a lot of positive feedback from the market, mainly defining this as a wise chose.


What’s Agilepoint’s definition and philosophy for BPM ?


Our vision on BPM is allowing business to gain control of their business processes and provide them insight and capabilities to optimize their processes in a flexible and smart way. Business innovation is in too much situations limited to a slower following IT-system, where everything is sitting in a black box. We still have a long way to go, in order to support the B (Business) in the BPM and make business flexible and agile.


Our vision is to provide the right solution and toolset in order to bridge both worlds together, so everybody can focus and deliver in his or her own way and best effort, in order to support growth and innovation to their business. Solutions for the business allowing them to gain visibility, design and control their business processes in an easy way. Tools for the IT-People to allow them to define integration and security aspects on a technical level. 


We can use the old expression – ‘Let the cobbler stick to his last’.


With a growing number of Cloud enable BPM tools and services coming onto the market how do you see Agilepoint staying ahead of the game ?


At this moment I see that the Cloud or SaaS Enabled BPM Solution is still very small and niche. However we understand clearly the business value for very small and isolate processes. The main issues which needs to be solved first are: the internet (think about the recent censure of some countries, blocking of websites, attacks, example: what if terrorists are starting in this virtual world), data-security (most of the companies are worried about the privacy of their business data) and integration issue.


To be honest I heard more stories in the market then real solutions or real business cases. The technology world is still not fully understanding the business world, and therefore not dealing with all real human issues. I think we have to deal first with a much better understanding of the difference between business and IT and work closer to each other. Take a simple look into a few IT departments, where the IT Manager still thinks in ways to control the business instead of really helping the business.


The next version of AgilePoint will support cloud computing and SaaS-enabled processes, but this is not the only horse we bet on. The recent release of AgilePoint Express allows companies to start very small and scale when they need it.


A lot of people are still waiting for Microsoft to enter the BPMS arena with a serious offering or at least take Visio to another level. Do you think this will ever happen ?


I’m not sure if this ever will happen. Microsoft has so far created mainly solution focusing to developers and IT communities and less to the real business. Their vision and approach we can see now with Visio 2010 is exactly show-casing this developer vision, the idea and concept they have in mind is ok, but they are missing in execution and delivery. 


On the other side it’s a good business model for the different Microsoft partners, as they can use the underlying technology and build business solutions for the real world. 


However we have to admit they have the power and the marketing tools to bring a clear message to the wor

ld and maybe create a real revolution. Imagine a BPM Suite which is supp
orting and going across all Microsoft Solutions/Products, without any pure development approach. (Which is also mainly a technical and developer oriented solution approach)


IDS have released ARIS Express recently, a free version of their ARIS Professional modeling tool. Do you see a growing trend for BPM vendors to release free versions of their higher end products ?


Free versions are a good way to allow potential customers to learn more about your solution. We see this also as part of an education program and can therefore only enjoy this. The main risk is that people are assuming that everything is getting for free now, while in fact they should see it as a sample or a monster (like a trial medicine you get from your doctor in order to learn and see if this is working for you).


At the other side providing a free version can also create risk and misunderstanding. Adapting a BPM Solution, needs commitment and dedication from all levels inside the company. People need to be trained and involved closely in order to make it successful. Providing free versions can create the risk that solutions are getting compared based on the number of features and functions they have instead of the business value they can bring.


Do you see the meteoric rise of the Social Media platform as something vendors should engage with as a development path, marketing purposes only or is it a “watching brief” for now until it matures ?


As each good company, we are following new and up-coming trends and define which added value they could bring to our customers and partners. We use social Media platforms mainly for internal and external communication and for marketing purpose, however they are not yet our leading platforms. At the first place the have to deliver business value and have a good ROI. Solutions like LinkedIn are creating value and allow you to create and extend our network, solutions like Twitter are mainly toys and too much time consuming.


The mobile platform has taken off and a growing number of vendors are joining the ranks to develop for the Apple, Blackberry and Android platforms. Do you see a future for BPM tools in this area ?


As the border between work and life is blurring more and more, and the PC at your desk is not longer the only gateway to your information and work, we can only enjoy and support these new and advanced mobile platforms. In the next coming version of AgilePoint, we will better support mobile devices as well, by allowing people to see their tasks list and their important business KPI’s on their mobile device. In this way a manager can follow the operation of this business and identify potential bottlenecks via a simple glance.


There were two notable acquisitions last year, IBM and Lombardi and SoftwareAG and IDS-Scheer. Do you think there will be more M&A activity in 2010 across the BPM space and do you think this will improve BPM solutions on offer or weaken the market ?


It depends on the reason of doing an acquisition, which can be two-fold: 


a) the join technology/solution is strengthen the total service offering or 

b) you can beat the competition so you decide to buy them (and make your share-holders happy).


Most of the acquisitions into the market has led only to confusion (product overlapping) and lay-offs, while the innovation is disappearing.


We can only encourage a positive impact to the business and companies adapting BPM, however I have my thoughts on this. 


What’s the next big step you’d like to see in BPM ?


I don’t believe that the next big step has to come from functional point of view, but more from a joined effort between business and technology. Something like the current BPMN but than on a better business level, understandable by everybody. This could be the first attempt to speak the same language.


As growth of a product has to be always related with new functions or features, I would encourage a much closer integration of the different aspects like BI/Reporting and integration. In most of the BPM Solutions today, these are separate components and not always good aligned to each other.


Finally, what next for Hans Hantson ?


Well to be honest, this is the question for which I had to think very deeply 😉 


I hope to be able to bring my contribution in the BPM-world, by spreading a more realistic and down-to-earth messaging. A lot of effort in the BPM-Space are too much driven by technical people, which have forgotten the business. Our at the other side position BPM as the whole grail, very complex and very expensive.


Remember: Without business we don’t need even IT!


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