Bonitasoft is currently riding the crest of a very large wave right now in the form of the Open Source community. A month after the release of V5.0 their software has been downloaded 25,000 times and the community effort seems to produce connectors to other solutions on a daily basis which must be a testament to the ease of development on the platform. After interviewing Miguel last week, (the CEO and founder of Bonitasoft who started the open source project way back in 2001) I decided to take a closer look under the hood of the Bonita Open Solution.
Bonitasoft have got a fairly strong go to market strategy in that their targeting project team environments and small project implementations as an initial approach rather going for the ‘big bang BPM’ approach in the first instance (increasing their scope organically to look at larger implementations) and it’s a solution at home with defining processes and connecting them to existing IT systems for automation. If you’ve been following the #bpm trend topics on Twitter you’ll see they are very active there too, embracing more open and current trends than the typical marketing effort. The Bonita platform is fully open source which seems to be attracting a lot of developers from other solutions which aren’t as open as they claim or too technical to develop on. The community aspect is something which Miguel is very proud of and a strong supporter of. Indeed, over at Bonitasoft.org there seems to be a lot of activity on that front which shows off how fostering the right type of community can increase the value of the core proposition.
The Bonita platform is split into three main constituents;
- Bonita Studio: where the process is modelled and using ‘connectors’ is linked to existing systems
- Bonita ‘User Experience’: where the process is executed and managed by the user
- Bonita Execution Engine: where the actual process execution occurs
Bonita Studio uses a BPMN2.0 context palette where a user can drag and drop process elements to construct a model much like most BPM tools today. It’s interesting to see the adoption of BPMN2.0 solely and I’d prefer to see more palettes available for users to choose from or the ability to create personal templates.
A nice feature is that when a user saves the model being worked on Bonita will check for errors and highlight to the user where any occur before saving, for example where a timer has been specified but not defined.
You can define and add data types to the process, both at process and activity levels, which the platform will use with various IT systems via connectors. Connectors are Bonita’s way of integrating with the existing application infrastructure a client has and supports a wide range of infrastructures via LDAP, email or web service calls, as well as supporting other open source solutions like JasperSoft, SugarCRM and Alfresco. Miguel states that in a future release there will be connectivity to Microsoft and SAP with the ability to integrate with Sharepoint 2010 and import Visio 2010 models.
What if there isn’t a connector available on the platform ? Easy says Miguel, call upon the Community to help. You can download anything available from Bonitasoft.org and add it to the Studio, or ask the community to help develop a new one, or even create a new one yourself via Studio and then make it available on the Community website for everyone else. I think this is a really powerful use of true open collaboration across a platform and hope it continues to grow, I see no reason why it won’t.
In order to interact with the process or set of activities a user can design the experience around a series of web forms. Again, much like Visual Basic forms and those seen in OutSystems and Casewise Synergy in previous reviews users can build quite quickly a web form and preview this as they go which is useful for on the fly changes and tweaks. Bonita have also created and included data management and business rule editors to manage the interaction between steps which augments the functionality that sits behind simple automation of the process itself (coming in the next release).
The User Experience functionality of BOS is essentially the user’s Portal into the process world of the organisation, an aggregated view of all the processes that sit deployed within the Bonita solution. Bonitasoft received feedback from their users on how they’d like to see this implemented and shaped since previous incarnations had too much of a technical look and feel to it and they came up with a unique perspective, a list of processes in an email type view.
To be frank, we have here a truly open source BPM solution backed up by an active developer community who are not only creating connectors to the usual suspect list of vendor platforms but also with the likes of Facebook and Twitter which really pushes BOS into collaborative or ‘Social BPM’ territory for Bonita clients (which so far include a global bank, aircraft manufacturer, e-government, insurance and education) wishing to embrace this paradigm themselves. BOS is also being embedded into other platforms and has become an OEM’d solution by Talend, another testament to how being truly open source can increase adoption. There’s been a rise of OSS BPM taking on the bigger, more established players in the market and I welcome this because it forces everyone to be on their toes. And backed by Community support it means BonitaSoft should continue to evolve as a BPM solution provider and possibly at a much more rapid pace than competitors dare acknowledge….