An Audience With….Genichi Imamura, CEO of Questetra

Genichi Imamura is the CEO and co-founder of Questetra. Having a career in Japan spanning a decade in IT and holding CEO positions, Genichi founded Questetra in 2008, a business process platform in which all workers can appropriately develop or revise the processes they are engaged in. Genichi holds a MSc in Informatics from the University of Kyoto with majors in Social Informatics, Database, Virtual Reality and Data Mining Technology.

 

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 ?

Obviously, 2009 was a tough year for most of the industries including BPM vendors almost all around the world. It was not as severe as everyone thought at the beginning of the year, though. As the new year begins, more and more companies see the light growing at the end of the tunnel. However, particularly in Japan, the light seems still smaller than they expected. In this situation, there would be two major impacts on BPM vendors.

The first is that most organizations continue their effort to cut expenditures and to seek a way to do the same thing, or more things, with less money. I expect this is the major driving force for the BPM industry to expand throughout this year because BPM is a very straightforward answer to their effort.

The second is that BPM software/vendors would also face the necessity of doing more with less money. The price of BPM software/services will become more competitive than today. As one of the results from these impacts, I expect cloud computing will achieve wider acceptance in business organizations, especially in SMBs. And inevitably, EAI involving cloud based services will attract greater interest.

In 2010, Questetra continues to put a great effort to provide an easy-to-use, affordable and cost-effective BPM solution through its SaaS Edition by reinforcing interoperability with Google Apps and EAI products.

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 indeed the need for BPM itself to support strategy ?

That’s a tough question, but to answer in a single sentence, I would say… in a sense, yes. I think most organizations look at both initial cost and long-term or short-term ROI at the same time when they make a decision to invest in something new. So, they will not change their criteria, they already have criteria weighing initial cost as much as ROI.

However, because ROI is an abstract concept while initial cost is a more concrete figure, in times of difficulties, most organizations have a tendency to avoid uncertainty and as a result, ROI is weighed less in those times. Therefore, I expect that a low initial cost would be welcomed more than before and that more projects are initiated in smaller size to hedge the risk of uncertainty.

What’s your definition and philosophy towards BPM ?

That’s another tough question… BPM is still a developing concept and has no common firm definition, so I would rather wait and see others refine the definition. But, as to philosophy, I have one thought although I don’t know if it *is* a philosophy. As an IT solution provider for business organizations for more than 10 years, I have been observing how centralized, from-the-top-of-the-hierarchy or macrostructural ways of improving something in business organizations always left something unaddressed, or sometimes created new problems especially around those who are doing the actual work.

That’s why I don’t believe a concept or an activity of improvement like BPM achieves the best result without involving those people. So I would like to provide the framework with which all managers and employees can take part in the BPM activity.

You created Questetra literally 2 years ago, why did you launch in such a crowded vendor market and how has your journey been so far ?

I have not and do not see the market as crowded in comparison with its potential to grow. Especially in Japan, BPM is not acknowledged as widely as in other developed countries. Rather, I felt a growing need for BPM software for SMBs and came to consider providing a 100% web-based BPM solution which can be easily adopted by SMBs.

An article in Forrester talked about turning to the process professionals more in 2010 and Gartner’s Magic Quadrant underwent a makeover in how they approached their analysis last year. Do you still see a need for the kind of high brow research which is perceived to be vendor led/ driven given the rise of independent professional blogs and insight columns ?

Obviously, independent services or media have some superior points to large firms or media. They tend to have more transparency, more concrete examples and more subjective information which can make us feel a personal touch. They have also weak points, though. It is often difficult to decide which firm or media is reliable and which is not. It is also difficult to find the right firm or media for your exact needs. As independent services or media are getting more popular, large firms or media could suffer some revenue loss and could face the need to change their services somehow, but my straightforward answer is, yes I think there is still a need for highbrow research and there will continue to be.

There’s a shift towards Cloud/ SaaS offerings, Social BPM fever is starting to take hold after a few years in the wilderness and some are venturing into the Mobile space, are these viable roadmaps for vendors to look into or just hype for now ?

More and more business operations are outsourced today for companies to concentrate on core competence and that means you need to work with outsourcers in order to fully optimize or improve your business processes. So, despite ambiguity of the meaning of Social BPM, the social aspect of BPM should be supported by BPM software and that’s the trend we see today.

I dream of the day people can manage their own business processes, which may be a subprocess of some company’s process, and managers and workers interact to improve business processes using BPM software. Questetra has a lot of features focused on collaborative modeling like importing and exporting business process models with data definition and 100% web-based architecture. The Team Task feature, which enables defining of chat-like discussion tasks, helps collaborative execution. In addition to offering the SaaS edition, these software features are our first step towards the dream or, if it conforms to the definition, Social BPM.

If there was one thing you could tell someone who is just starting out on the BPM journey what would it be ?

I think I am just starting out on the journey myself, but I would say… start small. You can download trial versions of BPM software (like this), and you can test-drive the software with a small but actual business p

rocess and then watch the flow and outcome
s of the process. You can learn and sense a lot from there.

What’s the next big thing you would like to see happening in BPM ?

Common APIs for process-engines to accommodate various task-execution client applications from various vendors and distribution of these client applications.

Finally, what next for Genichi Imamura ?

I would like to keep on contributing to making human-tasks more efficient all over the world including developing countries, or to realize a world with less waste of people’s productivity, like smart grids of electricity.

 

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