An Audience With….Scott Rich of AuraPortal

Mr. Scott Rich has over 30 years of experience in the business application and high technology field including work with both multi-national Fortune 500 and entrepreneurial start-up companies, serving in leadership roles in sales, marketing, professional services, business development, and product management. Before becoming Head of AuraPortal Headquarters in USA he has held vice president of sales and marketing and business development positions with Infor Global Solutions, Lilly Software Inc., National Transaction Network, Inc., and director level marketing, business development, professional services and product management positions with Dun & Bradstreet Software, Geac, Wang Laboratories, Inc., Computer Associates International, and AHP Software GmbH. He is also a graduate of the University of New Hampshire.


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?


Our view is that the overall BPM industry will keep growing, although not at the previously forecasted rate. Regarding BPM vendors, they most likely will invest in leveraging the capabilities of their products in order to be more competitive for the coming years. 


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?


There is a tendency to focus more on the initial cost, rather than considering the ROI of the product and project. After all, in turbulent times business costs must be watched closely. But I believe companies are starting to understand that in order to remain competitive, they can’t wait for the economy to improve. Many are already starting to ramp up projects that were previously on hold and moving ahead with business process improvement and performance enhancements. This is actually a good time to undertake these initiatives.  Anyway, buying criteria will always depend on the client and their circumstances.


What’s your definition and philosophy towards BPM ? 


A ‘Business Process Management Suite’ is, by all accounts, the accepted and unstoppable trend in the market that companies will use to manage the operations of enterprises and organizations in the world going forward. Whether it is in a simple or complex manner, organizations have increased pressure to automate and bring discipline to their business practices.  A true BPM Suite should be extremely flexible in order to account for rapidly changing business rules, and have the power to accommodate the most complex business processes. BPMS in its most basic terms can be defined as: “A new category of enterprise software that enables companies to model, deploy and manage sets of inter-related activities – that is to say, Processes- of any kind, either within departments or permeating the whole enterprise with extensions to include the participation of customers, suppliers and other agents as performers of process tasks”.


It is foreseeable that in the mid-term all contemporary enterprises and organizations of any size in the world will have and use BPMS in some form for managing the majority of their activities. According to nearly all analysts, the emergence of BPMS is perhaps the most revolutionary trend experienced by the enterprise management software, comparable, within its domain, to that of the Internet appearance.


AuraPortal is a relatively new entrant in the BPMS space, why did you launch in such a crowded vendor market and how has your journey been so far ?


We’re actually not so new. We have relevant customers like PEMEX, the largest company in Latin America, that has been using AuraPortal BPMS for more than 5 years now. When we started to develop AuraPortal, back in 2001, we wanted to offer a world-class application capable of controlling and optimizing the entire workflow of medium and large organizations, no matter the amount and complexity of their processes, by the sole creation and management of business people, that is to say, with no programming and therefore no IT involvement. Today there are other vendors that claim to offer this approach but we pioneered this trend and in our opinion, remain the only ones that today really have accomplished it one hundred per cent.  Also our firm belief that CRM features are much better served with BPM processes than with traditional systems lead us to develop a new CRM approach based on BPM process patterns that is presently becoming an accepted trend.


AURA Corporation was founded in 2001. Today , AuraPortal is a reputable BPMS with more than 350 customers and presence in 41 countries, it is unanimously considered  one of the most complete and advanced in the market, being repeatedly labeled as the ‘New generation BPMS’. We do not have any complaint so far regarding our remarkably successful journey thus far.


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?


This  is a difficult moment for big research firms since, in this information era, companies seeking market intelligence and information can find what they need  – with more or less ease – on the Internet. And one part of this expansive internet resource offering is the community of professional blogs and insight columns, particularly from practitioners and end users. Competitiveness is always good, as it provides more options to customers and enhances innovation on the supplier side.


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 ?


BPM SaaS is a reality. We have been providing AuraPortal in a SaaS mode for a long time now. The conversion of SaaS into what today is called Cloud Computing in general is still basically a theory with practically zero enterprises taking 100% advantage of the expected benefits. There are still important technical and security issues to be solved before we could see a general market acceptance for extended use of Cloud Computing, not to mention that the market has not even changed its mind-set to comfortably work with this new system. On the other hand, Social BPM is right now far from being in the hands of the end-users. AuraPortal is prepared for operating its solution in the Cloud without any issues but so far we have not seen a clear and unanimous market trend. We have only seen tons of analysis, reports, claims, etc speaking about this phenomenon. Obviously, all of these trends will evolve and we could infer that they will adapt to the market and eventually become successful. This is something that only time will tell.


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


I would say that the BPM journey could be heaven or it could be hell depending on the enterprise commitment to reach the expected goal, and above all of the selection of the BPM tool, vendor, and services organization. The selection of the right BPM tool is a dangerous non-trivial matter. I would tell to this person to avoid risk from the very beginning. When making the BPMS tool (and Vendor) selection, First) Look at the vendor’s customer base published on its website and ask to speak to references directly.  Second) although it is important to see a product demo in order to understand the features, demos are in many ways not accurate illustrations of product performance and usability when used in real life. Third) Therefore it is critical to request an actual real-life test of the system. Ask each one of the prospective vendors to create a real process. Select a short but complex process, not just an approval circuit. If the vendor’s BPMS is capable enough and does not need programming to convert the process model into an executable model, the vendor should be able to present the process fully developed and ready for test execution in your company in just a few days.


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


Without doubt, it would have to be the increase in customer’s confidence and acceptance of BPM as a solution to their issues. But this will take time because although the market is beginning to understand the tremendous benefits of using BPM, unfortunately, it is almost impossible for a customer to make sure that the system they are buying will work sufficiently after one or two years in the enterprise and with so many vendors offering tools that claim to have the flexibility and adaptability to grow with an organization, many don’t live up to the promises made. This unpleasant realization is becoming frequent among BPM users and is having a very negative effect regarding the expected growth of BPM as a general enterprise tool.


Finally, what’s next for AuraPortal ?


Technically we have added a new development line with the goal of offering AuraPortal on any platform (Java, Open Source, Microsoft, Linux) by 2011 with total compatibility across existing customers and versions. This, together with the present capability of AuraPortal to be operated from any device, including PDAs, Blackberry, iPhone, iPad, etc. This will extend the suitability of AuraPortal to any environment.


Company-wise AURA Corporation is now a dual-headquartered organization focused on customer facing operations split between two key markets, North America (Boston, MA) and Europe (Holland), with software development facilities in Spain and India. This new structure strengthens the scope and reach of the company in order to provide optimal service to all markets and customers around the world.  


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