OpenText CTO Steve Russell on the Business Process Solutions Group Strategy
Last month, in the wake of the Metastorm and Global 360 acquisitions, OpenText announced the creation of the Business Process Solution Group.

The Group gathers OpenText’s business process management offerings together as OpenText sets itself as a major contender in the BPM space. We talked to the Group’s CTO Steve Russell and asked him to outline the new Group’s strategy.

Q. What is the thinking behind the new BPM Consulting Group?

The new group is a strategic step to pursue more process-centric solutions. Instead of putting more document-oriented process capabilities into its content management portfolio, Open Text made the strategic decision to be a bigger player in the business process management market itself

The result was that the last year they made a couple of acquisitions, notably Metastorm and Global 360, that pushed them into that space

The rationale for doing multiple acquisitions was to build out a broad portfolio of capabilities to enable it exploit the opportunities that exist in that market.

If you look at how those capabilities bear on the market, OpenText brings a lot of content management and content compliance capabilities; Metastorm brings some core BPM capabilities as well as some very sophisticated strategy modelling and process analytics; Global 360 brings a lot of case management capabilities.

The group itself, taking something from OpenText, Metastorm and Global 360, aims to build out a platform and a set of solutions on top of that platform to go after what we think are the real growth opportunities in the BPM market.

Q. Was this part of a strategy, or did the strategy evolve as the acquisitions were made?

We basically outlined the strategy and the acquisitions followed. Only last month we announced a general manager that’s running this part of the group and that general manager has been working with OpenText over the past couple of years, helping them build out the strategy and outlining the different assets that they could acquire to accelerate the strategy.

It was a considered way to go after this market, and in this respect I would say that we’re not done, that there are more pieces that we want to bring in, and the way we have approached it thus far is going to continue.

Q. So these missing pieces, they will come be acquired over the next 12 months and becomes part of the new business process management group?

A. Yes

Q. All this will be separate to the enterprise content management aspect of OpenText’s business?

A. Yes. They will be separate.

The reason for setting it up as a standalone group with its own salesforce was that the solution orientation that BPM requires from a go-to-market perspective is different to the go-to-market perspective that you get with content management opportunities.

The thought was that it the two of them were separated, it would be easier to do the integration of these technologies and that we would have sales forces that would focus just on selling those technologies.

Over time, we will have to see how they come together organizationally and how it plays out. However, the plan is to do a lot of joint selling so that, for example, when you have a client that is focused on a content management perspective, you have an arrangement whereby the two sales forces [for the two products] can work together.

Q. With the Metastorm and Global 360 acquisitions, and with whatever other companies you buy in the coming months, where do you see yourself in the market?

The people we are going to see the most of will be Pega Systems and IBM, and to some degree Appian -- and I say Appian because they have a very focused BPM offering.

One of the things that is important to us in this respect is the relationship we have with Microsoft --Global 360 had a very strong Microsoft orientation -- so that will probably drive us into competition with some of the smaller Microsoft players.

Q. What kind of functionality will you be offering?

A. There is a couple of elements around this. Some of the functionality is geared to go into the existing client base, enabling them to extend their use of applications that they didn’t have before.

To Metastorm, which has a sizeable client base, we are going to be adding in the content management capabilities, which should be ready next quarter, and that will allow us go to customers that are currently using Metastorm and offer them the possibility of addressing content oriented business processes.

That said, our biggest focus is around newer opportunities, and we a couple of trends out there that we think are very important:

1) Case Management

Here you have a lot of people looking at BPM and wanting two things: flexibility in how the process executes; and they want a lot more data aggregated together so that whether the data is structured or unstructured, that data can be unified around that case giving users access to it no matter where it is.

2) Mobility

Customer engagement and brand support are becoming much more important -- more so than efficiency -- as people try to get people more involved with their customers, we are finding that mobility is much more important as companies try to engage their customers more intimately with their processes.

The result is that next quarter we are unleashing a mobility platform that allows people to do that. The idea is that you will be able to mobilize your business processes, you can put them outside the firewall and you can access them.

So extending customer reach, or being able to engage customers is a key element of the strategy too.

3) Process-to-business mapping

We also see enterprises looking for ways to map their processes into their overall business strategy; how to ensure they are managed properly, how to ensure when business changes that this is reflected in the processes -- these are all the concerns with people at the moment.

Over next year, we will have a couple of releases that will take the provision architecture capability that came with the Metastorm acquisition and we are going to integrate it with the OpenText and Global 360 assets.

We will be putting a lot more process optimization capabilities in there, and tie it all together, all the way down to execution, with a common analytics model, giving a full 360-degree view of the business.

So that’s what we’re going to see in the short term and over the next 12 months, and we think it lines up with people's expectations of what BPM should do.

Q. One of the elements that were mentioned was social BPM?

A. Sure. We viewed social BPM as not so much a different use of BPM, but rather a set of capabilities that extend the BPM platform itself, so if you look at the type of things that have been automated through social websites like Facebook or Twitter, this is about people being able to find other people, being able to connect to them, exchange information and be able to follow what is going on.

We think this has a lot of applicability to BPM; we think it really accelerates the collaboration capabilities…that collaboration becomes viewable. The whole notion of user-defined databases of people and having that integrated with pretty powerful capabilities, we think is pretty important.

We also think people are just very comfortable with what they have with social networks and media, so we’re putting a "following" capability and a "posting" capability throughout the system.

So we see Social BPM as just as deepening the abilities that allows users engage with each other a bit more and make it much easier to engage in the processes.

Q. Will there be integration between ECM Suite and your BPM products?

Yes. You will start to see that as it is unrolled and there will be multiple integration points. I might, for example, be in the OpenText Server application and I may want to, and invoke a process from there.

Conversely, I may be in a process and I may want to add background information for a decision that is to be made and I should be able to go to content server and just access it from there.

Q. What kind of deployments will you be offering?

A. We are in beta with the cloud offering. The way it is going to be done is that…we view cloud as being a way that enables us to offer customers more flexibility.

We'll be offering the platform and specific solutions and we will be making announcements around the first ones of these next month.

We also think there is room for a hybrid environment where it just suits depending on the industry.

We' ll go GA on the capabilities here at the end of the next quarter, which will be the platform as a Service offering, we’ll follow that with our first solution-based SaaS offering, and then over the course of the year we’ll be rolling out our hybrid capabilities.

And in the end we'll have a blended pricing model that will enable our customers pick and chose what components will go where and how much they are willing to pay, and once they’ve signed a contract with us they’ll be able to move those back and forward as their business needs change.