Brian Reale sat down with NoCodeDev this week for the first interview in our Executive Perspective series. NoCodeDev is filling its editorial calendar with interviews across the no and low code development space. Brian comes from the workflow software world that is many times categorized under the Business Process Management Software or BPMS label. It was a pleasure speaking with Brian, and its exciting to hear about what his team is working on that will improve the ability of process analysts and other professionals with no code level development experience to implement and optimize business processes across the enterprise.
The Workflow Software and Business Process Management Industry
For the uninitiated, a simple way to think about the workflow software world is to take something like a LucidChart diagram (or Microsoft Visio, but we are an affiliate for LucidChart and you’ll see a link there soon that you can click on to sign up – for which NoCodeDev will be compensated) but instead of it being a visual reference alone, the process of designing the visual is actually building the application as you go. For example, dragging a form step onto the design canvas doesn’t just document that step in the business process, but it actually defines a form that will be popped up when the process is initiated. To get a better idea of that, here is a quick 3 minute tour of ProcessMaker from their homepage.
The workflow software space is highly fragmented. You have some general purpose players (and these examples should not be considered a complete list) that serve mid-market and enterprise businesses like ProcessMaker, Decisions, K2, Nintex, Appian, and Pegasystems. Then you have some small business friendly options like KiSSFLOW, or newer players like ProcessStreet, and others that focus more on forms automation like Formstack or new age business databases like Quick Base and Airtable.
BPM or BPMS is a category defined by analyst groups like Gartner or Forrester, although they’ve started to talk more about these vendors by other names as well – Intelligent Business Process Automation, Low Code Platforms, and other names that attempt to define the busy space for their audience. For simplicities sake, and with a big hand wavy gesture, BPM tends to add more features support things like business rules management and integrated dashboards, while while pure-play workflow software tends to focus more on digital process transformation and digital forms to support those processes. NoCodeDev would encourage diligence against both categories during a search as the labels get used fairly interchangeably and all provide a drag-and-drop experience that comes with different strengths and weaknesses.
The Conversation with Brian Reale, CEO of ProcessMaker
Interviews with leaders like Brian make up a lot of the fun we have here at NoCodeDev. We were able to carry a fantastic back and forth conversation that helped us both think about the space a little bit deeper in some areas. Here are some of the highlights of the conversation:
ProcessMaker was launched as an open source BPM product after a pivot from work in the insurance industry. Over time ProcessMaker has introduced enterprise level plugins and support packages to serve businesses who need the extra support. A major new release is planned for later this year which includes a major updates to the ProcessMaker API, interface, asynchronous processing technology, and instantaneous communication bus.
Attributes of a Successful No or Low Code Developer
Context is everything here. In the world that ProcessMaker comes from, most of the projects they are helping with in the enterprise are generally the size that call for a team that includes roles like a project manager, business analysts, developers, and system architects. When you are dealing with systems and solutions that impact tens of thousands of users or hundreds of business processes then it is never a one or two man show and you have people that are pulled into this team who are coming from different areas of the business. These team members could have come from the ERP project, or the CRM project, and these people are usually fairly technical. In fact we see a lot of people who have grown up through these projects and become late in life developers with our technology. As a side note, Brian enjoyed talking about how even people in the ProcessMaker organization have grown from something like a documentation writing role into a training role for their product which means that they have essentially transformed into a no code developer.
In summary, the most successful adopters of ProcessMaker are typically the folks who are familiar with the data in the systems that the application will be relying on. We’ll need to add this to our on-going post about how technical you have to be if you want to become a no code developer.
Is Workflow a Product or a Feature?
This is a question that has kept executives in the workflow software industry up at night. In a past life I remember having a mini-“crisis of faith” moment early on when this thought dawned on me. Brian admitted he’s spent some time thinking about this question and he brought a well considered position to our conversation. ProcessMaker has supported OEM partners who have included workflow as a component of another product. For direct mid-market and enterprise customers ProcessMaker is a standalone solution. From a workflow industry perspective its interesting to observe drag-and-drop components being baked into so many other SaaS products today.
Brian specifically identified the role of workflow in a broader enterprise architecture with this quote:
“Workflow, in our view, is the connection between the evolving business, its people, and updates to the systems of record.”
Editorial aside: Another question might be whether or not a software application is a workflow solution or a system of record solution. Tomasz Tunguz, a venture capitalist at Redpoint, called this The Next Big Shift in SaaS. In that article Tomasz argues that becoming a system of record will transition any SaaS product from being a displacer in an industry to a disruptor in an industry. This could be a significant opportunity for entrepreneurs to approach workflow vendors as OEM partners.
Enabling the No Code Development Community
Brian shared that a significant portion of their growth come through partnerships with no code development minded consultants, resellers, and other experts. Ultimately these relationships are organic as these partners are searching for the best solution for their own clients. Brian expects these relationships to grow, and to add new types of partners with major updates to the ProcessMaker API, and other parts of their product that will make it easier for developer and add-on partners to join the community.
In our conversations here at NoCodeDev we see these partnerships with workflow, BPM, and other no and low code platform vendors as a significant opportunity for professionals who want to learn the trade and serve their own client base. More of these vendors are opening up well defined paths for partners to contribute to a library of solutions that we hope vendors will use as a resource when they serve customers from so many different industries. In fact, multiple vendor CEO’s have expressed the need for partners with specific industry expertise to lead the way in their niche and approach them with a solution set that they can sell to a specific customer. We’d be happy to make a connection for interested partners if you contact us.
You can learn more about Brian Reale and ProcessMaker at www.processmaker.com.