Behind every service to a customer is a process, says Bernard Debauche, CEO of business process management software start-up Akazi Technologies. The efficient management and deployment of these business processes can boost an organisation’s agility and competitiveness, he says.
But applications have traditionally tied business processes so tightly to the underlying application code that it has made it difficult for a company to adapt its business processes – let alone consider major restructuring – without great cost.
In 1999, Debauche set about developing FlowMind, a workflow tool that embodied the principle of separating business logic from application code. And when the concept of
business process management systems first emerged during 2000, Debauche immediately recognised its significance.
Intended for non-technical staff, the FlowMind platform enables company bosses to model business processes themselves. Only then does the IT department take over, deploying these processes according to the agreed ‘business model’.
Says Debauche: “This solves the three problems associated with workflow, enterprise application integration and business-to-business integration – that of integrating people, integrating data and applications, and integrating companies.”
FlowMind runs on the Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) environment and includes support for the recently released business process mark-up language (BPML). It is among the first tools to do so.
At the moment, Akazi has 20 customers, one of the largest of which is the French finance ministry. The “inherent complexity of government processes”, says Debauche, which “often require the co-operation of different state services” makes government agencies a key target market for the company.
Akazi is also targeting application service providers and Internet service providers, and has struck several original equipment manufacturer agreements with small software developers. Furthermore, he says that Akazi should be profitable “by early next year”, following funding of EU4.7 million raised at the end of 2001.
But the company faces a number of stiff challenges. First, it lacks any significant presence outside its home market in France, making it difficult for the company to pitch for big accounts from multinational companies.
This weakness is compounded by the fact that a number of major software vendors are already scrambling to build business process management capabilities into their core products. These include workflow software vendors such as Staffware, as well as application server software giants BEA Systems and Oracle.