I last interviewed Jan Baan, founder and CEO of the business process management (BPM) software provider,and an early ERP-era hall of famer, in June 2008. In early October 2009, I caught up with Jan again to see how he was doing against the key plans for Cordys he had laid out 15 months earlier.
As described in that interview (full article on the interview available here on ebizQ), Jan had three interlocking objectives for completion during 2009:
Probably the most important objective for 2009 had been Jan Baan's making progress against a 15-year-old mantra:
"Separate data from process."
For Jan, the journey began when he added the concept called the Customer Order Decoupling Point (CODP) to Baan ERP in the mid 1990s. With the 2008 acquisition of a company called Federation and incorporation of its data management functionality into the Cordys BPM product, he feels he is nearing the goal line. Federation lets Cordys users report on business activity using real-time production data, eliminating dependency on data marts and similar concepts that at best are only near real time. (It has been widely reported that the Oracle Fusion Applications demonstrated for the first time at Oracle Open World October 13 has a similar feature. Cordys BPM and Oracle Fusion Apps with Oracle Application Integration Architecture have more in common than you might think but that is fodder for a future blog post.) Cordys has rebuilt the master data management (MDM) features of Federation in the last year, according to Jan, in order to link on-premise and in cloud data sets. With the Federation technology, Baan adds unstructured data to the transactional data of the ERP world and data from engineering applications.
The second objective for 2009 could be summed up as Jan Baan getting his
"decoupled business processes to work in real time."
Before Baan Company was sold to Invensys, Jan Baan had his engineering groups working on a joint product with the non-stop-computing company Tandem (now part of HP via Compaq). A lot of those ideas translate to Baan's current infrastructure love, the cloud. In this case, he delivers on his 2008 goal via both a partnership with Google Apps as well with in-house cloud technology.
In terms of the latter, he built his own cloud technology particularly to do platform as a service (PaaS) billing and "smart metering." His concern is that a cloud application should not be tied to an infrastructure any more than the old on-premise ERP apps should have been. (Baan uses Rackspace for hosting Cordys' SaaS offering but his cloud-related functionality is separate and any host would work. He hinted at looking for future partnerships along that line so as to support both private and public cloud configurations.)
As for the former, probably Baan's major partnership in the past year if not ever has been the arrangement announced in May 2009 with Google. He feels Google's apps lineup and delivery methodology are much superior right now to the Microsoft Office and IBM Lotus Notes lineups and delivery modes. But remember, decoupling is his mantra so if Microsoft's and IBM's plans to move their apps into the cloud work out, Cordys will be ready for them.
In my opinion, the next most important goal Cordys has been working on in 2009 involves turning developers into composers, not to upset the IT applecart but to get rid of "bespoke software," the egregious customizations that have become the bane of all ERP users. As Baan explains it, even with a good 4GL like he had at the Baan Company
"you can only build more spaghetti code faster."
That's where BPM is headed in his opinion: Business analysts enable multiple views of decoupled data; IT aligns legacy through cloud and aligns different roles via situtational applications (better known as mashups); and knowledge workers drive the whole process. I agree and I would even like to see what Jan describes as composing brought into line departments as I discussed in this recent IT Busines Edge interview I had with Active Endpoints.
Every BPM software supplier has a ways to go against this third goal, including Cordys. But that's what 2010 is for.