ITESOFT retools for BPM with W4

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In 2015, French specialist document capture and processing technology vendor ITESOFT acquired W4, a French specialist BPM technology platform provider. The result is a specialist with strong technology credentials that deserves more attention.

Takeaways

ITESOFT’s acquisition of W4 brings it great technology

W4, acquired by ITESOFT in 2015, was the owner and developer of a relatively-unknown BPM technology platform – but a platform that was full-featured, with a particular strength in the implementation of industry standards. As a document capture and processing technology specialist provider, ITESOFT has opened up a raft of new opportunities for itself.

Breaking out beyond document and invoice capture

With a heritage in serving the needs of CFOs, sales and procurement teams with very highly-focused document processing applications, ITESOFT’s short-term strategy is to use its newly-expanded technology foundation to create a broader suite of more customisable application offerings, as well as continuing to extend the BPM technology platform it’s acquired and offer it more broadly.

W4: a BPM technology specialist with strong emphasis on standards

W4 was initially founded in 1996 in France as a workflow software technology provider. In 2015, as a provider of a full-featured BPM technology platform, the company employed around 50 people, serving around 300 customers (80% of which were French companies) principally in financial services, government and telecommunications. Its smallest customers implemented its technology for just a few tens of users; its largest for around 150,000 users. At French telco SFR, W4’s BPM technology is used to orchestrate the activation of quad-play services and the management of packaged products.

The company’s core BPM technology product stood out in the market for three principal reasons:

  • A very strong focus on implementation of industry standards. Since the standardisation of BPMN, the company worked hard to deliver the most standards-compliant implementation – and as part of this work it’s played a leading role in the OMG’s BPMN Model Interchange Working Group, demonstrating tool interoperability around the BPMN standard. Beyond implementation of BPMN, the company uses UML and CMIS standards (for data modeling and content management system integration) as well as relying on de facto UI frameworks like Angular.JS. The product’s 100% Java runtime platform executes BPMN 2.0 process specifications directly.
  • Market-leading implementation of model-driven design and development techniques. W4’s platform uses models not only for business process logic, but also for data management and user interface logic – and uses declarative models, rather than coding, for specifying complicated activity assignment, user management logic and more. Customers can start model-based design at the process layer, data management layer or user interface layer. There’s a common expression language that’s used consistently throughout the product for all validation and decision logic; and what’s more, there’s business user-facing interface that enables rule parameters to be altered at runtime.
  • A free web-based business process modelling tool (licensed from modeling tool specialist GenMyModel) as the lead offer within an online store. This offers subscribing customers reusable libraries of industry content, access to communities of interest, product documentation and updates, and so on.

ITESOFT: a document digitisation specialist, looking to expand further

ITESOFT was initially founded in 1984 in France as a provider of document scanning technology. The company expanded into the UK in 2001 (the same year as it listed on the public Euronext Paris exchange), and into Germany in 2002. Along the way, ITESOFT expanded and redeveloped its product portfolio to cover not only document scanning (with ITESOFT.FreeMind), but also content management and workflow management (with ITESOFT.Share). ITESOFT made an initial investment in W4 in 2005, and then fully acquired W4 in 2015.

ITESOFT currently has over 650 customers in 35 countries, and expects revenue of $30m in 2016. ITESOFT’s biggest customers include one of the main French national health insurance providers, for which it executes all inbound document processing; aerospace giant Airbus; Banque Postale; insurance group Groupama; and Network Rail in the UK. It has around 200 employees across its offices in France, the UK and Germany. Its largest customer processes 1m documents each day, across over 300 document types.

Around 50% of ITESOFT’s revenue today comes from the automation of invoice processing; the remainder comes from the creation of digital mailrooms and similar document capture and management automation solutions.

The current picture

Following ITESOFT’s acquisition of W4 in 2015, the company has been working hard in two particular areas. Firstly, it’s incorporated W4’s technology into its product portfolio as part of a broad product architecture called SCPA (Secure Capture and Process Automation). Secondly, it’s been working behind the scenes to develop and update products so that they incorporate elements of W4 technology directly. We look more at each of these two areas below.

The Secure Capture and Process Automation (SCPA) Architecture

The figure below shows an overview of ITESOFT’s new SCPA architecture, incorporating technology from W4.

ts_itesoft_0916_fig1

Source: ITESOFT

As the figure shows, there are five core technology products that together comprise the SCPA product architecture:

  • FreeMind. This is ITESOFT’s core heritage product, focused specifically on providing document and communications capture, classification and data extraction services. There’s a mobile capture client, and as well as handling scanned paper documents FreeMind can be used to capture electronic documents and forms through an inbuilt portal; or from email content.
  • BPMN+, W4’s BPM technology platform, which we outlined above.
  • Share. This is ITESOFT’s content and records management system.
  • Production Manager. This combines an operational monitoring and reporting tool, leveraging Qlik Technology’s QlikSense for report and graph generation; and a rule-based work distribution component – both of which can be layered over Freemind and BPMN+.
  • Document Fraud Detection. This is a set of services, based on image processing and analytics technologies and also utilising the web modeling tool previously offered by W4, used to help automate identity fraud detection. The services provided highlight potential fraudulent use of, or tampering with, commonly-used identity documents such as passports, ID cards, driving licenses and so on.

ITESOFT has started making a set of targeted offers to its clients to help them in three broad areas: digitising and streamlining customer interactions, digitising and streamlining supplier interactions, and digitising organizations’ internal processes. For its supplier-interaction solutions, ITESOFT typically focuses on financial process automation scenarios (like invoice processing) for clients across all sectors; for its customer-interaction solutions, the company is particularly targeting banks, insurance companies and government agencies.

New products, taking advantage of W4 technologies

ITESOFT is also using the foundation technologies that make up SCPA to create targeted, but very customisable, business applications for clients that are focused on digitising the processing of documents in three particular areas. These are:

  • Invoice processing. Streamline for Invoices expands ITESOFT’s invoice processing product portfolio with a more generic, customisable product that can be deployed on the cloud, on-premises or with a hybrid architecture. Streamline for Invoices makes use of BPMN+ (BPM) and FreeMind (Capture) to deliver a solution that’s customisable through models rather than code (avoiding extensive professional services engagements).
  • Contract processing. New product eContract is designed specifically to enable clients to offer 100% digital purchasing journeys to their customers; eliminating the ‘channel break’ that so often follows an online B2B purchase where additional supporting documentation, contract signatures and so on are required. By digitizing the process of contract and identity documentation processing it aims to support its customers in doubling their online sales conversation rates. As with Streamline for invoices, eContract is available via cloud delivery. It leverages not only BPMN+ and FreeMind, but also ITESOFT’s Document Fraud Detection capability.
  • Customer communications processing. New product InFlow uses FreeMind and BPMN+ together to automate the distribution and co-ordination of work associated with processing of customer communications, their routing into servicing processes, and the updating of relevant data in back-end legacy systems. It’s targeted at offshored or outsourced processing centres, and designed to make it as easy as possible for remote workforces with potentially high employee turnover to process communications correctly. As with eContract and Streamline for invoices, InFlow is available both on-premises and via cloud delivery.

Next steps for ITESOFT: deeper web modelling capabilities

Beyond the three products that ITESOFT is now bringing to market that take advantage of W4’s BPM technology platform (now BPMN+), the company is also working to expand the capabilities of BPMN+ – in particular, it’s looking to dramatically increase the capabilities of the web-based modeling tool it offers, which will help it reduce its reliance on its existing Eclipse-based design and development tool.

The new version of the Web Modeler will add support for UML-based data modelling and Decision Model and Notation (DMN)-based decision modeling, alongside BPMN-based process modelling. It’ll also implement model version management and enable two or more people to concurrently edit models. Clients will be able to share process models that they create in the new Web Modeler in ITESOFT’s online community Store.

Further to this, ITESOFT is also working to embed the Web Modeler into InFlow, enabling InFlow to be 100% web-based and delivering the first steps towards offering BPMN+ available as part of a PaaS offering.

Recommendation: consider ITESOFT, particularly for digitisation of customer or supplier communications processing

With ITESOFT’s acquisition of W4, the company has taken ownership of a full-featured BPM technology platform with a particular strength in the implementation of industry standards. At this point it looks like ITESOFT will continue to invest in the core platform’s capabilities with an ongoing focus on standards implementation, but it’s also clear that ITESOFT’s approach to sales and marketing will be focused on selling application solutions rather than general-purpose platforms. If you’re in the market for a BPM technology platform and standards compliance is a key criterion for you, then you should consider ITESOFT.

If you’re looking for a partner to help you digitise document-handling processes – and particularly if you’re a European business – then you should consider ITESOFT as part of your supplier evaluation. ITESOFT’s combination of document scanning, image processing, flexible BPM capabilities and document fraud detection, along with its very firm focus on customer and supplier communications processes, makes it stand out.

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