I had an email yesterday from my friend Robb, which I have his permission to publish here. Robb used to work for me — in fact, I think that I hired him a total of three times — and whenever a company seeking to hire him calls me for a reference, I always tell them that the only negative thing about hiring him is that when I’m ready to start another company, I’ll be hiring Robb away from them. Robb has four essential qualities when it comes to working: he’s smart, he’ll do anything to get the job done for the customer, he always has my back, and he’s funny. His email yesterday, as usual, showed off the smart and funny bits:
Below is a newly formed company called Miria Systems. I give a history how this company came into being. Imagine how some things never actually die off:
- 1998 – A company named Application Partners was founded around an insurance/finance product and named it Sequis– because apparently the English language is short of meaningful words
- 2000 – FileNet bought Application Partners and renamed it PeBA (standing for Panagon eBusiness Application) shortly after that they got bored with the name PeBA and renamed the product Acenza
- 2003 – After some successes the Acenza FileNet stalled the product program (to make way for BrightSpire) and effectively sold Acenza to a company called Endymion
- 2004 – Endymion changed the name from Acenza to (drumroll) Acenza for Payables
- 2003/2004 – Not satisfied with a simple named change Endymion completely re-wrote Acenza for Payables and changed the name to ManagedPay
- 2004 – Endymion apparently used up a lot of their budget on the name changes (and even more on re-write) because they were forced into a merger with Software Consulting Group (SCG) — the two companies formed Soluziona USA
- 2005 – Not satisfied with a single re-write was good enough to keep their engineers happy Soluziona USA again decided to re-write ManagedPay but decided that the name should stay the same
- 2006 – Soluziona USA sold their ManagedPay product to a group of investors who formed a new company around this three-times-rewritten-and-five-times renamed product, keeping with tradition they gave the company a name with equally little English meaning as anything else in this brief history — Miria Systems, below is the link
The interesting thing here to me here, besides the obvious snide comments around product/company naming exercises, is that the functionality of this product lives on despite name changes, rewrites, etc etc. That the market still has the (relatively) same problems almost ten years later makes me think that there is a disruptive or revolutionary solution waiting to happen.
No doubt you will recognize all of those companies and product names, most of which (except for Miria) I have been either directly or indirectly involved with.
Just some thoughts….
What Robb didn’t mention is that PricewaterhouseCoopers also took the Acenza code base and rewrote it in J2EE around the time that they were purchased by IBM, to create a case-based application framework targeted at insurance customers. Once part of IBM Global Services, it was further rewritten to make it “vendor independent”, meaning that the underlying content and process management could be either IBM or FileNet products, hence serving up the least common denominator of functionality and completely obviating proper use of the underlying product. I had the unhappy job of doing a review of an installation of this on behalf of the customer, and it’s unbelievable how little of the FileNet product capability was actually exposed or used.
Although I agree with Robb that the market need for systems like this remains, I’m not sure at all that Sequis/PeBA/Acenza/ManagedPay/Miria product remains a viable solution. I haven’t seen it in a while, but last time that I did look at it, it was too heavy and rigid, too old-school, and had the same problem as the IBM version that I mentioned above in that it completely hid the underlying capability of the BPM system below it: you might as well be using records in a database table for queue entries rather than a BPM system like FileNet.
I’ve talked about this problem of hiding the very nature and capabilities of a BPM product behind a rigidly-structured custom system in the past, and discussed it briefly on my Web 2.0 and BPM podcast, and I feel that it’s a significant contributor to the lack of acceptance of BPM in many organizations.
I believe that the new world of enterprise software is less customization and more customizability: give the users the raw product and let them do what they need with it.