On the lighter side of things, we ask Charles Souillard, CEO and Co-founder of Bonitasoft, what makes him tick.
What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?
What I am most proud of is the enduring culture that we have created at Bonitasoft.
We had a significant cultural shift a few years ago when we were faced with restructuring the company, aligning to producing, marketing, selling and supporting a product that our end-users actually need and want for their own business success. That culture lives on today.
What first made you think of a career in technology?
I had no idea when I was younger of what I wanted to do. I was pretty good in math. My mother was working at IUT2 (Institut University Technique) in Grenoble and she suggested that I meet a colleague there to talk about possible career paths. The president of IUT2 convinced me to start there and later I transferred to the Polytech Grenoble and earned my engineering degree.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
I value collaboration and I appreciate very professional, qualitative, results-oriented work. But I also believe in work-life balance and the importance of enjoying life. I show that by really unplugging from work on weekends and holidays and I expect everyone else to do the same.
One of the changes I introduced as CEO is in our management team. Individuals now have more decision power, more responsibility and more accountability. Distribution of responsibilities is possible because of mutual trust and respect. Our people get to grow in their roles because we focus on the ‘why’ of our strategy together. The teams responsible for implementation are empowered to figure out the ‘how’.
What do you think is the current hot technology talking point?
In some quarters, on-premise deployment of platforms is considered legacy and old-fashioned with ‘as-a-service’ solutions now widely available. I’m quite sure that IaaS is here to stay – SaaS is here to stay as well as it delivers real value in specific expertise.
However, I expect PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) business to be challenged by private-cloud deployments. Organizations will begin to re-evaluate their choices for using PaaS.
IT teams now have everything they need to operate better than even just a few years ago by leveraging container-related technologies such as Docker and Kubernetes. I expect to see these teams moving away from PaaS for big deployments, going to on-premise to reclaim autonomy and save money.
PaaS will remain an indispensable foundation for many enterprise projects – but it will also become just a first step to start projects or implement first use cases that will ultimately migrate to on-premise.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?
I’ve always enjoyed sports, switching from tennis to badminton after a shoulder injury. Running and walking in the mountains is great for clearing the mind. When I said I favor work-life balance, what that means for me is spending time with my family. On weekends I have a ‘to-do’ list for myself separate from my weekday list and including only non-work tasks!
If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?
When I started Bonitasoft with my co-founders, we were willing to sell Bonita, our flagship BPM-based automation platform, to anyone and cut a few too many ‘deals’ that resulted in customer churn. The clear lesson we got was that for a customer to be successful with our developer-friendly, technical platform, access to a specific set of IT skills was critical. Once we were clear on that, our target market also became clear. So, if I could change anything I have done, it would definitely be to better define our target market earlier.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
Artificial Intelligence is definitely one area we are focusing on, specifically in Process Mining, Process Data and Process Analytics. Bonitasoft is funding an open-source Process Analytics project in this area to contribute to the growing knowledge and tools available to benefit from AI for business processes.
Deployment technologies is another area. We are working on ways to ease the PaaS move from cloud to modern on-prem, including the use of container-based technologies and managed services for business process application development, deployment and maintenance. We will be releasing Self Contained Application capabilities with Bonita this year.
What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in North America?
We are a French company. France has very strong engineering and software expertise, English skills and an international outlook. But we find that there is some reluctance among American companies to look to ‘foreign’ expertise for best solutions.
What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?
Things in my job role have definitely shifted since I moved to CEO in September of 2022. We had a productive transfer period before our previous CEO and my co-founding partner left Bonitasoft at the end of 2022, which made for a smooth transition. An important part of my job is to be sure that we continue to develop and grow talent – with a strong positive corporate culture.
What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain a C-level position in your industry?
In a nutshell, what I’ve learned: spend a lot of time talking – and listening – to others, looking at the market, watching the competition and defining your positioning as clearly as possible. Be focused, understand what your target is clearly and sell to this target only.
People skills matter. Be sure to communicate on the why of all business aspects. People move better and faster when they understand the why. Smart people need the whole picture, not just instructions to be creative in implementing the strategic vision.
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