FireStart aims to ignite process automation

Many companies were already planning on ramping up their robotic process automation (RPA) activities in 2020.

And once the peak of the pandemic crisis eventually passes, there will inevitably a renewed focus on process automation in order to improve the agility of a business model that has been tested to its limits, while supporting the inevitable push for cost efficiency.

But as we have covered in recent research, many businesses were finding it difficult to scale their RPA initiatives beyond focused, tactical projects into more strategic initiatives. Our recent analysis of more than 100 experienced RPA customers in Europe found that a lack of skilled resources and a lack of engagement between business and IT leaders were the most common barriers to them taking it to the next level.

But is there another missing ingredient in terms of the technology platform?  We recently caught up with the leadership of FireStart, a software vendor that aims to fill what it sees as a major gap in business process management that exists behind the work performed by the major RPA platforms, bridging the gap between process modelling tools such as Aris, and workflow automation vendors such as K2.

The challenge that it aims to address is to help those organisations that are struggling to coordinate manual processes across multiple applications (ERP, HR, CRM etc), are battling against poor data quality and lack any real centralized process knowledge. FireStart’s BPM platform aims to tackle this by building flowcharts and managing process documents, transforming workflows by connecting them to relevant systems and identifying areas within processes for potential improvement. The company’s CEO Robert Hutter likens FireStart’s role to that of a “digestive system” that fills the operational gap between line of business applications.

Hutter argues that many businesses have used RPA as a short-cut to automate specific tasks, rather than to rebuild their end-to-end process architecture in a meaningful way. It has a close alliance with UiPath and the two are going to market together to help those companies looking to combine a more fundamental rethink of their process workflow with scalable robotics. FireStart also works on a strategic level with Celonis to provide process mining support to customers to help them gain an understanding of how existing processes are performing. Hutter says that the aim of this partnership is to help customers build an end-to-end intelligent automation strategy that reduces implementation costs, boosts the execution speed and creates and overall new user experience.

The vendor has an installed base of more than 100 major clients from 20+ different industries, including customers in banking & finance, healthcare, power & utilities and manufacturing.  One major manufacturer has used FireStart’s platform to automate a business critical workflow in just four days of engineering effort from idea to rollout, addressing over 500 business users. In just two months, they average cycle time on this workflow improved over 80%, underlining the benefits of a low-code approach.. The platform can be delivered as either on-premise or from the cloud, but Hutter said that the majority of customers continue to opt for the former due to the need to connect to a lot of pre-existing on-premise systems. 

FireStart launched just before the first financial crisis in 2008 and first found its niche by focusing on providing a business process management platform to support Microsoft enterprise users in managing and moving their content in their SharePoint collaboration portals. One of the early key features was a smart integration in Microsoft Outlook to schedule user-optimized task forms instead of tricky-to-manage Excel sheets. FireStart was awarded Microsoft partner of the year in 2016 which also underlines the value proposition in the Microsoft ecosystem.

The company, which is based in Linz, Austria, but has a presence in US, sells primarily through a partner ecosystem that includes large international systems integrators (Atos, Devoteam, Tieto), consulting firms (BDO, PwC) and smaller specialists. 

The company is looking to add further partners to its ranks as it targets expansion on both sides of the Atlantic. And with a lot of organisations likely to press the reset button on their automation plans in 2020 as the look to go from the tactical to the strategic, FireStart is well-placed to support the next phase of their journey.