It is often said that you will see the light someday if you choose to go the right way rather than playing tricks to overcome the crisis of the moment. I found out that these words were not empty words while meeting with Kim Kil-Kon, the CEO of INNORULES. INNORULES is the No. 1 company in the Korean business rule engine market that has effectively alienated the foreign solutions in the Korean peninsula.
CEO Kim Kil-Kon said, "I did my best on the project, and the customer introduced me to other customers. Even when the person in charge was no longer related to the project, they would help us and allow us to compete equally when the related project went on. There were situations where I couldn't help but be concerned with the profits in front of me, but I worked based on my business principles, and the customers eventually helped me."
The business rule engine drew attention in the corporate market by eliminating maintenance problems and complexity that occurred when the business logic was developed directly into the source, so that the business logic could be directly reflected in the application by removing it altogether. In particular, it is widely applied in the financial sector, where various products are rapidly released and disappear and it has also recently spread to the manufacturing sector.
CEO Kim Kil-Kon said, "A lot of people in the field use Excel and use it well. If work requirements change, the business rule engine can be reflected immediately by adding one line like Excel. Our rule engine is easy to learn and apply in real time."
The business rule engine can be seen as a system that contains the intellectual know-how of experts. It is similar to the way in which doctors match data accumulated when treating patients to find things that doctors have not thought of. Errors can be minimized, but the problem is that it is difficult to keep all knowledge updated to the engine. Steady improvement of engine performance is essential because poor performance immediately affects system operation.
After joining ForceData, he worked at Hyundai Electronics and Hyundai Information Technology, and decided to start a business in 1993. His decision to start a business was interesting. He laughed, saying, "After living as an employee for years, I wanted to live as a boss." It was a simple motive, but the challenge was not easy. There were already foreign companies such as IBM and CA in the market.
Since the foundation of INNORULES in 1999, the company had focused on system development for the first three years. "Initially, we built an engine that incorporated expert knowledge. I thought it would sell right away if I just made the product," he said. "When I made the product, there were no customers. However, a customer from Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance, who saw our engine, gave me this idea and advised me to develop a business rule management solution. That's how we decided to enter the business rule engine market."
Ten years ago, when INNORULES had just started the business, the rule engine did not come out as an engine—changing information was input into the database to carry out the project. It was a data-driven method. However, even when using business logic in DB, DB had to be modified when new requirements came out. The idea started from the question, "What if we separate business logic from DB and process them in the engine?"
Calculating insurance premiums is quite complicated. While satisfying the main rule, it should immediately reflect the calculation results of numerous small rules linked to the main rule. It meant that if we were to create a rule engine that the market needed, it should be able to call other rules from one rule. I threw away the expert engine and invested three months in developing a prototype by changing what I had developed so far into a business rule engine. It took us another year to look for customers.
Although the Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance customer suggested the idea, the famous education company DAEKYO became the first customer of INNORULES.
DAEKYO had a problem implementing the logic for calculating allowances and fees for teachers into the SAP ERP because the logic was too complicated. INNORULES secured its customer for the first time by solving this problem after competing with foreign vendors. DAEKYO was surprised when the system was applied immediately within two to three days. He said calmly, "It was a very difficult time, but I met a good customer."
INNORULES is laying a solid foundation in the business rule engine market in the financial sector. It was applied to the calculation of insurance premiums in the insurance sector among the Korea Exchange Bank’s bancassurance project. Despite the popularity of foreign companies, customers were not satisfied with the results.
When Mirae Life Insurance was carrying out the next generation system project, the project leader from Korea Housing Finance Corporation, who was already using INNORULES', gave a detailed briefing on how they carried out the business rule engine project and achieved results.
"One of the customers tried our solution and recommended it to other customers," he said. "For the first three years, we focused only on development, so we couldn't think of going outside for sales. Back then, our dream was to meet customers and show them what we had created. After the first sale, I had a lot of fun and worked hard. I guess our efforts made a good impression on them," he recalled.
It took a long time for foreign companies to respond to local customers’ requirements because their solutions were modified at the overseas headquarters. On the other hand, although INNORULES was a small domestic company, INNORULES immediately responded to customers' requests and that engendered trust.
There were also unexpected difficulties. We were in charge of making the most crucial part of the next-generation system, establishing a product factory for a certain fire & marine insurance company. A product factory is critical because master data management (MDM) is the foundation of insurance product management. We worked on the project for four months, but the rival company re-proposed at a lower price, and the customer accepted the offer. We had no choice but to terminate the project and withdraw from the client company. We could do nothing because the customer had already changed their mind. We were paid four months' labor. I heard later that the project did not end so well. It was disappointing because it was our first product factory project, and if we had finished the project, we would have secured other customers. I wanted to go to the lawsuit with the customer but did not go through with it.
But then I got a call from another customer. They wanted a product factory system. An unexpected life insurance company gave us a chance, and we were able to deliver the system successfully. What made this more interesting is that the customer made a new profit by selling their products entirely to competitors. Insurance companies don't make such proposals to competitors, but it decided to provide their entire project results for revenue. Thanks to this, INNORULES supplied products to foreign life companies that were not using domestic software. After this sales, other life insurance and fire & marine insurance companies started considering using our solution.
It is true that we were lucky. The project that we had been put in was sluggish, but the project manager who had been involved in the previous customer project got involved in the related project. The PM also had experience in related construction, so he pointed out the work that INNORULES should do and instead arranged the excessive requests from customers. Perhaps thanks to that, the project could be completed before the deadline.
CEO Kim Kil-Kon also said in this section, "I am fortunate to work with people I am working with right now. Engineers don't like to cheat. I worked honestly, and the customers realized it. They made sure that we could concentrate on the project and nothing else. It's all thanks to these customers that I was able to get where I am now." he repeatedly thanked them.
Even though it was an interview, he did not stop bragging about his customers. Many talk about difficulties they had experienced off the record, but CEO Kim did not negatively comment on his customers. It appears he meant it when he said that he believes that INNORULES became the company it is now because of customers.
He also expressed his gratitude to the developer team along with the clients. The head of the development team never releases products if the product is not perfect, and the team members did not leave the company even in difficult times. They trusted each other and strived in unison, so the product continued to improve and consequently gained trust from customers.
Although the company has distinguished itself in the financial sector, a new breakthrough is needed when next-generation projects are completed. I asked if there was any plan.
INNORULES has been paying attention to manufacturers recently. He also said there are opportunities in various industries where large ERP projects are being carried out. As seen in the DAEKYO project, there are certain areas that ERP products cannot fulfill objectives. New opportunities are emerging in those areas, and chances are coming because of INNORULES' brand recognition in the market. He did not forget to mention that the telecommunication sector is also an excellent potential customer.
He did not forget to mention the achievements of INNORULES in Japan. Entering the Japanese market was not planned. Therefore, luck played a crucial role in achievement in Japan. In the case of Japan, too, many customers wanted to downsize from the mainframe, but they could not enter the market directly. However, a Korean-Japanese in Japan contacted INNORULES and sent a message that he wanted to sell its products in Japan.
"He worked hard to contact us, so we sent him the products and manuals. Not long after, he told us that he had supplied our products to Orix Trust Bank, purchased one copy, and immediately paid us the annual maintenance fee."
The Japanese partner had a considerable understanding of our products to the extent that he made detailed manuals of the product. It reminded him of how Japan is famous for meticulous manual writing. CEO Kim, who was in charge of POSCO's Gwangyang yard automation business, said this event recalled his old memories of when he first saw the Japanese manual.
The partner gave the manuals to Japanese customers, installed the product according to the manuals, and completed the project successfully. It was a strange experience, and major Japanese IT media visited Korea to cover it. A customer using INNORULES' products also gladly agreed to the visit and shared with the reporter the project results.
INNORULES, A company faithful to the basics. After interviewing Kil-Kon, Kim, the CEO of INNORULES, I once again vowed to live hard without cheating. But it's not easy. Still, there seems to be no other way but to try and work hard.