Some people just seem to have a knack for coming up with brilliant ideas. Because I deeply admire that kind of creativity, I was glad to spend time talking with Rich Padula, CEO of Mirata Software, who has the Midas touch – and not just for inventing software.

His latest brainchild is Mirata Digital Forms, which is currently flying off the virtual shelves of SAP Store. Mirata Digital Forms lets business users build their own forms to meet their workflow needs using everyday desktop skills, while allowing IT to manage data governance – a true win-win enterprise-grade solution. It’s a product that reflects Padula’s overall ethos of helping people help themselves, a theme that’s played throughout his life. Here’s the story.

Problem-Solving as a Serial Entrepreneur

Back in 1995, Padula founded his first company, Syclo LLC, an early entrant in mobile technology that was about to explode. SAP acquired Syclo in 2012, and after a few years with SAP, Padula decided to retire. Before long, though, he was back at it, “playing around with machine learning and the Internet of Things.”

One of the first applications he developed was an affordable mobile app platform for smaller museums that lets visitors curate their own tours – making a cool tool that most major museums offer attainable. He also taught entrepreneurial skills to students at Northwestern University in Chicago and did some angel investing. He even tried his hand building computer-vision training models to look for design flaws in construction projects like wind turbines and bridges.

All this relieved the boredom of retiring too young. But working in these new technologies led him to the discovery of a big new challenge.

“I was talking with a few colleagues from my Syclo days and realized that, despite all the efficiency gains, their companies were still using paper forms,” he told me. “They’d say, ‘All we do is paperwork.’ This was a particularly acute issue in highly regulated industries like construction that typically have complex workflows. Sure, there were a few forms solutions out there, but they were nice until they weren’t — because they weren’t built for the large enterprise.”

Inventing Another New Solution

With a new problem to tackle, Padula sat down with his brother Rob, his partner and CTO at Syclo, to create a declarative form definition language aiming to empower nontechnical people to create their own forms. They analyzed more than 150 forms from 40 different companies, tested the logic, and set up focus groups. By 2020, they were ready to launch Mirata Digital Forms, which drew upon all their experience with Syclo, SAP, and in regulated industries.

The solution lets business users define the optimal workflow, then align the digital forms with that workflow. It’s built on SAP Business Technology Platform (SAP BTP) and embedded in the SAP Service and Asset Manager mobile app to retrieve relevant data. Forms are created just once, then used across all Mirata Software workflow applications — a single enterprise platform for all forms creation. Corporate IT teams manage the interfaces and overall governance, but they are relieved of development, implementation, and maintenance, supporting huge cost savings.

Three years later, Mirata Software has offices in downtown Chicago, a partnership with SAP, a product that is successfully selling on SAP Store, and a patent for the declarative form definition language.

“It helps a great deal that many of Mirata’s employees are some of the most talented colleagues from Syclo days,” Padula said, “all with deep experience in mobile app development and SAP integrations.”

Creating Opportunities for Students

Meanwhile, Padula is pursuing another longtime passion: giving back to his community. When raising a family and living in the suburbs, he had established an internship program for community college students that helps them learn in a business setting and pay for school. Now with his business and residence in Chicago, he’s recreating that model with city community colleges in economically challenged neighborhoods.

“We are hiring students at three levels in six-, 12-, and 18-month internships,” he explained. “They begin with training in building forms and then can move up to become business analysts, talking to customers and configuring interfaces into the SAP software. And our customers benefit from great hourly rates.”

Another win-win. The program will launch in 2023.

Back at SAP Store, Padula and his team are working on go-to-market initiatives with SAP and several implementation partners, who find it to be a great solution.

Why not see for yourself and maybe try your own hand at building forms with Mirata Digital Forms?

Rajiv Nema is senior director of SAP Store Partner Solutions.