Anne Stuart’s BPM in Action

Dennis Byron

Appian BPM at Enterprise: Can renting BPM be like renting a car?

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Appian announced today that Enterprise Rent-A-Car has gone live with an Appian-Enterprise-based business process management (BPM) solution for Enterprise’s IT department. A couple of things surprised me about the announcement.

First, Enterprise is bigger than Hertz and Avis. The reason is that they get most of their business renting to those of us whose car is in the shop or when we otherwise need a car near our homes. Being the furthest from the gate in big airports hasn’t hurt them at all. The new solution, called Request Online, is dedicated to 1500 IT guys that fulfill product and service requests from Enterprise’s more than 65,000 employees worldwide.

Second, Appian is doing well in its strategy to widen the circle of industries it supports. Despite its Vienna, VA location, it now has a lot more than just U.S. government business.

Which led me to think maybe the way to grow BPM usage is the way Enterprise grew its rental car business. Go where the real need is rather than just to the airports. So I caught up with Malcolm Ross, Appian’s director of product management, to learn more.

From its legacy in the portal/knowledge-management (KM) space, Appian has built its functionality into a full blown BPM suite. In turn, it's built on a Java base following the Unified Modeling Language (UML) and the XML Process Definition Language (xPDL). (These are solid standards all, and which seem to be doing what standards should do without the interference of the European Union and Document Freedom Day groupies--see my recent rants about the ODF-OOXML battles). From an open source perspective, Appian comes with JBoss out of the box but of course works with WebSphere and WebLogic. It makes use of Lucene search engine as well. Not open source but Appian’s doing some real interesting stuff with KX Systems Kdb.

But the good news is that users don’t have to worry about all that technology stuff that I like to obsess about. Appian’s Form and Rules Designers and other real-user-facing components all work vis a straight Web interface (no need for Flash, plug-ins, etc.). That’s important for security requirements, which is key to many of Appian's government customers. But it is also good for ease of use for any customer. More important are the ease of Appian BPM implementation templates developed over the 10 years since it was founded. Examples are available for procurement in federal government, for wealth management with rules for credit scoring, a program with Instill to build a quality management solution for the food/service industry. Industry by industry, the Enterprise deal looks like it might be the entrée to a powerful IT Help Desk template.

And why stop with IT help desks? The web-based interface also feeds into Appian’s Software as a Service (SaaS) offering called Appian Anywhere. Depending on how Appian decides to grow its business, based on its SaaS capabilities, maybe we could be renting BPM down the line.

-- Dennis Byron

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Business process management and optimization -- philosophies, policies, practices, and punditry.

Anne Stuart

I am the editor of ebizQ.

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