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Anne Stuart’s BPM in Action

Dennis Byron

For Economic Stimulus, Appian Says, "Why Not BPM?"

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While Microsoft was issuing its downer results and outlook on the morning of January 22, Appian announced it had a strong 2008 and said at a press/analyst briefing that it grew at a double-digit percentage rate. Appian also looks ahead to a strong 2009 because unlike many software companies, Appian has some strengths that play into the economic downturn. Those include

  • a Software as a Service (SaaS) offering of Appian's entire business process management (BPM) suite, which should be a good option for those that want to minimize upfront investment
  • a long history of success in the U.S. federal government, which should be good because the Feds are looking for ways to stimulate the economy.

So why not BPM? Appian is based near the U.S. capital (or is it capitol?) and Appian executives Samir Gulati, Appian's vice president of marketing, and Matthew Calkins, president and CEO, were not bashful in admitting they are beltway insiders. Maybe they are even Democrats.

On a more serious note, Calkins sees a bifurcation of the BPM market between those users that look for a feature-rich BPM-centric approach to business (or government) challenges and those users who want BPM but as part of a more all-encompassing stack. (Another analyst on the call highlighted a third option; a user is not sure what he or she wants and finds out during the RFP process that BPM solves the problem better than a custom inhouse-developed approach or a packaged application.)

The first usage mentioned above is often associated with "so-called, self-described pureplays" like Appian, Pegasystems and others that Calkins noted were his most frequent competitors. The latter include the long time breadth-and-width middleware suppliers such as IBM, Oracle and TIBCO. Calkins says, "If we are in a deal against those guys (Oracle, IBM or TIBCO), one of us in the wrong place."

By the way, "so-called, self-described pure play" is my term because my research does not show that BPM functionality from a company that also offers other middleware or other types of software is any more or less impure, or feature rich, or unable to get the job done. But even the stack players sometimes reinforce that distinction, which is why I sometimes criticize IBM for emphasizing SOA over BPM in its BPM marketing.

Also by the way, despite its Washington connections and hopes for good things from the upcoming economic stimulus package, Appian did a great job in 2008 in diversifying out from its government roots. More than half its customers and almost half its revenue now comes from commercial customers such as Starbucks and Enterprise Rent a Car. Two short years ago, Appian realized over 80% of its revenue from the government.

-- Dennis Byron

1 Comment

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Dennis -

I think the distinction "pure-play" vs. "stack" is one of focus, not feature-function. It doesn't explain Appian's comments regarding "being in the wrong place" per se, but the implicit message in being a pure-play in any particular space is that because you are more narrowly focused, you are likely to innovate faster and put all the wood behind your one arrow (to borrow from an old Sun analogy).

More diversified vendors can provide a lot of benefits - but one thing they are unlikely to do is really pioneer a new space - or even offer the best solution in an evolving space. And they prove this out, often, by giving away the new software (whenever a commercial software company is giving software away, I think your alarm bells should be going off - sometimes "free" is the gift that keeps on giving!)

2 cents -


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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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