"It Just Confirms I'm as Smart as I Thought I Was"

Scott Francis
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So the new Forrester Wave is out.  What’s that? you hadn’t heard?  If not, you haven’t talked to anyone in the analyst or BPM vendor community in the last 24 hours! As usual, there are a raft-load of vendors declaring victory: Appian: “Appian Still Leading the Pack” Pega:  “Pegasystems ranked #1 as one of two BPM vendors that ‘lead the pack with the best overall combination of modeling, design and development features for business and technical roles driving process improvement’ ”  (bonus, their article includes the image of the Wave graphic itself) Metastorm: “Metastorm Recognized as a Leader in Business Process Management Suites Report…” IBM has several congratulatory tweets about being in the leader quadrant, but I haven’t seen a press release yet. Judging by the wave, I should be able to add links to Progress and Software AG press releases or blog posts by this time tomorrow. Every one of these vendors will crow that the analysts have confirmed that they’re as smart as they thought they were – that they’re leaders (or even, “number 1”). So, I’ll let you in on a little secret.  The Wave won’t tell you which BPMS makes the most sense for you.  Some of these offerings are actually so different that they rarely, if ever, compete for the same customer projects, and often corporations own more than one product because they aren’t viewed as doing the same thing.  For example, Appian’s strength in SaaS means that will compete more often for SaaS deployments – the decision “to SaaS or not to SaaS” was probably made before any vendors were called.   Metastorm’s strength in EA may play well with customers who are doing a lot of modeling, but for projects that are more focused on implementation, or who already own other EA tools, that offering won’t be as compelling as something more targeted at executing processes.  Even Pega (apparently depicted as #1 on the Wave), isn’t as often in competition for general-purpose BPM platform purchases – they tend to be in the finals for more vertical processes, where their investment in specific templates or verticals or applications can really pay off.  A friend once described Pega as more a company that sells rules- and BPM- enabled applications, rather than BPM itself (it wasn’t a criticism, my friend thought it was good strategy for the company). Of course the meat of these things is in the written words inside the report, but it is hard to get there when there is that tasty graphic that everyone can look at.  I wonder what would happen if Forrester withheld the scoring and the graphic for a couple of weeks, and just revealed the more in-depth analysis.  Another interesting data point would be the number of times (that Forrester can determine) any two vendors were finalists in the same evaluation – which would allow for a 2×2 grid/heatmap that shows you who is competing with whom.  I was happy to see Forrester give up on separating BPM into various different flavors of BPM – that approach never really worked for me, personally. So everyone is happy now.  But in the morning, we’ll humbly get back to work and get some processes built and deployed, and improve some processes.  Which is, after all, the whole point of BPM. Update: as expected, a few announcements today: Software AG announces their leadership status here. And Progress’ blog entry can be found here.
  • Scott,

    I doth protest.. about 80% of Appian’s business is on-premise. Our SaaS offering is simply another flexible option to deploy the Appian BPM Suite. SaaS though is a rapidly growing market for us that delivers fantastic value to our customers, but the majority still implement Appian in an on-premise, behind the firewall configuration. Even more customers are taking advantage of the portability of Appian between SaaS and on-premise, allowing a pilot to start in the cloud, and then move to on-premise, or visa-versa.

    But, the best thing about a BPM SaaS company, is that it forces us to deliver clean and simple upgrades. We manage 100s of instances of our own software, so attention to upgradability and backwards compatibility is very important. I imagine you would appreciate this given your recent posts on the topic. http://www.bp-3.com/blogs/2010/07/simplicity-means-bringing-customers-with-you/ .

    Malcolm Ross
    Director Product Management
    malcolm.ross@appian.com
    twitter – http://twitter.com/mrappian
    blog – http://www.appian.com/blog/author/malcolmross

  • Malcolm –
    “he doth protest too much… methinks.”
    That 80% figure is news to me, since Appian is private. And of course I appreciate seamless updates / backward compatibility, as you’ve noted, in my previous posts. I wasn’t knocking SaaS, or Appian – but I can see, reading my post, that it reads more negative than I meant to write. My point was that based on the marketing Appian does, if you’re thinking SaaS BPM execution, you’re probably putting Appian in your short list. But if you’re not doing SaaS, then your short list could easily be 3 other vendors. I’ll edit the post to reflect more accurately what I was trying to get across – which was that depending on what you are trying to do, different vendors will pop to the short list (or top of the list).

  • Added links to Progress and Software AG announcements related to the Wave.

  • Clay Richardson

    Good post Scott. I agree, if you only look at the tantalizing graphic, you’re only getting half the story. Based on customer inquiry we see these vendors competing against each other pretty regularly – albeit in different pockets and combinations. The real difference in this year’s wave is that we took a look at how these tools/vendors support large scale BPM programs. Some key differences in emphasis for this year included single-model refinement (repository stores a single process model object across the different modeling environments), more focus on support for social (social addressed across all three segments of product evaluation), and greater focus on process modeling for business users.