Is BPM Dead? Appian says No
Appian reported results for Q4 and 2012 that indicate BPM is anything but dead. We already knew it wasn’t dead for IBM and Pega, but it isn’t even dead for the independent software vendors like Appian! Of course, they are also evidence that the key terms may change from BPM to Work Social or some other such catchy phrase (something besides a three letter acronym? is that allowed?). And yet the focus is still on business, and process.
Appian clearly had a good year in 2012. Reading their press release was confirmation that BPM is alive and kicking and I enjoyed it. However, the fact checker in me just can’t let a couple things go:
Appian is also the only BPM suite vendor to offer a portable cloud architecture, allowing easy migration between cloud and on-premise deployments.
This isn’t, strictly speaking, true. This is certainly what Appian is known for, and they’re good at it. But IBM BPM is also available on-premise, and at BP3 we also offer IBM BPM in the cloud via BP Deploy (IBM also offers this through their Smart Cloud offering, but the BP3 offering is implemented differently). It is trivial to move between the two (on premise and cloud). But of course, we wouldn’t hold Appian accountable for knowing details of our business, they’re relating what they know, and BP3′s market presence is a small percentage of Appian’s so we don’t expect to be on the radar. I just point out that if you’re interested in deploying BPM in the cloud, and you’re not working with Appian (who supports this as part of their operations), you might want to to give BP3 a look.
However, they still like to quote what we call vanity metrics in startup land. “total orders”, “license orders” etc. are ambiguous terms. We don’t know if we’re counting the number of orders, or the revenue derived there from. I’m not saying the numbers aren’t good – just that sometimes private companies try to keep cards close to their vest. It is just that in my experience, if the cards are good, sometimes it is better to just lay them out there, or say nothing. Depending on whether you want to attempt to reap the marketing benefit of putting the good news out.
For example, at BP3, we release our revenues, reviewed by accountants and submitted to the local business journal. And when we report our year-end, the percentages allow you to do the math if you’d like to know what kind of revenue we’re talking about. I just point it out because we’re attempting to walk the walk ourselves.
Please don’t interpret this as me taking cheap shots, that’s not the point. Anyone as focused on BPM as we are is genuinely interested in how the vendors are doing, Appian included, so we’d like to see more material numbers or a consistent way of reporting them. I’ll quote an Appian fan, Dave Brakoniecki -
Are cloud and on-premises licenses a like-for-like comparison. The results make it sound that way but I would have expected smaller average order size on the cloud orders …
What does their churn look like? How much of this software is shelfware and how much is supported by successful implementations?
How many customers (or even what percentage) are using Appian’s highly-innovative mobile offerings as part of their solution? Or, put differently, how much of the mobile solution is driving thought-leadership but not results?
And from Neil Ward-Dutton of MWD:
Also in the release, Appian announced that in 2012 around one-third of new customers opted to deploy Appian’s cloud-based platform rather than deploying on-premise – with twice as much revenue attributable to cloud implementations than in 2011. This is something we need to get to the bottom of: when we wrote specifically about Appian’s cloud-based offering in January 2012, Appian told us that around half its new license sales at that time were related to cloud-based deployments. Not sure how the maths stacks up there – unless Appian’s new license revenue overall was 3x higher in 2012 than in 2011. I’ll update here when I find out.
As Neil points out, they’re clearly doing well. And expanding beyond the US. And signing up a lot of customers. But they’re keeping a lot of cards close to the vest, making it difficult to tell how deep the success is, or how significant of the future it might be.
I agree with Neil and Dave – it is great to have an independent vendor helping push the industry and stretch it in new directions, as Appian has done (and as other independent vendors have done). The big vendors will have to react to what Appian is offering.
In related note, Sandy Kemsley recently gave a good review of Appian v7 – an overview of what’s new, her impressions, etc. One of the final comments she makes is this one: “If you’re using Appian in the cloud, you’ll see an upgrade to V7 with its new features and interface in late January. Other features, as yet unspecified, will be released quarterly for both on-premise and cloud versions throughout 2013.“
Included upgrades is one of the key benefits users of cloud services get (e.g. Blueworks Live). As such it is also a benefit BP3 offers any customer that signs up for BP Deploy with us. We’ll upgrade them to new versions of BPM software as they come out, and in cooperation with the client’s schedule. This is one of the great benefits of cloud deployments and entrusting a software vendor or close partner to manage the infrastructure.