BPM Still Not Dead: Appian’s Q3 Results

Scott Francis
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Appian just reported Q3 results.  And they’re good. The highlights:

  • Total software revenue grew 31% year-over-year for Q3.
  • Cloud-based revenue increased 70% year-over-year.
  • 50 new customers in 2013 (not just in Q3)

The rest is pretty standard positive boilerplate about the company, the products, and industry awards. Appian’s success demonstrates that there is room for an independent BPM firm to grow in the market.

I’ve taken some flak from folks at Appian in the past for picking on their numbers – or rather, just how they’re phrased in their press releases.  This is the clearest release of numbers from Appian I’ve seen yet, which is great for those of us trying to get a better picture of the BPM market.  I wish other vendors would release similar numbers and YoY growth.  Still disappointed that no hard revenue number was released, but not surprised. And unfortunately previous years’ reporting of somewhat suspect measurement data does cloud the picture:

  • In 2011 Q3, 62 “new name customers” were added the first nine months.
  • In 2012, for the year, 98 new “companies and government agencies” joined the Appian customer roster.  (evenly distributed we can estimate about 74 customers through Q3)
  • Whereas, in 2013, about 50 new customers so far…

So, perhaps “new name customers” was a different metric than “new customers”?  Because if it is the same metric, it implies that fewer customers are signing up, in raw numbers, in 2013, than were in 2011 or 2012, which I doubt is the case. Clearly the percentage growth has declined slightly as Appian has grown, but that’s just natural.  I suspect the raw new customer count is actually higher in 2013 than it was in 2011, but “new name customers” must have implied something else – business divisions within a bigger company?

By the way, I’m not implying anything is wrong with counting business units of large companies as multiple customers, I’m just saying that I don’t think the same precise metric is being reported each year, which is unfortunate.  When I see a peculiar phrasing (e.g. “new name”), I like to know the definition so I know what kind of eggs I’m counting!

Let’s set aside the nitpicks – clearly Appian is having a good year.  Congrats to Appian on a great 2013 so far!

[Author’s Note: Incidentally, putting our money where our mouth is, we report some of our numbers every year – growth rate and revenue – as part of our Austin Fast 50 participation.  145% from 2010 to 2012, with $6.1M in revenue in 2012. That’s roughly 57% CAGR, a little higher than the BPM software vendors we’re able to track.  We’ll report in on 2013 later this year but we have had a good start through the first 3 quarters, as we have some great, supportive customers. ]

Update: Appian has updated their blog with an announcement of results as well, with a  better narrative than the original post I saw (linked above):

A few days ago, we announced Appian’s 3rd-Quarter 2013 performance results. It was a record-breaking three months. Total software revenue jumped 31 percent over Q3 last year. Total sales orders hit an all-time Q3 high. That’s good enough all on its own – particularly in light of the economic turbulence and spending reductions that continue to confront public and private sector markets. But the big drivers behind our success in the quarter and to-date in 2013 indicate encouraging trends for the future.

The number that matters to me is revenue. 31% is a great number.  Later in the article Appian discusses the number of new hires and many other interesting metrics.  But boil it all down, they’re growing.

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  • Peter Whibley

    The year on year flat/declining number of new customers for Appian I think confirms that the pure play BPM market is stagnating. Appian are supposedly market leaders so can we assume that new customer growth for the other market participants must be pretty poor? Also as BPM suites move to the cloud surely we should expect a higher volume of lower revenue new customers. Clearly this hasn’t happened for Appian who were one of the first movers in cloud BPM.

    • Well, to be fair, you’d rather have a smaller number of customers paying more, than a larger number of customers paying less. Revenue is up at a nice clip, so I wouldn’t assume the real customer count is down. I suspect the customer count has to do with “how they’re counting” more than it does an actual slowing in the # of new customers. Without the consistent reporting, it is hard to be sure.

      One possibility is that while BPM is moving to the cloud, the business model looks more like “hosted” than “cloud” – meaning, customers aren’t buying BPM in bites, they’re buying it in whole – big decisions, big roll-outs.

      If the other participants would share numbers we could do better math on this :) All I can tell you is that customer acquisition numbers for BP3 look pretty good…