Magic Quadrant Time

Scott Francis
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(Side Note: Ever notice that “Gartner Magic Quadrant Time” can be chanted to the tune of “Peanut Butter Jelly Time“? )

The real surprise is that Gartner put out another magic quadrant only one year after the previous quadrant.  Gartner starts with another introduction of what iBPMS is versus previous definitions, and the required components.  Worth a read, to understand the context of their evaluation.

Someone funnier than I put this comic together to describe Gartner quadrants, but it is funny partly because it feels true (the truth harkens back to my three vendors that matter post from a few years back).

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But what about the real Gartner Quadrant?

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Once again, three vendors in the Leaders (or FOG) quadrant (the Three Vendors that Matter).  And no one in the “cowards” quadrant!).

What I found surprising was that they rated IBM so low on ability to execute.  Considering there are swaths of the world that Appian wouldn’t execute at all, and types of projects that Pega can’t do (too expensive) and that Appian can’t do (too big), while IBM covers the whole spectrum… I found the score puzzling.  But then I looked at how Gartner defines ability to execute, and it doesn’t reflect – at all – geographic scope or range of pricing, nor does it reflect – at all – a vendor’s ability to deliver successful projects into production for its customers.  Think about that for a minute.

The scoring also reflects that Gartner fails to either understand or appreciate IBM’s go-to-market strategy, which leverages hundreds (if not thousands) of partners worldwide.  These partners work with IBM on sales execution, marketing solutions to specific industry niches, and delivery of solutions into production.  These partners invest in building products on top of IBM’s platforms (including BPM and Smarter Process). The strategy is to increase value to customers, diversify customer choice, and to create competition in the market that will be of benefit to customers.  To plant a thousand seeds.

IBM’s strategy is intentional and well-thought-out, to bring partners into the fold and help them grow their businesses.  It doesn’t happen by accident.  By contrast, Pega and Appian are known to be difficult to work with as a partner.  The ecosystem doesn’t exist, and staffing of projects and building of products is tightly controlled and internal to the vendors.

Which approach is more progressive and agile?  Letting people in the field all over the world drive product features and creation, or just a couple of product managers telling you what you need from home base, with a (sometimes) questionable vision?

BP3 is just one of many such examples of an IBM partner.  IBM Smarter Process + BP3 (and BP3’s assets) achieves a very high degree of execution – fantastic customer references, successful implementations, repeat buyers, and community.  Brazos UI was first developed to win a deal for IBM over Pega – a deal which we won to our benefit, to IBM’s, and to our mutual customer’s benefit.

At BP3 we’ll continue to keep investing in tools and software to make BPM better.  Our leading UI framework, Brazos, makes IBM BPM the best BPM tool in the leaders’ quadrant. Our Neches Analysis product makes it easier to manage the process of quality BPM deployments.  BP3’s software and services have been game changers for our customers.

The other 2 Leadership BPM vendors would love to have partners like BP3 fighting for them and investing in their ecosystem with software, services, and methodology.  But they don’t.

Interesting notes I pulled out on the top 3 vendors follow…

Appian

Gartner was impressed with Appian’s social approach, time-to-market for deployments, customer references, and public cloud deployments. On the contrary side:

On Appian rules: “the iBPMS does not have full CEP and analytics capabilities to drive high-volume predictive analytics, where complicated pattern matching is a requirement.”

Translation:  Not a rules engine… (and by that, I mean that I’m not aware of anyone, ever, that has bought Appian’s rules engine outside of their BPM capabilities… which implies it isn’t really a first class rules engine).

On Appian customers: “Most Appian customers implement business transformation from the bottom-up, one iteration at a time. The platform offers less support for top-down transformation initiatives, where change agents need to visually link strategic objectives, performance outcomes and operational outcomes.”

Translation: This almost single-handedly explains why Appian has faster time-to-market on their projects, according to Gartner: they do small bottom-up, tactical projects, not taking on the top-down transformation initiatives (not to mention having to deal with the scale of such projects and runtimes).  Effectively, Appian sounds like Lombardi’s 2005 positioning 10 years later on, and reflective of current architecture norms (clouds instead of app servers, mobile rather than integration to Microsoft apps). Nothing wrong with that, but if you’re comparing “ability to execute” with Pega and IBM, this isn’t an Apples to Apples comparison.

Having said that, I wonder about the time-to-market.  BP3’s customers get to market quickly.  In one year we took one of our customers to production 8 times (6 different processes).  Velocity is possible when you have the right alignment and teams – but let’s not be confused that technology is the primary barrier to fast deployment. Bigger projects have more political and bureaucratic hurdles than small projects with only one sponsor.

On Go-to-Market: “Appian has successfully gone to market as a BPMS/iBPMS vendor, and is now also focusing on competing in the application development platform market.”

Translation: does Appian know what it wants to be when it grows up?  And does that still include BPM, or more of a “business-friendly” application building environment?  Seems to me like Appian and K2 are going after the application development market. Focus matters, and it isn’t clear that you can focus on the needs of both types of customers and serve them well, but Appian is taking that on.

Pega

Gartner gives points for its primary strength in BRMS and analytics (translation: this is really a rules platform masquerading as BPM).  It’s the biggest rule applications vendor out there, to my knowledge.  More points for the Directly Capture Objectives methodology (okay), and the IBO capabilities.

On midsize deals: “Pegasystems has not been competitive in most low-end and midsize accounts because its sales and pricing model has been better suited to larger enterprises.”

Translation: Pega is expensive, relative to peers, and doesn’t go down-market.

On Methodology: “Pegasystems’ methodology and programming model is powerful, but unique.”

Translation: Pega doesn’t follow standards, so you’re walking out on a limb with them.

On Playing Nice with Others: “Although Pega’s unified architecture is a strength, it can also be a drawback when customers want the iBPMS to integrate as a peer with third-party tools and applications that duplicate aspects of Pega’s functionality.”

Translation:  Pega doesn’t play well in the sandbox with others.

IBM Smarter Process

On IBM BPM, Gartner gives points for versioning, modeling, and design, as well as completeness of features and capabilities.  Noted as a leader in decision management and analytics (also, not noted, people buy the decision management software independent of the rest of the platform as well – iLog heritage showing through).

On IBM complexity: “IBM Business Process Manager solutions are relatively hard to configure and deploy”

I have to admit, it saddens me to hear this.  We deploy IBM BPM configurations in the cloud in minutes.  make it hours if we configure network and Virtual Private Cloud settings.  Still, IBM should continue what Phil Gilbert started – keep simplifying and synthesizing the products into cohesive offerings.

On IBM customer satisfaction:  “Users provide tepid feedback on overall satisfaction relative to some other iBPMS vendors.”

This should be a call to action to IBM.  Gartner should have asked us (BP3) for references.  Our customers love BP3 and what they can accomplish with IBM BPM.

On staffing: “Customers report that IBM Business Process Manager requires a high level of skills, and people with those skills can be hard to find.”

I’m curious how Gartner comes to this conclusion, as compared to the other vendors that matter (Pega and Appian).  My understanding is that neither Pega nor Appian have a partner like BP3, nor much of a partner ecosystem.  Customers of IBM BPM have lots of choices for partners and staffing. Not only is that partner ecosystem vast in the US, it is also far-reaching around the world, in places that Pega and Appian don’t operate.  IBM’s ecosystem includes resellers, OEM relationships, services partners, and distributors all over the world.  BP3 has benefited immensely from this partner network, as have others.

I think that BP3 distinguishes itself considerably above the crowd, but that doesn’t change the fact that IBM customers have choices – which is part of what drives BP3 to be the best.  One of the complaints we hear from customers who work with Pega and Appian as well as IBM is that the rates are so high on these other platforms.  When you have only one realistic option for staffing as you do on the other vendors, it turns out the rates go higher, not lower.

Thoughts on the REST

As much as it was a surprise when Gartner added Bosch to the quadrant last year – this year they dropped them right back off the quadrant.  And the explanation doesn’t make sense, simply because the same explanation was also true last year (when they were on the quadrant). This is the kind of thing that makes people crazy when it comes to Magic Quadrants.

They took OpenText off as well- largely because they don’t market an “intelligent business process management suite” – ouch.  They only bought 3-4 BPM vendors, but they got bounced from the quadrant!

Kofax is on the chart in the “niche” quadrant, but was just purchased by Lexmark, who isn’t on the quadrant at all, despite having some BPM heritage.  Will Lexmark make an appearance in the next quadrant?

There is also still a (curious) lack of open source alternatives in the quadrant. I’m not sure if that is true in all the markets Gartner covers, but it wouldn’t surprise me if so.  Perhaps Gartner can start producing a chart that shows how the “Open Source” vendors compete/compare with each other.

It would be a more interesting report if Gartner leveraged their many conversations and data points to opine on the future direction of BPM or these vendors, but unfortunately the narrative is in the here and now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Posted with tongue firmly-in-cheek… Amazing correlation between how much Kofax’s increase in ability to execute matches IBM’s decrease. If I weren’t so darn humble I would take all of the credit* ;-)

    More seriously – All analysts strive to be objective, but are in the end subjective. IBM’s done a great job – but is measured by a much higher standard of expectations than others. I think we’re seeing the analysts chide them to do even better because of their unique position to make things happen.

    *I left IBM to join Kofax last year.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head john-