Appian 2009 Results

Post by
Scott Francis

Well, after much celebration before announcing the details, we now have some (just some) facts about Appian's 2009.

It sounds like it was a good year - as MWD reports, its license revenue was up 59% (but we don't know from what base, much like Lombardi's reported numbers before it was purchased), and customers doubled.? Of course, another way to phrase this is that ASP declined by 20% (if my math is right), or that revenue mix has shifted from prepay (enterprise license revenue) to either post-pay or subscription revenue.

MWD's assessment is that international revenue will grow faster than domestic revenue.? And while this argument makes sense, having worked at more than one company Appian's size in my career, I can attest that international revenue can be very erratic.? For a few reasons:

  1. When starting from a small base, a single deal (or two deals) can dramatically affect the percentage growth internationally or in a region.? However, with so few data points, it may say next-to-nothing about going forward revenue.
  2. Even off of a bigger base, international revenue has so much to do with your sales operation, and so little to do with your product.? There are other products out there.? There are big consulting shops out there. Whether you capture the money (revenue) that is being spent to solve the problems your software solves depends almost entirely on your sales and marketing operation.
  3. American companies of this size rarely understand the international markets well enough, and make mistakes which cause big revenue swings up and down.? This is true because the executives usually lack field operational experience overseas, and though they may hire that experience, they may not be able to successfully evaluate those international experts and may end up throwing good money after bad.
  4. I've seen a single sales rep bring in 30% or more of a small company's revenue for a single year, only to bring in zero revenue the following year.? Individual sales rep performance is crucial to small enterprise software companies.

Appian may well overcome all of these pitfalls.? But revenue in both the US and Internationally is coming off of a small enough base that we should expect to see high beta for any of the smaller vendors.

The conclusions that Appian's results really drive home:

  • BPM is growing, not dying.? And growing faster than enterprise software generally. (Not just from this datapoint, but from Lombardi, IBM, Savvion, Pega reported results)
  • The BPM pure plays were doing well in 2009.
  • The remaining pure plays may still have legs and room to run while Lombardi and Savvion acquisitions are digested - even if those acquisitions are quite successful.
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