Competitors Taking Shots from the Sidelines

  • July 18, 2011
  • Scott

Appian is again taking shots at others’ acquisitions from the sidelines in “Another Monster is Born”:

Bigamy is one analogy for what’s happening in the stack vendor land-grab for the BPM market. Another is “Frankenstein’s Monster.” And we all know how that played out…for the Monster and the townsfolk.

That’s only the beginning.  Appian is not impressed with OpenText’s acquisition of Global 360.  Frankly, I’m surprised they reacted at all (were they really competing that often with Global 360 or OpenText?)  But here’s a statement I strongly agree with:

BPM is not yet commoditized for the simple reason that BPM is not yet done evolving. Perhaps more than any other enterprise IT market right now, BPM is in a process (no pun intended) of innovation. BPM software is just now learning how to reach more people, drive more value and truly transform a business. Cloud BPM is driving a growing percentage of the market. Mobility has entered the game, as has social technology. This market is not yet complete.

In fact, there are other areas in which BPM is learning to reach more people and incorporate more mature technologies, as well as emerging tech.  But cloud and mobile are certain two big trends to watch (and, to Appian’s credit, two trends they bet on early… compared to other BPM vendors at least).  BPM is not yet commoditized.  But the demand is growing faster than the independents could satisfy it – faster than they could build their sales channels and development teams.  So it looks to me like a lot of interesting innovation will happen in pure plays or niche plays, but that bigger vendors are likely to acquire and incorporate those innovations (hopefully, not destroying them in the process). The question is, can BPM reach its true potential without the deep pockets of public market money or big company R&D?

But leave it to Appian to misunderstand what some of its competition are up to:

It seems to me that all the mega-vendors think BPM is simply a commodity. The mentality is that the more BPM technology you can acquire, the better; loosely stitching them together to create a creature that will succeed through sheer mass. OpenText is the latest example, but look at IBM, Oracle, Progress, etc.

I can’t speak to whether OpenText views BPM as “simply a commodity”.  However, I have some personal knowledge about Oracle, Progress, and IBM.  Oracle: guilty as charged.  They have a BPM strategy but it doesn’t feel like they are putting the gravitas behind it.  Ditto for SAP.  Progress has made BPM (aka RPM) the center of a coherent go-to-market strategy.  When a company reshapes their value proposition with BPM at the heart of it, I hardly call that treating it as a commodity or trying to succeed through sheer mass.  There are legitimate criticisms of the Progress approach, but they have brought together sound technical solutions across a range of product areas that pure plays don’t play in, and they’ve found a way to get behind a process vision for that.

Finally, looking at IBM – Appian is sadly mistaken if they think IBM looks at BPM as a simple commodity that it need not worry about.  Anyone attending IBM Impact in May can see how seriously IBM is taking BPM.  IBM’s customers and partners are taking it equally seriously.  In the very last session of the day on the third day of the conference, our own session at Impact was full to overflowing – as were nearly all the BPM sessions at Impact all week long.  IBM is hearing the message, and the investment in rationalizing their products into a much improved BPM offering is quite obvious to see for those of us in the trenches.

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