Talking with Appian's Matt Calkins About BPM and E-Mail

Dennis Byron

Continuing to catch up on summertime news, I talked this week with Matt Calkins, CEO of business process management (BPM) software and services supplier Appian. Appian had announced a great first half of 2009 back in late July, saying among other things:

"Appian's success throughout 1H 2009 was driven by global market demand for both enterprise license and on-demand deployments of Appian's comprehensive BPM Suite. As Appian's global customer base has matured, many existing clients have moved beyond initial BPM projects to drive enterprise-wide BPM programs"

That single sentence from Appian's press release summarizes the questions I had for Matt:

 

  • What's special about BPM in 2009?- Us analysts and forecasters had predicted that BPM software would stand out in terms of growth in 2009 while macroeconomic conditions were otherwise depressing the enterprise software market. It's always good to see reality back up forecasts. Even 10 percent growth when the rest of the market is deflating is something to write home about, and Matt reported 67 percent growth. Matt believes BPM "answers a real need in tough times," times when "creative destruction" is the rule of the day in many enterprises and companies. That's because - depending on how it is used - BPM "answers the need for quick return on investment" and a new way to recompose businesses; he says it is "not a luxury buy" anymore.
  • And the market demand is worldwide? - Yes, Calkins says, Appian is seeing the need worldwide and "Appian's international business now accounts for roughly 25 percent of company revenue." That's pretty good for the company based on the Washington, D.C., area that started out with a healthy amount of U.S. Federal government business.
  • What's helping Appian take advantage of the worldwide need in 2009? - Matt, who had previously run product marketing at Microstrategy, the business intelligence software provider, believes Appian's "process acceleration/rapid deployment" features are the key. It looks like he remembers some of the BI drawbacks from the 1990s; spending forever setting up data warehouses was often a deal-killer. He feels Appian lets users deploy a BPM solution in "half the time" of other BPM suppliers and of course is "better able to adapt to process changes," unlike ERP software. The ERP differentiation is a generic difference with BPM (ERP has other advantages such as the processes are all figured out for you) and I cannot verify the "half the time" claim, but Matt says Appian's differentiators are
    • completely Web based
    • lighter more flexible templates
    • a very vibrant BPM community, where clients put related intellectual property, both process flows and actual code, up on the Web for other Appian users to take advantage of (sort of an open source culture but without the terms and conditions)

And that includes both enterprise license and on-demand deployments? -- Appian offers 100 percent Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), but you can also have it 100 percent on premise. Or mix and match.

 

The product is Java-based, but Appian works closely with Microsoft, especially vis a vis SharePoint.

 

Calkins summarized his BPM philosophy in a way that some might find controversial but that I liked. He says:

"E-mail is the most flexible BPM because it is simple."

That thinking matches my view of BPM; it is a value proposition, not a technology nor type of software. Almost any type of software can be used to enable BPM: document management, transaction processing, enterprise application integration, and so forth, including e-mail (and its big sbiling, collaboration software). Of course, like ERP, e-mail has drawbacks as well as strengths as a BPM enabler. Calkins' goal for Appian BPM seems to be to make it as easy to use and deploy as e-mail and as powerful as ERP.


 

Appian will go into much more detail at an upcoming user conference it is holding in Reston VA in late October.



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