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Blogs > MWD Advisors

The world's best way to organise work: a review of Appian World 2012
Neil Ward-Dutton By: Neil Ward-Dutton, Research Director, MWD Advisors
Published: 20th April 2012
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License
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Appian – one of the leading independent BPM technology specialist providers – used its annual customer conference earlier this week to significant effect: highlighting recent growth, giving customers and prospects opportunities to learn from each other, and unveiling its next major product release. What it lacked in glitz it made up for in enthusiasm.

Appian had aimed to get around 500 registrations for Appian World 2012, but ended up with 650. I’m not sure if that number was reached at the event, but the main keynote room was certainly pretty packed. Over two days customers, prospects and partners got an update from the BPM vendor and, as well as plenty of opportunities to talk. (They also got to see me do the closing keynote).

The customer presentations were a highlight for me. Now of course a company is going to choose its happiest, most successful customers to stand on stage and share their stories; but what was interesting for me was the diversity on show. Appian is known for being very strong in US Federal Government, but we saw case studies from energy, financial services, insurance, media, property, agriculture, and transport. Some customers were approaching their use of Appian primarily from the perspective of agile application delivery; others were taking much more of a process improvement perspective. All of them highlighted Appian’s responsiveness and customer service, and their ability to get stuff done quickly.

Appian CEO Matt Calkins, on stage on Day 1 following Gartner’s Darryl Plummer in full-on preacher mode, said two things that I think are going to be important to remember over the coming months.

First: Appian’s goal is to “be the world’s best way to organise work“.

Second: the way it’s going to do that is through ongoing smart R&D focused on ease of use, and driving universal participation.

The first part of this is really about casting the proposition a bit wider than what most people think of when they think of BPM technology. Now Appian has long provided a set of capabilities broader than those focused on core process management and automation; packaging content management, portal, collaboration technology into the Appian BPM Suite. But with the resurgence in interest in case management scenarios and the impact of social interaction forms on knowledge work – and Appian’s capabilities in supporting these things -  I think this hook has a lot of potential. Rather than risking being painted into a corner (where ‘BPM technology’ could start to be seen as overly restrictive and less relevant) Appian is declaring its broader ability to build systems of co-ordination; and at the same time it’s using words which make sense to non-specialists (which is a refreshing change in this space).

The second part of this sets up a lot of what Appian is doing with its next major release, Appian 7, due to be released in July. We’ll be publishing an in-depth assessment report on Appian 7 – alongside major updates of our assessments of other leading vendors – in the coming months. Keep watch for those!

Appian is a small company relative to many of its competitors, but is starting to punch above its weight and it’s now definitely moved beyond its previous phase of growing customer project by customer project.In 2011 license growth was 213%. Against this kind of backdrop the company has to be careful to continue to retain its high customer satisfaction ratings; but I think Appian has that covered.

But here’s a new challenge for Appian: as it seeks to be in people’s minds as a vendor in an increasingly mainstream area of enterprise interest, and as it casts its proposition more widely against an ever more chaotic and fast-moving backdrop, it’s going to have to spend more time and effort evangelising its approach and educating its markets and prospects. Appian appears to be a very technically smart, disciplined and customer-focused company; as it looks to deliver against Calkins’ goal, though, it has to be prepared to step outside its technology-focused comfort zone and beat its drum more loudly. I’ve spoken to quite a lot of companies outside the US, for example, that are preparing for projects but that have very little awareness of Appian or how it’s different.

What do you think?

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