Monday, February 01, 2010

BPM SaaS - you can't do it with the same old stuff

I ran across this 'non-news' press release for Appian on the free PRLog service this evening. Based on its own research, Appian claims to lead the business process management software as a service (BPM SaaS) market. Since I haven't done my own research, I wouldn't wish to question this fact. My question is whether hosting a traditional, complex BPM engine and design tools on the Amazon public cloud is really different enough to allow the benefits of BPM to meet the masses. Is Appian a leader in SaaS? Or do they have a bunch of customers who thought that an application service provider hosting model really made more financial sense at the time? My gripe is not with the success - more the fact that I don't believe traditional BPM is a good fit for general purpose SaaS.

Now I can't deny that the survey they cite is a call for BPM SaaS to start to make its mark, but I believe it is for the wrong reasons. The September 2009 survey "SaaS BPM: Silencing the Skeptics" report from Datamonitor is quoted as saying: "The ongoing recession has helped the cause of both SaaS and BPM. The SaaS model has endeared itself to customers that are wary of upfront capital investments, while BPM has helped businesses adapt quickly to the massive changes in the external environment... Datamonitor believes that this is the right time for BPM to take its SaaS strategy mainstream.".

Unfortunately, this quote suggests that the only reason customers would select a SaaS model is to change the payment terms for the system. It is a cold, hard fact that traditional BPM software is just too complex for most companies to just pick it up and use it. The many benefits of BPM modeling, simulation and optimization are lost on companies that really want to rapidly pave the cowpath, to improve selected processes in a few days, allowing them to move onto the next pain-point. Simulating and optimizing processes (the functionality pushed by BPM suites such as Appian's) is for those organizations that are already well down the path of BPM, not those wondering where the path starts.

Congratulations to Appian for forging ahead with this model, especially as their competitors like Lombardi and Savvion get swallowed by conglomerates that would never allow a business model like this get in the way of software license revenue. Software as a Service is a great fit for companies wanting to improve their businesses - in my opinion traditional BPM reworked for a mass hosting model may not be the way to go about it. Its still the same old stuff, just hosted in the cloud.

A post from the Improving It blog

To implement workflow and process automation in your business today, visit

No comments: