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Appian’s BPM Software Vision – Crazy Like A Fox

130808 new garden S sideThis week I’m attending Appian World in Washington DC. It’s always been an interesting conference for showcasing thought leadership in BPM technology and providing thought-provoking customer presentations. For example, Appian is probably the first BPM software vendor to demonstrate an integration with the Apple Watch. At the 2015 event there’s been a strong focus on using BPM software to improve the customer experience, by capitalizing on capabilities like mobility, cloud, and social. As a proof point, Appian showcased Ryder Systems, which completely redid its fleet management and customer rental process using BPM software. (For more, see “Ryder Says Development Platform Eases Challenge of Creating Apps,” Wall Street Journal, April 15, 2015.)

For fleet management, Ryder combines mobility and BPM software to keep rental trucks in tip-top shape. For example, if they see a problem, like a flat tire, employees take a photo and then route the information to the team that does repairs. Since rolling out the application, the condition of trucks has improved by 10%. Checking out trucks by customers also goes much faster now because Ryder has a one stop shop; customers aren’t forced to move around to multiple locations when renting a truck. The impact is impressive: check-out time to rent a truck has been cut almost in half. And customer satisfaction increased 280 basis points after they rolled out the system. This is a great example of the customer experience being transformed, not only at the point of sale, but reaching back into how trucks are serviced and prepared for customers so that the rental truck is speedy and in top condition.

It’s interesting listening to the presentations. What a difference a few years makes. I’m reminded of when I initially came across Appian, and got my first briefing several years ago. When I first encountered Appian, I thought they had lost their collective minds. They briefed me about their BPM software, but as they explained it, they also talked about the document management capabilities they had developed as part of the platform. Then, they mentioned the analytics they had developed, and they were very conversant about it because several of the founders were from Microstrategy. And finally they mentioned their collaboration capabilities. At that point I stopped them and said something like “you haven’t just created a new BPM suite—you are trying to redevelop much of the IT market. Why in the world did you build out document management, collaboration and analytics??? Those products already exist. The world doesn’t need another document management, collaboration or analytics tool. This is crazy.”

Well, sometimes analysts (comme moi) have to eat crow and this is one of those times. Several years after I gave Appian my best (at the time) advice, many BPM software vendors are now discovering that they need to add more capabilities to their BPM platform. While modeling and business rules are great, that alone is not sufficient. Why? Because a large part of the value of BPM suites comes from being able to coordinate, collaborate, and execute all of the work—not just the structured process piece of the work. So while I’m using animal metaphors, I’ll add that Appian’s BPM software strategy is crazy like a fox. (The fox wins.)

When you look at Appian’s interface, it seems more like an information-rich extension of your smart phone or iPad, because the U/I is intuitive and so much of it looks like collaboration (like newsfeeds) or a very, very smart e-mail system. Actually, it’s just a slick U/I that is powered by BPM software behind the scenes. What this really means, to me, is that BPM suites have overgrown or overspilled their old boundaries (and Appian isn’t the only BPMS vendor with this world view.) BPM suites now are delivering on the vision that Appian shared with me many years ago: bringing all the tools together that are needed to get all the work done.

It’s an exciting time for BPM software—or whatever you want to call it.




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