Appian, probably best known as a pure play BPM vendor has tossed its hat in the social ring with the latest release of its BPM suite. Like TIBCO before it, Appian is taking advantage of its ability to hook into any application and then applying a social layer. Appian is using the opportunity to reinforce its mobile, social and cloud credentials while extolling the virtues of its approach to social with a solution dubbed Tempo.
I'm a fan of business process approaches to solving business problems because these are often homing on something business specific and business critical rather than taking a broad technology sweep. In that regard, Appian referenced three large customers that are looking at or planning to deploy the solution. As you might expect, all are existing users. In each case, Appian cited companies with large, highly dispersed workforces that either had difficult or no access to internal systems yet need to manage complex processes.
Company facts: apartment management, 442 communities, 82,104 units 3,300 employees
Challenge: over 900 complex forms, highly mobile, dispersed and transient workforce, no active notification of events and deadlines
Solution: SmartPath built on Appian provides flexible handling of processes and routing with a low learning curve.
David Carpenter, director BPM, Archstone is quoted as saying: "Appian Tempo delivers a new level of value to our customer service associates through instant mobile access to key enterprise processes and forms." At PS Health, the ability to take advantage of smartphones is seen as a way of providing access to many systems e.g. vacation approvals that can be routed via Tempo. Another example was the notification of mandatory training with hooks back to booking and calendaring. At escalator manufacturer Kone, collaboration among 400 users in 80 countries is expected to provide real time visibility and tracking.
Do you see themes emerging here? Relatively simple but forms intensive processes are being streamlined through a combination of technologies - not just one thing. It was interesting that while Appian used the Google SEO friendly 'social' moniker from time to time, it was only as a descriptor for some of the technologies with which the Twittersphere will be familiar. Throughout, the company was careful to talk of the best ways to solve business problems.
As with TIBCO, I was impressed with the way the company has hidden a huge amount of complexity behind a relatively simple interface that can still expose rich depths of related information (see above). Unlike TIBCO, Appian has already built a slew of interfaces for enterprise class applications like SAP, Salesforce.com and the like. It argues that since it has already done many of the integrations, it was relatively easy to layer Tempo over the top, whether delivered over a phone, to a web client on an iPad, Blackberry or even at the desktop.
On this last point, the company is seeing customers who have been past on-premise customers willingly embrace cloud based technologies they can slot into their IT infrastructures. Cost is a major factor as is the ability to move expenditure from capex to opex but from what I could see, the main attraction comes in making the business of collaboration self evident and in the self interest of end users.
These are starting to become exciting times. While Appian acknowledges that some companies will struggle to understand the value or benefit from this class of solution, it is clear that vendors of this type are providing the crusty ideas of middleware, integration and BPM with a new and - for once - obvious value proposition.