Appirio CEO talks Workday, SaaS momentum, IPO

We caught up with Appirio CEO Chris Barbin to talk shop, cloud computing and market trends.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributing Editor on

Appirio is a cloud consulting and services firm on a $100 million annual revenue run rate and a quest to enable the serverless enterprise.

The company is also pondering an initial public offering in the next six to 18 months to continue to fund its rapid growth.

We caught up with Appirio CEO Chris Barbin to talk shop and cloud computing. Barbin was in New York chatting with investment banker types.

Here's an overview of the conversation, which kicked off with a roll call of key partners. Much of Appirio's business derives from Salesforce.com implementations.

What are the go-to partners for Appirio? The company's practice revolves around Google for collaboration; Salesforce for CRM; Workday for HR and Amazon Web Services for the infrastructure layer, said Barbin. "We go for complementary best of breed to create a virtual cloud suite," he said.

On Workday, Barbin said the company is gaining momentum in Appirio's services deals and overall. "Workday is hitting the HR piece and there's a long term vision for financials," said Barbin. "The company is on a tear." Barbin also said Appirio just closed its first $1 million deal with Workday. Appirio internally is using Workday for HR, financials and payroll. Barbin replaced Intact.

Where is Workday doing the most damage? Barbin said in most cases Workday is being installed among customers ripping out PeopleSoft. "Workday is really PeopleSoft 2," said Barbin.

Are there missing partnerships? Barbin said that the company gets about 10 partnership requests a week. Most SaaS players want to be implemented but don't want services units.

On social networking in the enterprise, I asked Barbin about social fatigue. After all, every SaaS vendor has some twist on social tools. Barbin noted that Appirio implemented Salesforce.com's Chatter and then shut it down. "We reimplemented Chatter. We had everyone following everybody and it created too much noise. It was too loud. We had to go back and educate the company on who to follow and what groups are appropriate," said Barbin. "It's all about the right use cases. We are now using Chatter inside of Gmail. We didn't want to go back and forth to Chatter."

Regarding social fatigue, Barbin has it. He noted he hasn't flocked to Google+ because "I didn't need another inbound stream. There's only so much you can take." In the enterprise, social is tricky because there are multiple pure play vendors like Jive and Yammer. Tibco is also doing innovative things with Tibbr, said Barbin. "My advice is that you can't do social just for social," said Barbin.

On possible new flagship partners, Appirio said it is incubating with Jive, ServiceNow, Zuora, Boomi and Cast Iron as up and comers. There are also deals with Marketo.

How do you find talent? Barbin said he was upbeat about an effort Appirio calls Cloudspokes, which is a developer community. In a nutshell, Cloudspokes is a crowdsourcing engine that has garnered 15,000 developers since February. Appirio has its own cloud integration software and tools and regularly farms work out to the crowd for what Barbin calls "rapid innovation and scale without headcount." For instance, Appirio may have 1,000 units of work. The company's consultants may take half of that work with another 200 to 300 units going offshore. The rest could be farmed out to the community. Appirio owns the customer relationships and showers developers with dollars, badges and recognition.

Barbin said that Appirio hasn't tried to monetize Cloudspokes yet because it's about innovation and finding talent. The company has hired six developers from Cloudspokes so far.

What does the cloud progression look like in the enterprise? Barbin said the most common theme today is businesses that have an on-premise application and want to rip it out for an on-demand system. "The first step is a single app and a move to the cloud," said Barbin. "Often it's Siebel for Salesforce.com and Lotus Notes for Google Apps. The biggest influx right now is companies getting off of Siebel. Then it's app development. From there it's a cloud first strategy."

How's the competition in the field? Barbin said that in Appirio's top 25 accounts Accenture and Deloitte are the biggest competitors. Wipro and Cognizant are also making a run because they have a large base of incumbent relationships, said Barbin.

Are big enterprises still into Google Apps? Barbin said that Google Apps adoption has "slowed a bit in the big enterprise." Google has been focusing on small and mid-market companies. "There's less rip and replace," said Barbin. Part of the issue may be that both Microsoft and IBM now have cloud migration paths for their legacy customers.

Is Amazon Web Services becoming commonplace? Barbin said that AWS is used internally at Appirio and has a large ecosystem. However, there are a few danger signs ahead. "AWS is struggling with how it plays in the enterprise and deals with requirements around service level agreements," said Barbin, who argued that there is an opportunity for other cloud players to compete in the enterprise. Barbin said that Dell, HP, IBM and companies like Rackspace could swoop in for enterprise deals. "AWS has to get more aggressive here with enterprise capability and support," said Barbin. AWS can be difficult for enterprises because it's a lean operation built like a consumer e-commerce company. In other words, a lack of volume purchasing can be a hassle for some. "AWS has a huge head start though," said Barbin.



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