Updated: Oct 24, 2019
Seismic shifts are impacting the workflow market, causing old names like "iBPMS" (courtesy of Gartner) and "BPM Suite" to essentially fall by the wayside. In fact, the name "Business Process Management" itself is endangered, as more and more workflow-oriented use cases are implemented on top of lighter-weight workflow systems. The market is necessarily adjusting, and one such company that has been impacted has been Appian. In their case, however, they've been able to adjust quite effectively.
Rewind to 2009/2010, when I worked at Sony Electronics and had my first exposure to the Appian platform. Appian gave our integration group a demo of their platform, and we were impressed. Although we found their BPM capabilities to be strong, I found their Rapid Application Development capabilities to be even stronger. They had an impressive combination of quick user interface (UI) generation capabilities and the ability to seamlessly tie those UI's to workflows and data sources, and I remember sharing with their sales rep that their focus should be on enabling the rapid development of business solutions... that those capabilities were their true core competency.
Between 2010 and 2013, I worked alongside Pramod Sachdeva and others to start Princeton Blue's Appian practice, and I learned a great deal in the process. Around that time, Gartner introduced the term "iBPMS" (intelligent Business Process Management Suites), which was meant to denote a BPM platform that offered UI generation capabilities, workflow modeling capabilities and much, much more. Appian was a natural fit and did very well in those competitions. Naturally, at Princeton Blue, we leveraged those strong analyst ratings and solid partner support to build the practice and to build up a nice business on the platform, a business that is still going strong today. I left Princeton Blue to work with open-source BPM platforms, but I left knowing that open-source BPM applications couldn't compete with tools like Appian in offering the ability to quickly build simple but effective business applications.
Fast forward to today, and it's hard to find any mention of BPM on Appian's website. Instead, they label their platform as a "low-code platform", and that's very well-aligned with their strengths even going back 10 years to my time at Sony. Consider this image from Appian's website at https://www.appian.com/platform/low-code/ (images used under US fair use doctrine):
Figure 1: Dashboard Creation in Appian
Figure 1 shows the Interface Designer, in this case being used for the creation of a dashboard with a set of charts. They have a host of other low-code capabilities as well, for example for the drag-and-drop creation of process models or slick user interfaces on top of data sources. Here's an example of the Interface Designer being used to build a user interface on top of a table from a relational database (from https://docs.appian.com/suite/help/19.3/interface_object.html):
Figure 2: Database Table UI Creation in Appian
Appian has pivoted so effectively - both from a marketing and application development standpoint - that it is now being recognized as a leader in Gartner's "Magic Quadrant" for low-code application platforms. You can download that report here (registration required): https://www.appian.com/resources/gartner-magic-quadrant-for-enterprise-low-code-application-platforms-2019/.
Appian deserves a lot of credit for that pivot, positioning itself to capture that portion of the market that needs and can use low-code effectively. Given that the workflow market has been evolving so rapidly, that pivot has allowed them to continue to have a bright future.
A lot of digital "ink" produced by the open-source community has been devoted to deriding low-code. At Summit58, we believe that low-code has its place, that it can be used effectively to rapidly build simple user applications or certain types of more complex enterprise applications. If you'd like to discuss this topic further with us or evaluate whether Appian is right for your use case, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.