Earlier this week Appian Corp announced that seasoned VC Harry Weller of New Enterprise Associates (NEA) has joined its board. Weller is an acknowledged VC star; he’s been on Forbes’ Midas List (a list of who Forbes calls “the venture capitalists who generated the top returns for their investors and who were most instrumental in creating the most impactful and valuable companies of tomorrow”) for the last three years. As part of the deal to bring Weller in, NEA made a minority investment in Appian worth $37.5 million.
Weller brings heavy-hitting financial connections and know-how to Appian, and the obvious question is whether Appian is now positioning itself for an IPO. After a short phone briefing with Appian yesterday, I have no doubt. There’s no firm timeline being planned yet, but the board is clearly moving in that direction.
The other thing that piqued my interest about the announcement is the term that Appian’s now using to describe its offering. Until recently Appian talked about ‘worksocial’ technology; now it’s pulled back from the tight association with enterprise social software and is taking another crack at describing what it provides to customers: a Work Platform.
Appian isn’t the only vendor pulling back from trying to sell ‘social’ as a specific standout characteristic; Angela Ashenden posted just the other day about how the collaboration platform players are also starting to do this. And it’s not the only BPM-heritage technology vendor also shifting the focus away from BPM as a product positioning concept (also see Pega / Build for Change). The truth is, most of the BPM technology vendors feel that the BPMS concept is getting tired and, as the market matures more, they’re finding that mainstream organisations (not innovators/early adopters) don’t come to them and say “I have a BPM problem, please let me buy some BPM”. They say things like “I have a customer onboarding/supply-chain co-ordination/claims management/customer support problem—can you help?”
Many clients I talk to are hazy about the scope of BPM technology. Does it/should it include Business Rules Management technology? Case Management technology? Ad-hoc task management? Collaboration? Predictive analytics? The key here is that Appian has long brought a broad range of technology platform elements to the table as part of its product suite, and the Work Platform concept is its latest attempt to wrestle with how best to explain the breadth of what it does.
Personally I think a move away from ‘worksocial’ is a sensible one; to mix metaphors, that label was a bit of a red herring, and Appian risked painting itself into a corner. Let’s see if ‘Work Platform’ fares any better. With NEA on board you can bet that Appian will be more determinedly trying to address a much larger-scoped system of co-ordination market—beyond the market that many BPM practitioners might already identify with.
Are you an Appian customer? Does the idea of a ‘Work Platform’ make sense to you? I’d love to hear what you think?