It's Getting Crowded In This Cloud

Clay Richardson By Clay Richardson

 

Based on the recent wave of announcements flooding my inbox, BPM vendors are now stampeding to the cloud party.  Over the last two months, I have received no less than 6 cloud-related announcements from various BPM vendors.  So here's the running time line:

Bpm_saas_stampede

This is starting to feel like the 1849 Gold Rush, or at least what I imagine it was like, based on what I learned in school (since I wasn't there smarty pants).  So where's the gold – since we don't see evidence of any vendors making wild sums of money off of BPM SaaS at the moment?

In the near term, smart BPM vendors see the cloud as a cost-effective marketing approach for "try-before-you-buy."   Customers can play around with the technology, build a few processes, prove initial business value, and then plunk their money down if they're convinced.  Think of it as an optimized sales tool - no troublesome technology installs that could derail the vendor's sale cycle.

For firms like Appian and Lombardi that began prospecting (sticking with the gold rush analogy) early, they are beginning to see a few shimmers of gold, in terms of attracting new customers to their brand and differentiating themselves as early pioneers in the BPM SaaS space.  But the real mother lode is still far off.  And with the stack vendors beginning to crank up the "public vs. private" cloud debate, it will become more difficult for smaller players to control the BPM SaaS conversation in the future.  For example, Oracle and IBM are now touting the importance of the "private cloud" (the new term du jour for grid computing, data centers, etc.).

Why It Matters

With software vendors stampeding into the BPM Cloud, customers will come to expect well-defined software-as-a-service strategies when evaluating BPM technology.  At a minimum, vendors need to show customers that BPM SaaS is on their roadmap or run the risk of being tagged as laggards.  In the near term, these same customers will likely end up buying on-premise BPM Suites, but will feel more comfortable with vendors that are not blind to the cloud computing trend.

For customers, it means you now have more choices when it comes to test-driving BPM Suites before plunking down your money.

And for the industry, it means lower barriers and the potential for accelerated BPM adoption.

Sound Off

I want to hear from you.  Let me know what you think about BPM Software-as-a-Service.  Do you think this latest stampede is a game of vendors playing catch up?  Do you think BPM SaaS has the potential of expanding and growing the BPM market?  Post your thoughts in the comment section or feel free to shoot me a quick e-mail at crichardson@forrester.com.

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Comments

re: It's Getting Crowded In This Cloud

And you could have included Lombardi's announcement of their Blueprint spring release as "yet another" BPM in the cloud announcement. I think its interesting that there are a couple products attempting to follow Blueprint now (in particular, i think IBM's Blueworks and Software AG's Alignspace look like they are attempting to mimic what Lombardi has done with Blueprint).scottps - yes, I think this is a game of vendor-catch-up, and also a way for vendors with weaker offerings in BPM to try to change the discussion to talk about your SaaS offering of BPM rather than BPM functionality. I think there's also a fear of missing the boat - that not having a SaaS offering will hurt their ability to market or sell.

re: It's Getting Crowded In This Cloud

Is it fair to even lump Lombardi in this category of SaaS BPM since BluePrint does not offer any analysis of real-time performance data, business activity monitoring, execution, or process optimization? Unlike Appian and Cordys, Lombardi BluePrint is SaaS BPA, not BPM.

re: It's Getting Crowded In This Cloud

Certainly not as crowded as the cloud based business collaboration arena!