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Appian 6 Takes Dead Aim at SMB Market

Appian on Monday released its latest business process management offering, Appian 6, an on-premise and on-demand suite that now includes one-click import and export functionality for moving process applications to and from disparate computing environments.

BPM software choreographs multiple business processes and enables different applications and technologies employed in a distributed computer network to work together.

Historically, BPM has been a luxury reserved for large enterprise clients that have both the budget and the abundance of process applications to justify the complex software. But the emergence of cloud-based, subscription alternatives coupled with the fiscal imperative for vendors to create new revenue streams has everyone from IBM (NYSE: IBM) and Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) to Appian mining the SMB market.

To get that SMB gold, vendors know simplicity is the key.

"Social media and collaboration tools that accelerate an organization’s ability to effectively utilize BPM technology and deploy process application solutions are becoming increasingly crucial," said Michael Lock, research analyst at Aberdeen Group. "The next generation of enablement in this area goes beyond simple chat boards and process wikis to deliver useable templates and technology extensions in real-time."

Appian 6, a Web-based platform that has been under development for more than a year, lets users import, export and publish all components of a process application—models, rules, expressions and forms—with a single click and gives users application-centric portal views to quickly build and deploy new process applications.

A marketplace of pre-built applications

"What happens is that every time you build a new application, you have to go through [quality assurance], staging and production," said Samir Gulati, Appian's vice president of marketing. "Moving all these applications from one server to another takes time and money."

To make it easier and thus more attractive to smaller companies that don't employ an IT army, Appian and its partners have developed Appian FORUM, a marketplace of pre-built applications -- think of processes like on-boarding and off-boarding employees or the approval process for purchase orders -- that SMBs can access through an iTunes-like application.

Appian officials said so far this year about 25 percent of its customers have subscribed to its Appian Anywhere on-demand offering, up from between 10 percent and 15 percent last year. It expects the ratio of on-demand to on-premise sales will be closer to 50-50 by the end of the year.

Gulati said new customers are assigned an online process coach and are given a walkthrough on a Web demo. On-demand customers pay $35 per user each month with a minimum of 10 subscriptions required.

"The big opportunity is providing lightweight applications that [SMB] customers can see and learn quickly," he said. "They can download a simple process model and be up and running in a couple days rather than a couple months."

This latest iteration also includes a collaborative user portal that gives designers control over the creation of interfaces and delivers personalized content, shared work queues and aggregated content from all related systems.

Gulati said a handful of enterprise customers have already installed Appian 6, including Archstone, a high-end real estate management company.