Do BPM vendors eat their own dogfood?

I really dislike that expression, but it’s commonly recognized to mean that a company is using its own products to run its own business. I believe that a lot of BPM vendors do use their own products in some way, but how much? Are they just playing around with expense approvals, or have they drunk the process Kool-Aid and embedded BPM within their critical business processes?

One company that does appear to be taking their own sales pitch to heart is Appian, who just published a case study about themselves (you can find it linked at the bottom of their About Us page, but it requires registration – tsk, tsk). They use it for departmental and enterprise-wide applications, and have 40-50,000 process instances running at any given time across Finance, HR, Sales, Support, Marketing, Product Management, IT and Employee Development. Furthermore, all of the business applications are developed by business people, not IT, and can be changed in flight by business people using the rules capability within Appian Enterprise.

By implementing BPM internally, which included moving some functionality out of Peoplesoft and into Appian, they’re saving about $500k in hard costs each year, primarily through reduced licensing and support costs for packaged applications. I’m sure that there’s also soft cost savings in terms of improved efficiency and productivity, although they haven’t stated those.

I’m curious to hear from other BPM vendors about their own internal case studies — add your comments with your experiences.

19 thoughts on “Do BPM vendors eat their own dogfood?

  1. Great post Sandy. I remember a few years ago sitting in a presentation from a vendor who was very proud that their new management console for their system was built on their portal technology. I asked them, “Can I include portlets from it in my own systems management console?” “Uhh…. no.” While it was nice that they used some of their own technology, they didn’t take it to the next level where it should have been.

    Interestingly, the same thing holds true for corporate IT. We want the non-IT departments to leverage BPM technology, but have we first tried to apply it to our own internal IT processes? It’s an area where “business knowledge and alignment” certainly shouldn’t be an issue, and can make for a great case study, just as Appian now has.

  2. When I was at Metastorm, we used the software internally. Not only are their cost savings, but it also means you’re constantly QAing the product.

    I think it would be pretty unforgivable if there are BPM companies who aren’t using their software internally. BPM software is applicable to pretty much all organisations so it would show a lack of faith in the software if they aren’t using it themselves

  3. My point is not just are they using it in some way (which might be non-business-critical), or are they using it in a way that they can actually highlight as a case study? If not, then why not?

  4. K2 uses their own technology a lot, for example, the entire customer and partner support system is on K2. There is also an interesting case study of K2 using their own "smart object" technology to manage content on the K2.com site. See http://www.k2.com/en/customers.aspx – select "K2.com".

  5. Hey, Sandy
    Thanks so much for highlighting the great value we get from using Appian Enterprise. By the way, we’ve taken your minor admonishment to heart and the case study is now available without registration for any visitor to the Appian.com site.

  6. Sandy,

    Excellent post. My feeling is that if the products in our space really do what we proclaim, a BPM vendor would be remiss to not use them internally. And if a vendor does not heavily use its own products, one needs to question how easy they are to implement and use. For years Metastorm has been using its own products in both critical business processes as well as support processes. On the mission critical side we use our BPM products extensively for such things as product management and development processes, customer support and call center processes, and automated multi-platform and scalability testing processes. We also use our Enterprise Architecture and Business Process Analysis tools to model everything from our internal business architecture and processes to the design and maintenance of our underlying product architectures.
    In addition to the above, we use our products for many non-critical business processes, including such things as HR new hire, expense management, IT requests, purchase order requests, check processing, Website maintenance, etc. One of the things that has allowed us to use our products so pervasively is the speed and ease as which they can be deployed by business users.
    For more complete listing of some of the things we use our products for internally you can access the following link http://www.metastorm.com/library/Metastorm_Uses_Its_Own_Software.pdf

    Kevin Haugh
    Vice President of Product Management and Marketing
    Metastorm

  7. Sandy,

    There are few products that is commercialized after extensive internal use, it is like if this solution is solving my problem then I could use the same to solve similar problems for others. As you already know about Fujitsu’s Process discovery offering, this came out exactly that way. When we wanted to streamline our revenue recognition/compliance process, we started off with project of analyzing current process by engaging an expensive outside consulting firm which turned out to be a multi million dollar expense and at the end of the day it did not go anywhere, we took this use case and started building tools to analyze business events to visualize the process basically as an internal project. The success of this tool was so compelling we planned to commercialize the offering and launch it into the market where we seeing a lot of traction.

    We also extensively use our BPM internally to cater software provisioning, product release scheduling and requirements management, we are also expanding to other areas of our core business.

    Infact all the recent RFI that have come to us has explicitly stated whether we use our own product for process automation which is very interesting simply because these internal use turns out to be a good reference implementation for Fujitsu to suggest lot of real life issues of process automation and things customers should be prepared for.

    Rajiv Onat
    Sr Product Manager
    Fujitsu Interstage BPM

  8. About 16 years ago IDS Scheer offered the first process modeling tool on the market under the name ARIS Toolset. Meanwhile it’s grown up into the ARIS Platform product family, by end of this year being complemented with a process governance engine.
    From the beginning our software and the built-in methodology (literally the dog food’s recipes) both were meant to be used by consultants to ease their work of business process optimization as well as for any kind of organization to teach themselves a common organizational language.
    All our internal business processes are modeled, analyzed and continuously optimized following the same methodology as being offered to our customers and leveraging the features of our ARIS product family.
    And even the process execution is part of it:
    E.g. when a customer dials 800 ARIS HELP to trigger a support ticket, that process instance is being monitored on its way through to organization until it’s solved. And that happens to all inquiries being measured by reaction time, solution rate, reopened rate and other indicators ensuring a stable and high level of service quality.
    But not only such indicators are being measured, also the different ticket status is automatically rebuilt in graphical process models, ticket by ticket.
    Those processes are discovered to establish a up-to-date information basis of the executed business processes in a process warehouse. That’s the task of ARIS PPM as I stated in this comment (http://www.column2.com/2008/06/fujitsu-process-discovery/#comment-8292).
    And all that is needed to close the process lifecycle with the required feedback whether the once designed and then automated processes are really being fulfilled by the organization.

    Rune Becker
    Head of CoE for PI & PM

  9. Sandy,

    CIO Magazine wrote an article on this a year ago: http://www.cio.com/article/122351/Pegasystems_CIO_Tells_Colleagues_Drink_Your_Own_Champagne/1

    We’ve been “drinking our own champagne” for a long time, and we like this term much better than your dog food analogy. We at Pega use our SmartBPM® suite for a broad variety of tasks, both internal and customer-facing:
    1.) The whole company uses BPM for a ton of HR and IT tasks: time sheets, expense reports, procurement, help desk, benefits, reviews, skills assessment, etc.
    2.) IT and the corporation use BPM for many aspects of governance, risk, and compliance, including change controls, risk assessment, and internal audits.
    3.) Our external support desk (and those of several of our partners) uses BPM for call management/response and customer satisfaction.
    4.) Sales fulfillment uses BPM for release dependencies and shipping.
    5.) Development/Product Management uses BPM for all aspects of product and change management, including requirements, development, project tracking, testing, scope management, and evaluation/audit. This is also part of our core BPM methodology.

    All of these SmartBPM frameworks are also available as add-on frameworks for our customers, and we are developing new ones all the time. We often start with a local “bright idea” in a department that gets expanded and made more generic and robust to create a salable framework.

  10. Sandy,

    Yes we do use our own BPM software – in some of the most mission critical areas for us. We use Teamworks as the core of our Customer Support site – and have since the founding of the company. This site not only allows customers and partners to submit trouble tickets and track their progress, it also provides access to our knowledge base and community forums. Of course, we save the costs of packaged software, but we are also constantly analyzing our support processes for incremental improvement. Last year, our internal Six Sigma team completed a project that generated a savings of $150,000 by improving how we identify and manage abandoned trouble tickets. That is a nice little savings on a single process for a group that is already winning awards for customer service (http://www.lombardisoftware.com/press-release_9-05-07.php).

    Beyond our Customer Support site, we also use Teamworks to manage our build process. Not sure you could get more mission critical for a software company.

    Our Product Management and Engineering teams also use Teamworks to plan and track their time investments in different product areas.

    On more of the process documentation side, every department in Lombardi uses Blueprint to map and analyze their important processes. You will find everything from Marketing Demand Generation processes, to Finance processes for POs and Invoices, to Services processes for project initiation and hand-off.

    This BPM stuff is great. Everyone should have it ;)

    Jim Rudden
    VP Marketing
    Lombardi Software

  11. Ultimus has long recognized the value of developing and utilizing internally built business processes. For
    many years, Ultimus has been using Ultimus Adaptive BPM Suite business processes in the critical areas of:

    - Worldwide customer support / call center management
    - Customer license management
    - Ultimus product management
    - Global product development
    - Ultimus product release management

    By developing and utilizing internal business processes, Ultimus has essentially become its own customer. As such, we have challenged ourselves to continually improve in efficient process design, features and functionality to best support the users involved in process design, and optimal client and form usability. Because of
    the constant change in business needs, Ultimus has leveraged our own Adaptive Discovery technology
    to ensure Ultimus’ business unit champions have the information and ability to mature Ultimus’ internal business processes.

    Because of the incredible value we have reaped from using Ultimus Adaptive BPM Suite internally, business process development has now extended to non-critical business needs. In this light, Ultimus has now developed internal business process solutions to be utilized in conjunction with application as SalesForce, SharePoint, and Great Plains. Ultimus will continue to invest in the usage of Ultimus Adaptive BPM Suite going forward.

    Chris Adams, Vice President of Product Marketing and Management-Ultimus

  12. Sandy, the link on that page allowed me to download the case study to which you refer without any of that registration stuff you mention. They must be reading your blog – and taking notice.

  13. Sandy –

    This post was much needed! I think this is probably the first time that all of this information has been collected together in one place for the market to see. Very valuable!

    At Software AG, we have been using our BPM solution and methodology internally for some time now. Our biggest project has involved a restructuring of our procurement organization, creating a world-class global purchasing group supported by standardized, flexible and transparent processes. This has been (and will continue to be) a multi-year project and we estimate that it has had a 17mln EURO impact on our bottom line.

    Other projects here include a deal approval system, an HR onboarding solution and a comprehensive system to manage the creation and utilization of our internal solution assets (demos, PoC’s, Process Frameworks etc). The latter is creating efficiencies in the way we build solutions for our customers internally, but it also extends to our external partners and allows us to work effectively and consistently on an outsourced basis with them to create content and solutions for our customers.

    Over the years we have learned a lot about what it takes to implement BPM solutions, but no matter how close you are to a customer you never get the same feel for what it really takes to do BPM unless you have done it yourself. This is especially true of the political, cultural and organizational aspects. So, we will be using our ‘BPM@SoftwareAG’ experience not just in our marketing but also in our internal and external education programs.

    Michael Lees
    Senior Director Product Marketing
    Software AG

  14. Tons of great contributions here, thanks to all! I will have to start collecting these stories about internal use and post them all for reference.

    I wonder how many features come about because of an internal need rather than directed by a customer? Rajiv (comment #8) discusses how Fujitsu was doing some internal process analysis manually, and that led to their recent process discovery product/service.

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