At the Gartner BPM summit in February, I met up with Dr. Ketabchi, the founder and CEO of Savvion. Shortly before that, Savvion had axed most of their marketing department, and I was eager for the bigger picture since I knew that a lot of those people were very good at their jobs. As he explained at the time and again in a recent briefing, the reason for this shift in team was a shift in direction, under wraps until now, towards much more of a solutions focus. They’ve done a pretty significant internal reorganization, and completely reset their strategy and goals.
Ketabchi believes that the potential for BPM is much larger than is now being achieved: many vendors have been focused only on the core BPM services of model/design, execute and monitor. The extended BPM space surrounding that includes additional tools such as process libraries and business rules — similar to the Gartner definition of a comprehensive BPM suite — and a still-larger ring of vertical applications built on that extended platform. The value to the customer with generic components is limited; domain knowledge is required to increase that value through the vertical applications.
To serve these needs, Savvion is extending their BPM platform both horizontally and vertically. First of all, version 7.5 (shipping in August) will include the following enhancements:
- Business process library
- Multi-channel routing engine, allowing for the inclusion of multiple interaction channels including voice, fax and internet
- Model-monitor-improve cycle
- Content management, either through a direct bundling of Alfresco (open source), or through links to Documentum or IBM-FileNet
- Business rules, with their own rules engine, allowing processes to invoke rules but also (CEP-like), rules can initiate processes
- Multi-tenanted to allow for on-demand BPM
The new release will include the Business Process Center, where all process assets are managed: models, operational procedures, references and everything else needed to build and execute a business process.
There’s also some interesting project management-like visualizations, for bringing together the concepts of project portfolio management and BPM. This tabular view provides an alternative representation of the process that make it easier to pinpoint critical paths and areas requiring optimization.
Vertically, they’ll extend with on-demand and on-premise business applications:
- Accounts payable
- Telecom order processing
- Clinical trial management
- Mobile asset management
- Customer on-boarding
This vertical expansion is more challenging than horizontal expansion, since Savvion doesn’t have the necessary domain knowledge, so that’s where their new Business Solutions Alliance Program comes in: they’re partnering with resellers, customers and other companies that do have domain knowledge in a sort of crowdsourcing development model. Savvion is building the application platforms, then vertical applications are built on top of the frameworks; since they applications share a common framework, they will be better integrated. But Savvion provides more than a technology framework: they’ll provide sales and marketing, support and a host of other services, while the partners develop the thin, uppermost application layer using their domain expertise, and provide an entry point into the vertical market through their existing customer contacts. This allows the Savvion-centered ecosystem to target a larger portion of the vertical market, since vertical applications can be developed more easily, while still providing a fairly consistent and well-integrated set of applications built on a common framework.
They visualize this application development ecosystem as a mindmap, with the foundation (first level from the root) being developed by Savvion, and the “leaf” applications being built by partners. The goal is to make the leaf-level development as much of a cookie-cutter process as possible, and Savvion is expecting — possibly optimistically — to bundle and integrate the applications within a branch into a cohesive suite, even if built by different partners. Since the new core engine will be multi-tenanted, these applications can be hosted either by Savvion or their partners.
When a vertical solution ecosystem works well, it’s a win-win all around: the vendor makes more sales of the underlying platform, the partners leverage their unique knowledge to build and sell reusable apps rather than just selling services, and the customers can buy mostly off-the-shelf solutions at a lower price point than custom solutions. It’s an interesting model for a partner program: leverage domain knowledge from partners, whether professional services firms or customers, without them having to be crack application development shops or have the capabilities to market and sell the solutions. It’s also a pretty big gamble for Savvion, who are now betting the whole farm on this vertical partner-assisted model instead of the more common horizontal model that we see in the BPMS marketplace.