It’s no secret that the global move towards cloud computing is reshaping traditional IT channels, and, not in a good way, that is, if you’re one of the many disenfranchised channel players. Howard M. Cohen of Redmond Channel Partner writes,
With cloud services eroding the opportunity to sell infrastructure products and attached services, and companies like Microsoft flat-out telling partners they’ll need to have their own intellectual property to sell if they’re going to survive, the channel has to keep on changing, and changing faster.
With margins on software deals all but gone and integration-based revenue heading in the same direction, channel partners far and wide are mulling Microsoft’s admonition—develop your own IP or go the way of the Dodo. Cohen, in reference to Microsoft’s warning, goes on to state that “If you think you’re exempt and don’t have to worry about this, you’re dangerously wrong.”
Again, we’re talking, here, about resellers and integrators, the refugees of the XaaS revolution, who may not be equipped to enter the software development space. But it’s for these types of channel entities that AgilePoint developed its next-generation offering and its own channel strategy.
AgilePoint is best known as an enterprise BPMS that has carved out a niche in the SharePoint workflow space. AgilePoint’s latest offering, AgilePoint NX, ups the ante by making all of its enterprise, application-development and management capability available as a cloud-based service, enabling the composition of business applications that call activities from any version of SharePoint, Office 365, and a host of other Microsoft and non-Microsoft products, such as SAP, Salesforce, Oracle, and Box.
So assuming you’re a channel player, why should this be interesting to you? The short answer is that AgilePoint NX enables you to do exactly what Microsoft suggests—develop your own intellectual property—which is timely advice, whether you live in the Microsoft ecosystem or not. Just as importantly, AgilePoint provides a powerful way for channel players to take their portfolio of business apps to market.
If you’re involved in a channel company that lives in the ecosystem of a major line-of-business system vendor(s), here are six specific reasons why you should consider AgilePoint NX as the foundation of your intellectual-property-based business strategy:
For channel partners, the idea of developing a portfolio of out-of-the-box workflows that will meet the needs of any sizable market segment is unrealistic. (That’s the crux of the IP problem for channel partners). Your customers will want to codify and enforce best practices by building them into automated processes, but arriving at an optimal work pattern is an evolution in most instances. More importantly, a “best practice” in any given instance could, itself, be a moving target, changing with the evolution of technical and business requirements.
Put another way, for channel-based companies looking to stay relevant, you need to be able to build and license business apps and workflows that are responsive to constantly changing platforms, devices, environments, and, most importantly, business conditions.
AgilePoint NX, the world’s first and only Responsive Application Platform, allows you to build apps that can be configured, activity by activity, for different organizations, different groups within organizations, and even for individuals within organizations. And AgilePoint NX apps can be adapted at runtime to changing business requirements. They can even be designed to self adapt to changing requirements via programmatic updates based on feedback loops of fresh data generated by other devices and applications.
In other words, AgilePoint NX will allow you to develop a portfolio of fluidic business apps that can be quickly configured for different customers and updated easily when necessary.
There are a number of workflow tools in the market which are built on 3rd-party process engines, such as Windows Workflow Foundation (WWF), which is part of Microsoft’s SharePoint platform in versions prior to 2013, or Workflow Manager 1.0 (WM), which is the process engine built into SharePoint 2013 and which also powers SharePoint Online/Office 365. But such platforms are often limited to the native functionality of WWF or WM, which, by Microsoft’s own design decision, isn’t great. Furthermore, such platforms may not have true BPM functionality—most notably, the ability to modify process apps mid execution, an absolute necessity for lots of businesses that may have hundreds of process apps in service at any given time, instances of which may take months—even years—to complete. In other words, a serious development platform has to be able to deal with changing business or technical requirements without taking an application offline to update it.
In contrast to “workflow” extensions, AgilePoint has its own, standalone process engine (in no way reliant on Microsoft or anyone else). And because of AgilePoint’s deep roots in the BPMS space, it supports mid-execution changes to applications—merges, skips, rollbacks, etc. Furthermore, AgilePoint’s engine is stateless, a fact which makes it almost infinitely scalable and extremely reliable. In other words, where a stateful process engine requires that an app reside in memory throughout execution (a design characteristic that takes up memory, requires more CPU time, and leaves an organization’s process data exposed), AgilePoint’s stateless engine loads apps when their needed and then unloads them as soon as a process step is completed, which generally takes just a few milliseconds. This approach minimizes power/bandwidth/storage (PBS) issues and, given that apps don’t live in memory for months at a time, virtually eliminates the possibility of lost process data in the event a server or system outage.
The bottom line is this: AgilePoint has the type of big-system architecture necessary for channel businesses to base their own future intellectual-property-focused strategies. As some wise man once said, it’s better to build your business on bedrock than on sand, or something to that effect, and AgilePoint’s process engine is pure bedrock.
AgilePoint NX’s eForms Builder is a powerful, wizard-driven forms tool that allows you to drag and drop fields and controls onto a form canvas and configure as required. eForms Builder includes more than fifty control types and allows you to embed business rules in a form, enabling dynamic restructuring of a form based on prior data input.
It all comes back to the basic necessity of developing IP (your own portfolio of business apps) that can function effectively in highly dynamic environments. That’s what AgilePoint NX is all about.
Without hard data to rely on, I’m going to go out on a limb and contend that there are no (at least very few) organizations of any size that have completely migrated to the cloud. Most will have some cloud-native services, such as Salesforce, Oracle Sales Cloud, or Marketo. But most will also have on-premises based systems, such as SharePoint 2010/2013, ERP systems, accounting systems, etc.
And given that such organizations may take years to fully migrate to the cloud, they will almost certainly need business apps that can function in their unique hybrid environment, calling activities (actions) from both on-premises and cloud-based systems.
AgilePoint NX was designed with this exact, real-world requirement in mind, and will allow you to build composite business apps that incorporate all of customer’s systems, no matter where they are hosted. (See reasons 2 and 3, above.) This fact will allow your customers to migrate on-premises systems to the cloud at their own pace, without having to abandon workflows and business apps that weren’t designed with hybrid integration in mind.
For a variety of reasons, some organizations may not want anything hosted in the cloud. For this reason, AgilePoint NX can be deployed on-premises, in a private cloud, or can be consumed as a hosted service, available in either Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. This fact allows you to continue to earn significant commissions on traditional license sales and system integrations. For cloud-ready customers, you can charge monthly or yearly subscriptions, either of which is a configurable option.
AgilePoint NX is available at NXone.com, a multi-tenant, integrated portal that allows you to design, build, configure, update, and manage your portfolio of business apps. Most importantly, NXone can be private labeled, meaning for all practical purposes, that your customers will be logging into their corporate accounts on your portal to access and manage their own applications.
Each of your customers can have their own accounts and each customer can assign various levels of rights to different individuals, just like they could on Salesforce, SharePoint Online, or Marketo.
The cloud has, without doubt, been disruptive to traditional channel businesses. But for channel businesses who are quick to adapt, the cloud represents an enormous opportunity to carve out an even bigger share of whatever market you happen to be addressing. AgilePoint NX is a next-generation, Rapid Application Development platform that has accounted for all the needs channel companies as they develop their own IP portfolios.