Simon James of DST gave what will be my last presentation of AWD Advance (in fact, I have to leave before the end to catch my taxi to the airport), looking at how services and automation are done in the Design Studio in AWD 10. This is a code-free (or code-light) environment for composite application development for process-centric applications. [Note to vendors: just because it’s done in a graphical environment doesn’t mean that it’s not code. Just sayin’.]
He walked through a number of examples of what could be done with their library of available services, and showed a bit of the environment used for this; this ranged from automatically adding comments to work items to performing various sorts of calculations, which sounded as if they were things that have caused headaches (and custom coding) for their customers in the past.
As I’ve pointed out in my posts about the other sessions, this is not cutting-edge technology, but it’s ahead of where most of DST’s customers are in their technology journey. Existing AWD customers can be upgraded to AWD 10 without changing their existing applications, but that won’t allow them to take advantage of the new features that we’ve been seeing this week: to do that, they need to redevelop their applications using AWD 10. Design Studio definitely makes that easier, but that may not be a popular idea with customers who are happy with their existing legacy applications built on older versions of AWD that run just fine on the AWD 10 infrastructure.
Consider the different types of AWD customers:
- Customers for whom DST outsources at least part of their process and infrastructure, including “friends and family” (companies that are connected to DST through corporate ownership) as well as arms-length customers. These have, I believe, already been upgraded to the AWD 10 infrastructure, but for the most part are still running legacy AWD applications. These are likely to have their applications updated to AWD 10 on an ongoing basis, since DST has some degree of control over the application development and deployment.
- Customers who use other DST transactional systems such as TA2000, tightly integrated with AWD. These will undoubtedly be convinced to upgrade the infrastructure, but may decide to stick with their legacy AWD applications unless they can see clear reasons why they need to take advantage of the new functionality. Rewriting their applications will take time and holds some degree of operational risk, so they may stay on the legacy apps (although on the new infrastructure in order to remain supported) for some time.
- Customers who do not have tight integration between their transactional systems and AWD may also stick with their legacy applications; at the point that they are forced to upgrade (either because of support issues in the future, or because they need newer functionality), they may choose to evaluate other BPMS along with AWD. For DST, this represents a risk that they may lose a customer, or at least the BPMS part of their business, although the existing customer relationship may allow them to combat this.
- Customers with no other DST products besides AWD. This is a big risk for DST, since there is little reason for them not to evaluate other BPMS at the point that they need to rewrite their applications. This is also true for new DST customers where they are only looking for BPM/ACM, not the other transactional systems, as they are more likely to find outside North America where the DST transaction processing systems are less commonly used.
DST has a lot of low-hanging fruit in the first two of these categories, and the existing relationship will probably see them through a lot of the third. However, the BPMS-only customers are going to be the challenge, since they will be selling AWD against other BPMS that are further along the technology curve. They do have some strengths, but their biggest strength by far is their existing customer base and the close relationships that they have with those customers.
That’s it for me and AWD Advance; this has been a really interesting view into a very different sort of BPM vendor, and I look forward to seeing how their technology matures and the path of their customers in the future.