Blog Posts Process Management Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)

Bring another BPM platform into the shower?

As Anne Thomas Manes and many others commented on yesterday, IBM announced their intention to acquire BPM infrastructure vendor Lombardi.

An Opportunity for IBM

IBM was missing the business empowerment and collaboration pieces from their BPM story. Now they’ve got them. No question about Lombardi’s leadership on those fronts.  The question is how to weave these capabilities into a coherent, believable platform for influencing outcomes using processes, not just “a grab bag” (as one of our clients calls typical stacker BPMS products). And what an embarrassment of riches IBM has now:

Deal Date





Lombardi (BPM)



ILog (Rules)



TeleLogic (EA modeling)



Webify (Services/MDA)



FileNet (ECM)


TeleLogic (EA Modeling)

Popkin (BP modeling)



Holosofx (BP Modeling)


The BPM infrastructure market was looking recession-proof. On analyst briefing calls this year, everyone’s revenue numbers were heading the right direction. The leading pure-play vendors were all talking about operating from cash. So, was the business model shakier than we thought? Has the credit-crunch felled yet another solid-but-credit-strapped company? Did the VCs panic and hit eject? We don’t know, but Miko Matsumura’s opinion is that “undisclosed sum” is code for forced sale. If, and this is a big if, Lombardi was compelled to sell itself, where does that leave the other pure-plays, even the leaders like Pegasystems, Appian, and Savvion?

The problem for IBM’s salesforce: go deep or wide?

One of the differentiators of pure-play anything is their single-mindedness. An intrinsic part of a pure-play BPM sale is rolling out the pure-play CXOs to meet the prospect’s business managers. Lombardi’s prospects get to meet Phil Gilbert and Rod Faveron up close and learn from their “we-live-and-breath-BPM-experiences”. With all due respect to Phil and Rod, and of course we don’t know their post-handcuffs plans, that’s not the way IBM are likely to do a sale. Of course there is an executive responsible for BPM within IBM, right now he is Craig Hayman. Craig is a senior guy, but he’s not Sam Palmisano.  The point is that the IBM salesforce will have more difficulty selling their passion for BPM outside their traditional IT audience.

“Take two bottles into the shower? Now I just wash and go.”

Product coherence is a real issue for BPM buyers. Many organizations doing BPM have matured to demand infrastructure that handles different process types seamlessly. Using the “process, information, people” triumvirate, to describe how to approach BPM based on 3 different products won’t wash. The teams we have spoken to have said that an offering of WebSphere Process Server plus FileNet just isn’t an attractive proposition from portfolio complexity point of view, regardless how well each product handles specific process patterns. Take another discrete BPM product family into the mix? To make this work and become a leader, IBM has a serious product integration job to do. I don’t doubt it can do it, if it has the will. The short-term, more-revenue-for-three-products strategy is a short sighted one. Like SOA, BPM is a long game.  You need to bring your customers with you, not make them feel more aggravated about maintenance fees over time.

Portfolio Overlaps

Sure there are some overlaps: IBM’s BlueWorks BPM which is built on Lotus and Lombardi’s BluePrint are two SaaS collaborative modeling environments. Something has got to give here. The remaining product or combination of these will be fighting a battle to be the go-to modeling environment with whatever results from Software AG and IDS Scheer’s mashup of ARIS and AlignSpace. Our research shows clearly that the value of BPM tooling  is heavily biased toward the modeling environment –using the process model as a nexus of cross-functional business improvement discussions.  So this is the key battleground to watch in the next 12-18 months. Another overlap is recently updated WebSphere Business Monitor and TeamWorks’ BAM capabilities which are both pretty sexy. Something’s also got to give here. Planning another acquisition like Lombardi, may explain partly why IBM has not developed the Holosofx tools into a fully-fledged business-focused modeling environment over the last couple of years.

Questions in customers minds

Acquisition always makes the acquired’s customers nervous. Things change – just ask BEA customers about maintenance fees and Eclipse tooling support. One price of entry for pure-plays is engineering their engines to run in a wide range of runtime containers. If my enterprise standard application server is WebLogic, I need your BPM product to run on WebLogic. I’m not going to certify and engineer another application server in my environment for you. How long will runtime aspects of TeamWorks be deployable on a range of application servers? What kinds of “optimizations” are planned for running the TeamWorks process execution engine on WebSphere AS? Vendors making a platform acquisition always counter with “well it would be crazy to cut off a revenue stream, wouldn’t it?” And yes it would, looking a BPM adoption strategy lens. Viewed through a “WebSphere as the only platform you’ll ever need”strategy lens, support for WebLogic and JBoss looks less of a no-brainer.

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