Blog Posts Process Management Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)

IBM to Acquire Lombardi

Blog: Application Platform Strategies

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Blogger: Anne Thomas Manes
Follow me on Twitter: @atmanes

The big news for today is that IBM “has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Lombardi” for an undisclosed amount. I missed the analyst briefing this morning, but based on the press release, the slide deck, and the tweetstream from other analysts, it appears that IBM will be folding the Lombardi products into the WebSphere product family, and that it will become part of the IBM BPM Suite, which currently comprises WebSphere Dynamic Process and FileNet Active Content Edition. IBM has also indicated that it plans to position Lombardi as a
departmental tool, which will provide them with a lever to push the other two solutions for enterprise-wide deployments.

Some analysts have hailed this move by IBM, as witnessed in the initial tweetstream, e.g.:

Here are a few other analysts perspectives worth reading:

I also recommend reading Miko Matsumura‘s irreverent but insightful analysis — very well balanced considering that he is a competitor.

My reaction is a bit different, and it reflects the comments we’ve been hearing from our customers: IBM already has too many BPM products, and a third one will only aggravate the situation. This acquisition might make sense if IBM intended to rationalize the products and create one leading-edge product that addresses all BPM use cases (e.g., human-centric, system-centric, document-centric, case-centric, etc). But it seems pretty clear that IBM has no intention to do so.

And why should they? They’ll generate a lot more revenue selling an organization site licenses for three products than for just one. And given the burden it will place on end-customers to try and figure out which product to use where when optimizing a business process, it will also give a boost to IBM global services.

Most Lombardi customers that we’ve spoken to speak highly of the company — both in terms of the technology and the people. So I can’t fault IBM for picking up a good company. But I’m concerned about the future of a product in the WebSphere family that is viewed as a departmental solution. I don’t think it bodes well.

My team just returned from a week consolidating our contextual research on BPM. The process was very enlightening. Richard Watson will be publishing a series of articles on this research, and we’ll present the findings at Catalyst in Prague in April. A few interesting comparisons to our SOA findings:

The first two points are very interesting and closely related. Some people view BPM entirely through the lens of business process automation, in which case BPM infrastructure is essential to BPM. But I must point out that few of the companies we spoke to placed much value in the BPM execution engine. None of them believed the hype about roundtrip business process models <–> executable code.

Other companies view BPM as a much more strategic discipline that focuses on optimizing business — not just business processes. In this second scenario, BPM infrastructure is much less important. The modeling, simulation, and monitoring tools are useful, but not essential. These companies place much more value on business improvement and optimization methodologies like Six Sigma and Lean.

We prefer the second definition to the first, and therefore, from our perspective, BPM infrastructure isn’t necessary to do BPM.

If IBM wants to become the leader in BPM, they need to get out of the data center and start thinking like business people.

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