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Wednesday, December 16, 2009 by Neil Ward-Dutton
Just a few minutes ago I saw a tweet from Lombardi’s Phil Gilbert announcing that IBM is buying Lombardi – one of the most high-profile and successful of specialist BPM technology vendors.
There’s going to be a briefing from IBM a little later today so I’m not yet in full possession of the detail – but with that caveat, here’s my off-the-cuff reaction for anyone who wants it:
- Lombardi has built a very significant market presence in BPM and as an independent analyst who’s looked deeply at the products and services it offers, I’m a strong supporter of its capabilities and approach. Of course it’s not the onlyspecialist vendor out there with strong capabilities (Appian and Pegasystems also spring to mind), but I do think it does a lot of things very well.
- Lombardi is not a company that was outwardly showing any signs of commercial distress. Although the company is privately held and therefore its financials aren’t 100% transparent, based on briefings I’ve had there’s every reason to believe this is a company that’s been growing strongly – riding off the strong demand in BPM over the past couple of years, even despite (and partly because of) the recession.
- IBM is a company which already has a very broad set of BPM capabilities, even if they could be more smoothly integrated – and it’s been promoting itself as a BPM vendor for some time. This acquisition isn’t about breaking into the BPM market.
- The former FileNet products provide some really good capabilities, and WebSphere has some good stuff too. What’s more IBM has done a lot to push its BPM story forward in the past year – BPM BlueWorks and Business Space are two key areas where the story has been made much stronger. Not to mention the integration of ILOG into the mix. Nevertheless my view was always that if anything, IBM needs to put *less* BPM product in front of customers, not more.
- Although the strengths of Lombardi’s tools are different from IBM’s there is almost 100% product overlap. What’s more the design philosophy of Lombardi’s offering is almost diametrically opposed to that of IBM’s offering – many of Lombardi’s strengths come from its tightly-integrated toolset and repository. It’s not straightforward to see how these things can come together to form a coherent portfolio – unless they’re basically fenced off from each other and positioned as supporting different kinds of BPM scenario (with Lombardi focused on “people centric” processes, WebSphere on “system centric” processes). That brings its own challenges though, particularly for FileNet.
Right now, this is one analyst with a whole heap of questions: this isn’t one of those acquisitions where I think “well duh, of course”. I’m hoping that the rationale for this deal will be clearer to me later in the day. I’ll update this blog later once I know more.
UPDATE 22:00 – I listened to the IBM/Lombardi call but didn’t really learn anything that wasn’t in the press release (+ Phil Gilbert’s Global BPM piece). I still have lots of questions. I might have an opportunity to ask some on Friday; so more to come from me on this. In the meantime take a look at Bruce Silver’s blog: he makes some good points (particularly about the “departmental” vs “enterprise” positioning conundrum – this is something I feel, too).