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Ian Louw

Will Lombardi Acquisition be the Straw that Breaks the IBM BPM Camels Back?

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Since its release, there has been a lot of discussion about IBM BlueWorks and as to be expected some initial confusion as to what it actually is and what value it adds beyond the WebSphere stack.


Moving on to the heart of this post however...

The news that IBM is to acquire Lombardi has generated an interesting variety of reactions over the past few weeks. Some initial analyst and vendor reactions to the acquisition indicate that this news is being received in a positive way while others are taking a 'wait and see' stance. It will be interesting to see how IBM propose to incorporate the features and duplicated functionality of Lombardi, such as BluePrint into IBM Websphere and BlueWorks. In my view it is going to be a challenge given WebSphere has grown by acquisition over the past decade.

In summary, I share the same view as that of Anne Thomas Manes (VP and Research Director at Burton Group):

"... 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."


One aspect I have however not seen mentioned is: 'What type of customer is going to be adopting this 'new and improved hybrid solution?'.

Will it be the traditional large corporation IBM customers who have invested large amounts of money in the adoption of the IBM SOA/BPM vision OR the more departmental, small to mid tier organisations that  Lombardi currently has? Ultimately the measure of success for IBM in this acquisition will be how much revenue it generates for the IBM through software sales and from Professional Services.


Focus on the Basics - Technology is just the 'Enabler'

In my experience organisations tend to have complex problems for which they expect simple solutions. The challenge with any BPM initiative lies in how a potential/existing customer embarks on, adopts and matures along their own BPM journey. Having the ultimate BPM 'Swiss Army knife' (Pure Play or other) is just one, but admittedly large consideration.

General organisational maturity, ability to adapt to change, business and technological complexity and sheer scale of an organisation are some external factors that influence the size and rate of adoption for any BPM initiative. They directly influence any proposed and realised value for organisational stakeholders. Therefore, introducing further extensive technical complexity (as a result of complex solutions stacks i.e. WebSphere in various feature rich flavours) makes for longer sales, solution selection and ROI delivery cycles.

In my opinion, the measure of success of this acquisition for customers will therefore be based on how easy it is to adopt and then 'grow into' rather than just the technological innovations.


What do you think?

I would be interested to hear your thoughts and experiences on this and other similar business platform solutions. Are they really going to find traction and be adopted by the average organisation as the next generation of integrated Enterprise Business Platforms or is 'inter-departmental BPM' as it is today still going to be around for a while? I expect it to be a bit of both for the near future.

There is a vast amount of collateral on the BlueWorks Community site but I thought this overview may help explain it for the uninitiated. For an introduction to:

  • IBM BlueWorks go here
  • A 15 min intro on Lombardi can be found here.

 

2 Comments

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Those familiar with the BPM tooling space recognized the vast differences between the two offerings and the strengths and weaknesses of each.

The confusion stems from the fact that IBM markets their solution set as "BPM"; however, it is not an agile, business friendly platform. IBM's approach is from the ESB perspective - very transaction oriented.

Lombardi's approach is human and business oriented, IBM's exact weakness. IBM should be able to leverage IBM's ESB experience for large transaction projects.

You can do process work with many different tools, so try not to get caught up in the fog of marketing. After all, you can open a can of beans with a shotgun, but that doesn't make it a can opener...or does it?

Thanks for your comment 'John Doe'.

I take your point on the features and functions aspect and that there will be a good fit.

What I am really more interested in understanding is how they anticipate integrating the two products (if at all), so as to cater for the different types of customers and associated evolutionary stages that either a 'human centric', and/or 'integration centric' problem requires.

In most 'human centric' solution designs it follows that a Top Down approach is typically adopted and it is almost taken for granted that if system interfaces are required, they will be limited and most probably already build/exposed. This also fits a itterative based delivery model enabling phased approach.

Assuming IBM do not closely integrate the products, it leaves a potential/existing customer with an interesting challenge. If they wish to do 'human centric' they use the Lombardi stack. However, if they are focussed on 'integration centric' initiatives, they need to adopt the WebSphere stack. Furthermore, if BlueWorks is something a customer wishes to adopt but also have an On-Premise model, I anticipate that it can become quite a complex combination of solution features and functions.

I would be interested to hear what existing/potential customers of either Lombardi or WebSphere think as this is bound to form part of the evaluation criteria when being compared to other BPM vendors in the market e.g. Pegasystems, Cordys etc.

Best Regards
Ian

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Exploring best practice and new perspectives for business improvement

Ian Louw

Ian Louw is a Transformation Consultant and Manger with more than 17 years experience in the IT industry. During this time he has worked for various System Integrators, Management Consultancies and Software Vendors in client facing and managerial roles and has setup and managed both EAI and BPM Practices. Ian has worked with organisations in both Private & Public sectors and has been a consultant engaged in business strategy, business and systems analysis, design, and development. He specialises in the design, development and delivery of pragmatic Enterprise Architectures for the implementation of business strategies.

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