#IBMImpact: IBM’s Vision for the Future of Lombardi (and BPM)

Scott Francis
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Rod Favaron (formerly CEO of Lombardi), Phil Gilbert (formerly President and CTO of Lombardi), Craig Hayman (General Manager for Websphere), and Joan Shaiman (Integration Manager for the Lombardi acquisition) took the stage to take questions from the audience. 

This was purely a Q&A session with very little pre-amble except some humble thanks from Rod, Phil, and Craig to tee it up.  Once again, standing room only, despite the fact that the room was hot and stuffy at the end of the day.  The mood was pretty upbeat.  Phil and Rod had all the good lines, Craig did a good job of adding content to a couple of the more humorous responses, and generally making the Lombardi faithful feel like he wants to keep the torch lit.

I’ll paraphrase what I heard, but I’ll put in quotes statements that are relayed from the perspective of the speaker – please realize these are not, in fact, direct quotations.

So why did IBM buy Lombardi?  The first question out of the gate was perhaps the elephant in the room for most early Lombardi customers.  Craig Hayman gave a pretty good laundry list of reasons, including that Lombardi resonated with customers as best-in-class, the customer base was largely more mature in their BPM journey than other BPM vendors’ customers, and the product fairly “oozes” simplicity.  He also admitted they had to just get over the fact that they hadn’t built Lombardi themselves and go out and buy it.

Craig might have been playing to the crowd, but he sure hit all the notes that Lombardi customers would want to hear – and his answers were nuanced and thoughtful. He also implied that when he took the job, this acquisition was on his mind immediately.  And in relaying a story about the management team – I think to indicate just how much integrity he felt the Lombardi executive team demonstrated – he pointed out that they had kept notes on what Lombardi had said 5 years earlier (that puts it at 2004-2005 – he got a laugh about the fact that IBM keeps such copious notes) and what they had said in 2009, and they had said the same [darn] thing again.  The eye opener to me is that it sounds like IBM had been eying Lombardi for some time now (longer than I would have thought).

Craig answered another question about product confusion – this is one that it would have been good for Sandy Kemsley to be in on.  Craig’s take: BPM is a huge market and growing really rapidly.  Therefore there are a lot of opinions about what you should do, and a lot of conversations happening about the right way to do BPM.  If the conversations help make decisions, that’s great, let’s do it.  But if they slow down decisions, then that’s not good.  IBM has a strategy that allows for multiple starting points for customers to engage in the BPM journey, rather than only one BPM entry point.  This is not what the market pundits think IBM should do, but they happen to be contrarian on this point. He gave the example of Ford – cars are a pretty mature market.  When you want an SUV, they have a hard time selling you a sports car.  You self-select what you want.  IBM thinks that BPM has some similar issues – you’ve self-selected what you want based on your biases or what you’ve worked on previously.  For line of business core offerings, nothing is better than Lombardi.

Frustration for 25 years

Phil Gilbert jumped in at this point to talk about his 25-year-long frustration about our industry as a whole suffering from ADD – moving on before we go deep.  To paraphrase Phil:

The tech involved in Websphere Lombardi Edition and other BPM products has been around for a long time, but for the last 10 years, Lombardi has gone really deep on how to use technology better for business process management.  Lombardi tried to improve developer productivity radically – not because of new tools, but because of the way the tools are put together internally. We all want more clarity in the marketplace, and there are a series of conversations going on at IBM about how to get entry points clearly defined and communicated.  There’s a lot of rhetoric about today’s positioning […] but the joint capabilities within IBM cannot be matched.  But we have to make these capabilities work together better, more seamlessly  We’ll get clarity on where to start with 3-4 questions in the near future.

Phil further emphasized that the Websphere Lombardi Edition team intends to go very deep on the use cases and make it all a lot better in the future. A question asking about short term product roadmap came up – likely someone who missed Damion’s session earlier in the day.  Phil clarified that Lombardi Edition would have Teamworks and Websphere (and DB2 Express) in the box from the get-go.  He repeated the commitment to make this a black box so you don’t have a bunch of ramping to do.

June 30: only Websphere, but all the DB’s will be supported.  In the near-term after that, the custom installer will be more open about app server.  But, Phil’s commitment to the audience was that they would make the long-term administrative experience with embedded Websphere much better and less expensive because you’ll spend less managing the middle-ware.

Craig added that support for Lombardi Edition includes support for the app server tier as well – if you go with another app server, you have to get that app server support somewhere else.  You’ll have one source of support if you go with the embedded approach.

Phil added that there was a common misunderstanding in the market: that the reason Teamworks went to JBoss embedded was to get to JBoss.  In fact, he argues, it was to get a simpler experience for Teamworks (now Websphere Lombardi Edition), and it turns out JBoss had an attractive price (free).  The Lombardi motivation was to simplify administration and licensing.  To own it – “just like we own versioning in Teamworks 7. Simplify Simplify Simplify.”  Tongue-in-cheek, Phil cracks: “It turns out that now, Websphere is available to us at very affordable rates.”

Another customer asked why so few sessions at IBM Impact for Lombardi – because there were lots of sessions on BPM and SOA, but Lombardi is a small component.  Craig responded that it is a huge event, and a very large company, and we had less than 90 days to incorporate Lombardi into the event – so the number of sessions does not adequately reflect its importance in their strategy, but that no one should read into this a lack of commitment to the platform.

In fact, Craig says that in the followup events to impact-  2-3 day versions of this event, and 1 day versions of this event, all over the world – Lombardi features front-and-center in these conversations and events.  I can’t quite capture how sincerely Craig came across in this discussion, and how credible.  It would have been *very* easy for him to blow it on this question and lose the audience, but I think people were convinced. There were a couple detailed questions about upgrading, and Phil reassured that switching app servers isn’t as hard as switching databases (but also, there’s no need to switch databases if you don’t want to).  I can attest to this – Teamworks / Lombardi Edition is easy to run across different app servers – I frequently have a Webpshere, Weblogic, and JBoss version of Teamworks pointing at the same database instance… Phil also reinforced that there is a dedicated team building the upgrade path.

Differentiated Support

Another question asked about LODA and Support and how that changes with the merger.  Craig chimed in that the expectation is that it not change.  LODA will continue into IBM, and is considered one of the best practices – on demand assistance for developers.  IBM inner circle thinks this is something IBM can learn from Lombardi.  That’s a great shout-out to the LODA team – and to a business model that was pioneered by a small number of us within professional services at Lombardi back in 2004.

Toby Cappello and Lance Gibbs and Wes Chung started selling it and had a version 1 formulated, and later, Greg Harley and I picked up the business and added technical deliverables and renewed emphasis on subscriptions to the mix, and from there the business really flourished.  Great to hear that IBM values this service as well.  The team deserves it. Another customer asked about whether there were plans to support file level versioning.  Phil Gilbert took this one – and the answer was “No.”  As he put it:

“To the extent that you can check in your model to clear case, you can do that. We’ve been doing versioning the same way for 40 years. But in model-based development, that doesn’t work that well.  What is the workflow and process around versioning?  None of those filesystem source systems leveraged model-driven development.  Explicit linkages available are too important to throw away for versioning.  Its dependency management.[….] We’re the best process app dev environment because of our versioning paradigm…”

So no, no file-based versioning thank you very much.  “We think it is differentiating, and we think it is the right way to go.”

Do you still have the passion for BPM?

Another customer related how impressed she was with the people at Lombardi and their passion for BPM.  The business practice and technical talent is immense.  How does IBM keep that same passion going? Criag’s response was that the Lombardi team’s passion is second-to-none.  IBM is offloading some of the work that someone else can do – and freeing up the resources Lombardi has to focus on the stuff that makes a difference in BPM.  This frees the Lombardi team to think further and deeper about BPM.  The other emphasis is on scaling, training, and generating passion in others.  And an emphasis on how to train more people to understand the business aspects of BPM.

Summing Up

I was impressed by how they handled it.  Conversations in the room carried on for some time after the talk was over.  I actually left the room last, along with Phil, as we both wrapped up other conversations we spent just a few minutes chatting about the themes from the day.  I think we both were feeling pretty invigorated by the level of interest in Lombardi, and how well the themes were resonating with customers. If I could sum up IBM’s belief:  BPM is going to be everywhere, and IBM wants in.

I’ll write more about my overall impressions of Impact, but suffice to say, this session was a great way to cap Day 1, and I felt like anyone at IBM Impact with an interest in BPM really missed out if they weren’t there for it.  Since there was no presentation or prepared material, this is probably the best coverage we’ll get of the conversation.

Editor’s Note: If you were one of the folks I paraphrased for your questions to the execs, and you don’t mind being named/attributed, drop me an email and I’ll update the text accordingly with your name and company affiliation.  I didn’t include it in this first draft because I think people asking questions in a non-recorded forum have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

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  • “Switching app servers isn’t as hard as switching databases”… yet. I bet this is what IBM and Oracle are <del>dreaming of</del> working on.

    Two news came almost simultaneously: Lombardi is now an option to WebSphere stack and AquaLogic is an option to WebLogic stack.

  • Anatoly, you may be right. Teamworks (now “Websphere Lombardi Edition”) keeps all of its personality in the database, for the most part, so migrating app servers has always been pretty easy for the process developer. However, migrating db's is sometimes harder because people might have queries or stored procs that won't translate trivially, or they have data outside of what Teamworks puts in the DB that won't transfer transparently (the Teamworks model itself will).

    Interesting about the Aqualogic announcement – but I thought that had actually been announced years ago when BEA bought Fuego, no?

    scott

  • Not exactly. At that time WebLogic was an option for Aqualogic; today with Oracle Fusion 11g release Aqualogic is an option for WebLogic. In other words, WebLogic is required for Oracle BPM. Oracle JDeveloper, WebLogic server and Oracle SOA Suite all must be installed before Oracle BPM. Forget about interoperability if it continues this way.

    I wish someone stopped this madness, these guys won't stop themselves: money beats architecture. Would be nice if it became a case for anti-monopoly trial. More dangerous than IE+Windows coupling for me anyway.

  • Not exactly. At that time WebLogic was an option for Aqualogic; today with Oracle Fusion 11g release Aqualogic is an option for WebLogic. In other words, WebLogic is required for Oracle BPM. Oracle JDeveloper, WebLogic server and Oracle SOA Suite all must be installed before Oracle BPM. Forget about interoperability if it continues this way.

    I wish someone stopped this madness, these guys won't stop themselves: money beats architecture. Would be nice if it became a case for anti-monopoly trial. More dangerous than IE+Windows coupling for me anyway.

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