Was IBM's Impact a Seminal Moment for BPM?

Scott Francis
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Derek Miers made the 6000 mile trip to Las Vegas to attend IBM Impact.  One could have forgiven him if jet lag dampened his enthusiasm for the material, but far from it.  I’ve been following Derek’s writing ever since Lance Gibbs introduced me to his work several years ago.  Recently he joined Forrester research, and so these days we find his blog on their site.
There was a pretty important message there. A message that was being communicated to the faithful. And whether you like it or not, IBM has a lot, and I mean a lot, of faithful followers. I didn’t do a scientific assessment of the number of IBM badges versus non IBM badges, but even if half of the attendees were internal, there were plenty of customers there too. And those internal folks were also being recruited as emissaries and evangelists for the new mantra.
Prior to attending Impact, I hadn’t realized that it was *also* a vehicle for recruiting evangelists within the IBM body politic.  Further down Derek writes:
The message was made plain and simple – that BPM was the way to run your business. That […] process models were central to the way in which the firm operated.
This is quite an achievement for BPM – to have one of the largest software firms in the world fully get behind the BPM message. But the real punch:
The thing that really surprised me was quite how quickly the Lombardi acquisition had been “blue-washed” – taken to heart and internalized, and now, very much part of the proposition that IBM is taking to the market.
I, too, was quite surprised. I went prepared to see Lombardi pushed to a small corner of a large conference and ignored.  Instead, the day long Lombardi sessions were pushed to a corner and overflowing, and the message was coming across in keynotes and sessions throughout the conference.  And the IBM execs paid great attention to the Lombardi offering.  Derek believes that the Lombardi folks were surprised by the power and reach of the IBM brand – and I agree – the body language and interactions with IBMers spoke volumes. The long path toward “mainstream” for BPM appears to be arriving at last.  I always said that I didn’t think independent BPM software companies need fear Oracle or IBM or SAP until they really were eating, breathing, and sleeping BPM.  I used to quip that until I heard Sam Palmisano talking about BPM, I wouldn’t be too worried.  I didn’t believe they would ever really make this switch from thinking of BPM as a checkbox feature in SOA to being actually the chief value proposition of their software stack.  IBM’s purchase of Lombardi didn’t convince me that IBM’s executives were really sold on BPM rather than just being opportunistic and optimistic about the BPM space. Attending Impact last week, the chief value proposition sure looked like BPM.  And I have been proven wrong by one of the stack vendors: they really can learn to make process front-and-center.  I’m just glad I’m in the BPM consulting business, rather than in a competing software business to the set of players now arrayed in the BPM market. More to come…

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  • Scott, I tend to normally shrug these off, but this time it does look like IBM's getting the combination right. In the whole messaging though, they have probably not got the naming right… may not matter much as long as their front-liners really feel the back-pressure and align… :) That's the key – execution of the strategy!

  • iangotts

    So – Lombardi a $50m acquisition has cemented theri belief in BPM? What about the $100ms invested in the Websphere suite?

  • Agreed- they still have work to do to align everything from messaging to product. But I got a much better sense of a willingness to do that at this conference than I expected.

  • “So – Lombardi a $50m acquisition has cemented their belief in BPM?” – As I said, no (at least from my perspective). The acquisition itself, no. Not even the $100Ms (I don't actually know that #) invested in websphere process server (investment in Websphere suite in general doesn't count as BPM investment, in my view).

    What cemented my belief that they are getting behind BPM for real, was the sessions I attended at Impact. I'm not sure I'd believe it if I hadn't been there. I'd be skeptical without seeing the body language and lack of cynicism. You'd have to ask IBM what cemented their belief in BPM – I believe this must have actually happened *prior* to the acquisition and is likely what motivated them to pursue it. Craig Hayman mentioned initiating conversations summer of 2009. We'd have to ask him directly what changed IBM's point of view precisely…

  • iangotts

    Interesting – so are the global services org actually going to use lombardi on engagements or visio?

  • Good question for GBS – but I do heard that they are establishing a practice for Websphere Lombardi Edition. I know our (BP3) practice is to use the tools our customers use (or have license to. So if the customer wants Visio we'll give them Visio. But we prefer to use BPM-specific modeling tools.

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