TIBCO acquires Nimbus, Business DNA

Scott Francis
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TIBCO has announced its acquisition of Nimbus today:
Nimbus provides a strong complement to TIBCO’s event-enabled infrastructure software platform. Whereas TIBCO has traditionally focused on the automation of data, systems, and processes, Nimbus allows business users to collaboratively describe and document all aspects of a business – from operational best practices to organizational and system models. These are combined with robust governance capabilities that can deliver a process-focused “Intelligent Operations Manual” across the enterprise, linked to supporting data and systems. Nimbus focuses on the vast majority of processes that are often not captured in enterprise applications and automated workflows, and it has found particular traction with business transformation, compliance-led, and continuous improvement initiatives.
On the face of it it seems like a very complementary acquisition – I don’t see a lot of overlap between the market needs Nimbus addresses versus the market needs TIBCO addresses.  This might be seen as a move by TIBCO to inject some more business-friendly DNA into its veins, as right now TIBCO is seen as more of a speeds-n-feeds vendor than a business process management vendor. Neil Ward-Dutton was first to the presses with his analysis of the buy:
Nimbus is happy to point out that historically it’s had a hard time selling to IT, and this has slowed down sales cycles; part of the challenge for it has been that Control doesn’t fit neatly into any mainstream product category (including BPA). TIBCO can help with the IT selling angle; but it’s important to recognise, too, that Nimbus can potentially give TIBCO a massive leg-up in terms of developing a more business-engaged field sales capability.
It sounds like a good synergistic match.  Neil characterizes Nimbus as a company with “annual revenues of around £10m and around 100 employees” – which implies the purchase price was easily digestible for a company the size of TIBCO.  Still, as we’ve seen with the IBM acquisition of Lombardi, sometimes a small (relatively) acquisition can have an outsized impact on the buyer. Clay Richardson of Forrester also weighs in on the purchase:
So, why did TIBCO acquire Nimbus?  In many ways this deal is a nod to the “Empowered BT” trend, where more technical capability is being moved into the business.  For vendors like TIBCO, this means building – or buying – functionality that puts business stakeholders in the driver’s seat.  Over the past six months, one of the top inquiry topics I’ve seen from clients is around “models for increasing business engagement within BPM suites”.  In short,  I’ve fielded numerous calls from business stakeholders scratching their heads saying “I wrote the check for this BPM suite, but the IT guys are the only ones that can touch it.”
Empowered BT trend is a great way to sum up with the Nimbus folks (Ian Gotts in particular) have been preaching in their blogs and sales pitches.  Clay wraps up with this note:
TIBCO’s acquisition of Nimbus will be welcomed news to existing TIBCO customers looking to improve business engagement and – if executed effectively – should allow the developer-centric vendor to compete more effectively against more business-oriented players such as Appian and Lombardi  (i.e., IBM BPM 7.5).
I got a chuckle out of the last line.  But Clay is right – TIBCO needed something to help them compete with more business-oriented products on the market – what isn’t clear is whether Nimbus also needed to partner up with someone to keep going (as one person on twitter put it – is the lack of execution for one just as bad as the lack of business-focus for the other?).  I’m looking forward to seeing how well Nimbus is integrated, what role Ian Gotts is taking on, and how the analysts view on this acquisition evolves over the coming weeks.  So far no one is arguing that this is a bad fit… but we’re only a few hours in!    
  • Really good reaction on Jacob Ukelson’s blog:
    “So what does this mean? Well first of all it means that the best way to get unstructured process management tools to market are in conjunction with a structured process tool. Almost every real world process is a combination of the two, and being able to sell a solution that spans both is a way to start getting the tool into the market. The structured tool will drag the unstructured tool.”
    http://ukelson.wordpress.com/2011/08/31/tibco-acquires-nimbus-partner/