I got a kick out of reading Ben Farrell's post on Appian's blog today,? "What a Difference a BPM Software Acquisition Makes: A Look into the Wayback Machine".? I think Ben thinks he's really caught out Phil Gilbert, formerly President and CTO of Lombardi, now VP of BPM at IBM:
?Today one of our customers said they were told by IBM: ?why spend your money with Lombardi, we?ll give you our BPMS for free.? I finally agree 100% with IBM on something: their BPMS is worth nothing. Getting a cheap BPMS is like buying a dancing elephant for a dollar: cool, but who can afford to feed it??
That?s Phil Gilbert talking. Or rather, Phil Gilbert back when he was president and CTO of Lombardi. Today?s Phil Gilbert is head of BPM at IBM. Say it again, Phil: ?Their BPMS is worth nothing.?
And then later on he takes on the new IBM-Lombardi combination, IBM BPM:
The fact is that nearly two years after its acquisition of Lombardi, IBM has still failed to outline a clear path for its BPM customers. Yes, it made a marketing-oriented announcement about a roll-up of its disparate BPM portfolio into IBM BPM 7.5, but that is a unified offering in marketing-speak only.
I wonder after reading this if the only wayback machine is Appian's blog publishing.? Maybe this is something they wrote in 2009 when the acquisition was announced?? or in 2010 when many analysts were unhappy with IBM's lack of communication about the plan for Lombardi and WPS integration?? Or in 2011 springtime when Clay Richardson dissented from all other analysts and customers present at Impact by referring to the integration as "a new coat of paint"? At any of these times, Ben could have piled on with his post in a (somewhat) timely fashion.? But no, two years later he's finally hit "publish".? Maybe he missed all the Lombardi and IBM news the last two years and is just trying to catch up?? Maybe he's just burned about losing a deal to IBM???(this post also reads like a "mad because we lost a deal" post) Or maybe he doesn't like Phil.
Appian has some good things going for it, and they made a bet on mobile/cloud that was "early" in the BPM space, relative to competitors.? But this whole David vs. Goliath thing is a bit of an art.? Phil was pretty good at it, Ben still needs some work - more edge, less sour grapes.
Regardless, he clearly doesn't understand what happened vis-a-vis IBM and Lombardi.? Lombardi was, at times, in heated competition with IBM.? Given that IBM bought Lombardi, one could infer that IBM learned a bit about BPM from Lombardi and Phil, and realized that there was another take on BPM in the market - Lombardi's - that would be better received than IBM's current portfolio, and would create more value with IBM's resources behind it for both IBM and Lombardi shareholders and customers.
If you look at IBM's BPM vision (also commented on here, and here, and here) - which Ben derides without knowing it - IBM has adopted Lombardi's vision of BPM and added some pieces to the puzzle that create additional value (ILOG, Integration Designer, the message bus, Business Monitor, etc).? And the key thing that IBM and Phil had to do when bringing Lombardi and WPS and ILOG together was not a technical problem, it was a business problem.? They had to define the go-to-market strategy - edit the value propositions to a manageable number that IBM's huge sales force can really leverage.? Of course lots of development effort went into creating IBM BPM - but to get the integration "right" without understanding how to take the products to market would be an utter failure to the market, customers, and shareholders.? Now, it could have gone the other way.? Lombardi might have been swallowed up by IBM, discontinued, and chalked up as a "technology buy".? But it wasn't.? It became the centerpiece of a new strategy and BPM go-to-market for IBM.? Phil did get the change he wanted - from the inside.? And that change is ongoing, with a few more surprises yet to come.
Customers aren't "forced to figure out their own path" - the upgrade path is clearly defined and actually well-supported by IBM.?? Unsurprisingly, Ben's role doesn't include knowing the real story behind IBM's products and strategy.? That's not corporate communications' job.? But you'd think he'd be a little more timely with his shots across the bow, if not more accurate in his firing solution.? I tell you one thing, I know what corporate communications folks are really good at: cherry picking.