IBM bets on Lombardi buy for competitive edge

After integrating Lombardi's software, Big Blue is now able to offer comprehensive BPM suite that offers bottom-up, "human-centric" tools which customers are demanding, says company exec.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

Unlike its competitors in the business process management (BPM) market that offer disparate tools aimed at automating and refining enterprise procedures and policies, IBM provides a BPM suite that is "process-, content- and human-centric", says a company executive.

Katrina Troughton, vice president of WebSphere software at IBM Software Group, said in an interview with ZDNet Asia Thursday that following its 2009 acquisition of Lombardi, a BPM software and services provider, IBM is now able to "empower" both top-level executives and frontline employees to better contribute to the customization and deployment of business processes.

Compared to its competitors in a BPM market which Troughton described as "fragmented", and where vendors are offering piecemeal products, she said Big Blue is able to better offer a complete suite of solutions as well as provide its customers with a strong ecosystem of partners.

Oracle, Hewlett-Packard, Software AG and SAP are some of IBM's main competitors in the middleware market.

Elaborating on the "human-centric" component of IBM's WebSphere platform, Troughton noted that while business processes and policies tend to be driven by the IT departments and is a top-level directive, there is increasing demand from business units and frontline staff to have more influence on the crafting and implementation of these processes.

To this end, IBM's BPM offering can now leverage Lombardi's user-friendly program interface and collaboration tools to better enable employees to reduce process cycle-time and better automate workflow, she said.

The shortened processes and time savings translate to a more "agile, dynamic and responsive" organization, she noted. This, in turn, will help mitigate one of the top challenges enterprises face in having the "ability to change fast", added the executive.

The capacity to adapt quickly can yield great benefits, she said, citing an internal IBM survey that revealed companies which performed better than their peers were "three times more likely" to have business practices that were "dynamic, collaborative and connected".

Fast-growing market
In terms of the potential of the BPM market, Troughton noted that while she has no firm statistic to share, research firms such as IDC and Gartner have highlighted the market as one of the "fastest growing" industries.

According to an IBM press release, the company's BPM and integration software business reported "double-digit revenue growth" in the first quarter of 2010.

IDC numbers estimate that the global BPM market will reach US$3 billion by 2013, up from US$1.7 billion in 2009.

Within the Asia-Pacific region, companies looking at BPM to improve product time-to-market and reduce costs are still "very early in the scale", said Troughton, although she qualified by saying that almost every company she had encountered already have "some form of BPM" in place.

"For companies in emerging markets, many are still paper-based and not very sophisticated or robust," she added.

The IBMer also revealed that among industry verticals, organizations that compete in "markets that are fast-changing and competitive" and have "good IT heritage" are more likely to look at BPM to enhance their business performance.

She added that the banking, telcos and public sectors are the top three industry verticals that have adopted BPM tools globally.

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