Progress Software acquires Savvion

handshakeSo Progress Software has bought yet another software company; this time a BPM vendor, Savvion. But is this the right move for Progress?

Progress Software has spent most of its life growing through acquisition, making use of the piles of cash generated by its legacy mid-range database product to find new areas of growth. After all, the legacy business may be highly profitable, but its returms are dwindling by the year and Porgress desperately needs something else to shore up its balance sheet. Unfortunately its acquisitions have had a bit of a patchy record of success. Perhaps it will be different this time.

Savvion is a credible BPM (Business Process Management) software provider, and 2009 was a bumper year for BPM sales. Specialist companies like Pegasystems and Lombardi showed huge growth rates, bucking the downward trend triggered across many technology sectors by the economic upheaval. On top of this, Progress has been trying to establish itself as a viable SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) and business integration vendor ever since it launched the Sonic ESB in the early years of the last decade, and BPM was a glaring hole in its portfolio. For these reasons, it is easy to see why Savvion would seem a good fit.

There seem to be two problems for Progress, however. Firstly, BPM is now rarely a solution bought in its own right – hence the rapid consolidation of the BPM market with Pegasystems more or less the only major oure-play BPM left standing following IBM’s acquisition of Lombardi. Instead, BPM is deployed more and more as part of a business transformation strategy involving components such as SOA, application and data integration, business rules, business monitoring and business events management.  Secondly, the gorillas in the space are now IBM, Oracle and SAP. These companies all offer a full suite of products and more importantly services based around BPM and the rest of the modern infrastructure stack. Companies such as Software AG, TIBCO and Axway form a credible second tier, too.

In previous acquisitions, Progress has treated each acqusition as purely software products. This is not surprising, since selling databases is more about selling products than selling solutions. However, it is this factor that has been at the root of the patchy performance of Progress acquisitions. For instance, the Data Direct division of Progress, where it placed a number of acquisitions in the data space, has fared reasonably well. This is because it is more of a product business. However its attempts in areas such as ESBs and SOA governance have suffered due to a seeming reluctance to embrace a more industry-specific, services-based solution model.

With its acqusition of Savvion, Progress once again has the chance to try to show the market that it has learnt from its mistakes. BPM is absolutely an area where companies need to be offered solutions – products together with services and guidance to develop effective and affordable business solutions. It will be hard enough for Progress to cut a share of the BPM pie with all the big players involved, but it does have one outstanding advantage; it has a strong and accessible customer base in the mid-range market where the larger companies struggle. However, if it fails to take on board the need to hire industryvertical skills and solution-based field and service professionals then this acquisition could prove to be yet another lost opportunity.

Steve

Recession pushes SMEs to top of mind for software vendors

One interesting effect of the current economic turmoil is that SMEs have never had so much attention from software vendors desperate to find alternative revenue sources to replace depressed corporate markets.

A common effect of recession is to cause larger companies working off a bigcost base to become cautious, opening the way for smaller, more nimble companies to slip in and grab a bigger piece of the pie. As a result, SMEs are often more inclined to look at a new investment in a recession, making them attractive targets for software vendors.

Take the announcement made last week by software infrastructure vendor Axway, recently merged with Tumbleweed and the now headquartered inScottsdale, Arizona. Axway has released B2Bi Express, a B2B solution targeted specifically at SMEs. Mindful of the needs of this market segment, Axway offers B2Bi Express not only as licensed software but also as a SaaS (Software as a Service) solution.

Most major software vendors now include products designed for SMEs, although in many cases the larger vendors such as IBM rely on partners to fill out their solution sets. I expect to see a lot more focus on SMEs over the coming months – the one warning, however, is SMEs should watch for vendors offering ‘big user’ products with simply a few marketing slides around them to make them look like SME products. SME needs are quite different (eg a SaaS option such as included by Axway in the above release) and need special handling in both product and presentation.

Steve