TIBCO Analyst Summit: Spotfire

Christopher Ahlberg, founder of Spotfire and now president of TIBCO’s Spotfire division, discussed Spotfire’s capabilities and what’s been done with integrating Spotfire into other TIBCO products.

Timely insights — the right information at the right time — is a competitive differentiator for most businesses, and classic business intelligence just doesn’t cut it in many cases. Consumer applications like Google Finance are raising the bar for dynamic visualization techniques, although most of them are fairly inflexible when it comes to viewing or comparing specific data in which you’re interested. In other words, we want the data selection and aggregation capabilities of our enterprise systems, and the visualization capabilities of consumer web applications. Ahlberg sees a number of disruptive BI technologies transforming the platform — in-memory processes, interactive visualization, participatory architecture, mashups — and starting to be able to link to the event-driven world of classic TIBCO.

He did a demo of copying and pasting the contents of a spreadsheet directly into Spotfire, which automatically used the column headers as metadata and created a scatterplot. He filtered and colored the chart dynamically, set thresholds and played around with the data to show what could be extracted from it, then showed a pre-built dashboard of charts that still allowed quite a bit of interactivity in terms of filtering and other view parameters. He also showed a mashup between Spotfire and Microsoft Virtual Earth that allowed a subset of the data to be selected in Spotfire, causing a shortest route between the geographic location corresponding to the data points to be plotted on Virtual Earth.

This puts a much more configurable face on standard analytics, not just in display parameters but also in area like selecting the dimensions to be compared on the fly rather than having them pre-defined in OLAP cubes. Since TIBCO is focused on real-time event processing, the logical step is to see how those events can be visualized in Spotfire: instead of just raising an alert to someone, give them a view of the analytical context behind the alert that makes it easier to close the loop on problem resolution. They’ve packaged this as Spotfire Operations Analytics, which fits most closely into a LEAN Six Sigma manufacturing environment.

There’s a session on Thursday about BPM with analytics which I’ll likely attend to see what they’re doing in that area.

TIBCO Analyst Summit: Go To Market Strategy

Ram Menon, EVP of Marketing and Product Strategy, discussed the go to market strategy for some of the opportunities that Murray Rode identified earlier.

One opportunity for growth is in simplification, in four major areas:

  • Improved focus on who they are targeting in the sales process, based on their experience of who is most likely to buy and through deepening their penetration within existing customers.
  • Creation of horizontal bundles that simplify purchasing for IT buyers: SOA starter edition, SOA composite apps, SOA integration, and SOA governance.
  • Focus on differentiated vertical value propositions that allow a business buyer to match TIBCO’s capabilities to their specific business needs.
  • Improved user interface and usability in the form of TIBCO ONE for deployment and management, all based on a common Eclipse framework and some of the technology that they acquired with General Interface.

They have a three core SOA messages to the market:

  • Best in class ESB
  • SOA service management
  • Extreme messaging, namely top performance

They also have some BPM-related themes:

  • Advanced order fulfillment (vertical)
  • Dynamic claims management (vertical)
  • Unify BPM and SOA: cross-selling BPM to existing SOA customers

There were two business optimization themes, including a supply chain management vertical, but that went by too fast for me.

Bruce Silver and another analyst later asked about the vertical solutions, and it appears that this is more about marketing and advertising than any verticalization of a product or service offering.

Menon discussed some of the specifics of their expansion into new geographies — including up-to-date localized product materials and websites — and new partner models.

TIBCOmmunity logoThey’ve made a big push for visibility in the market over the last two years, including such efforts as Greg the Architect videos on YouTube, resulting in a much greater chance of TIBCO’s name appearing whenever equivalent IBM and Oracle products are mentioned. They’re also launching TIBCOmmunity, a social network for their customers, although the site’s not up yet so there’s no details on what it will include.

He was followed by two of the VPs of Sales — Robin Gilthorpe for the Americas and Tony Harris for Asia-Pacific — and EVP of Sales Murat Sonmez standing in for the VP for EMEA, each discussing the specifics of their region.

A question came up at the end asking about who they’re selling to within organizations, and (not surprisingly) almost all SOA sales are to IT, whereas BPM is sometimes being sold to business management. TIBCO has a legacy of selling to IT, and I suspect that much of the sales force is most comfortable making the technical sale. Selling to business takes a slightly different set of skills, which makes me curious if they’re specifically recruiting business-oriented salespeople in their current sales force expansion.

TIBCO Analyst Summit: Corporate Vision

Next up was Vivek Ranadivé, CEO, with a summary of where the company came from and some vision for the future: Enterprise 3.0 (yes, he actually said that), focused on event-driven SOA, predictive analytics and the business processes that use them.

He sees their superior technology as key, but feel that customers also gravitate to them because of their neutrality: a direct dig at IBM — who he believes is both not neutral and has inferior point-to-point event technology — and at BEA being acquired by Oracle (although rumors continue to fly in the industry about who is going to acquire TIBCO, and when).

Although this session was billed as "strategy and vision to remain a leader in the current market of consolidation and competitive pressures", I didn’t hear a lot about how they plan to do that, except for a "we’ll sell more because we’re better" sort of statement.

TIBCO Analyst Summit: Corporate and Financial Overview

TIBCO’s having their first ever analyst summit in the day before the TUCON user conference starts, covering both business strategy and product announcements.

First up was Murray Rode, CFO, with a company overview and their position in the market. Their key market segments are SOA and BPM, as we know, but also business optimization (rules + analytics) based in part on the acquisition of Spotfire a year ago. They see their differentiators as their neutral platform, mission critical engineering and being event-driven and bus-based. They also see "infrastructure becoming the essential part of the architecture" and that companies are using TIBCO to "create apps from infrastructure". A key catchphrase summing up what their products can do is "simpler connectivity, more complete automation".

Their fiscal year 2007 revenue was $577M, I was surprised to hear that 50-55% of their revenue is from services, which includes both maintenance and professional services, in spite of a strong partner channel that presumably is also generated significant professional services revenue based on TIBCO products. Geographically, about 50% of the revenue is from the Americas, 40% EMEA and 10% Asia-Pacific. Financial services is their largest vertical at 25%, with telecommunications at 10-15%. They’re continuing to expand their sales force from the current 170 to 190-200, with each quota-carrying salesperson generating about $2.2M in licence revenue annually, and in addition to growing the sales force, they intend to continue expanding through new geography exploration, acquisitions and partner channels.

BPM is 11% of revenue, business optimization is 25%, and the remainder is SOA, although it’s difficult to separate out in many of the larger deals that may be driven by BPM without the licence revenue necessarily reflecting the importance.

Their growth strategy, in summary, is to build on pure-play leadership and neutrality, direct sales force expansion for broader coverage, fully penetrate Global 2000 before expanding to mid-market, continue Spotfire focus with increased cross-selling, and new geographies and indirect channels.

TIBCO seminar slides

If you were interested in the TIBCO seminar that I attended last week, you can download Paul Brown’s slides (PDF, no registration required). I particularly like his graphics showing the current model for today’s business processes with EAI and ETL tying things together (slides 6-7), then the slides showing how SOA and BPM refine that structure (slides 8, 12,13, 14 and 15).

TIBCO seminar: Achieving Success with BPM and SOA

TIBCO is holding a series of seminars in various cities, and today they’re in Toronto, where I happen to be at home for a few weeks. Amazingly, there’s free wifi in the Park Hyatt meeting rooms, something that I never expected

We had a welcome from the regional VP, Craig Byar, and an overview by Rourke McNamara of SOA product marketing, but the key speaker was Paul Brown from the Global Architecture group. Actually, McNamara made a great point in his short presentation: organizations with an identified BPM center of excellence (CoE) reported five times greater ROI over those with no CoE or dedicated process team.

Today’s business processes involve many systems, and we’ve used EAI and ETL in the past in order to tie these systems together, but we’ve created a fragile mess of our systems and lost the focus on the business process. It’s hard to . SOA and BPM refine the traditional 3-tier layer of presentation, business logic and data by splitting the business logic layer into processes and services: effectively, BPM and SOA. The service layer can further be split into service operations (the actual functionality of the service) and service access mediation (finding the right service and authenticating access). He also splits the process layer can be split into hard-wired processes (the processes in legacy systems that can’t be changed, or unchangeable high-volume processes such as credit card processing), orchestrated processes (integration-centric processes facilitated by BPEL) and managed processes (BPM), although I’m not sure that I agree on the distinction between the latter two.

We need to separate processes from presentation; too often in the past we’ve embedded processes right in the presentation layer, and since we deliver functionality now through multiple presentation channels (web, desktop application, mobile, web service), the process needs to be in the layer below presentation so that a consistent business process is executed regardless of the presentation channel.

We have a disconnect between business and IT when it comes to developing new systems, and we need to first focus on business processes — the source of business value — to see how they bind together people and systems. There’s an expectation that systems will be developed faster, and this type of splitting of presentation, processes and services helps to facilitate that. However, there needs to be overall architectural guidance and governance for any development project so that things fit together: an architectural review of bot the business process and the systems somewhere between initial requirements and development. The challenge that I see in this model, however, is not to fall back into old-style waterfall development: instituting a requirements-architectural review-development cycle can tend to make the development process less iterative and agile.

There are three key leadership roles in any BPM project, immediately below the business executive sponsor: the project manager, the business process analyst/architect, and the systems architect. I have to say this is true of any business-facing development project, although the business process analyst/architect will be replaced with the particular application-specific analyst/architect role. Brown equates the CoE for a specific technology or application such as BPM, and an overall enterprise architecture team in terms of the mentoring and governance role that they provide. He had a number of case studies of BPM and SOA projects that showed significant ROI, with a BPM/SOA CoE being a key part of each of them.

We all ended up with a copy of Brown’s first book, Succeeding with SOA, and apparently I’ll be getting a copy of his hot-off-the-press second book, Implementing SOA, at TUCON later this month.

We had a quick demo of TIBCO’s process modeling environment, showing the different usages by a business analyst versus IT.