Progress Software Revs Up to Higher RPM via Savvion - Part 1

Late 2009 and early 2010 were characterized by a number of mergers and acquisitions (M&As) in the vibrant and buoyant business process management (BPM) space. The merger of Progress Software Corp. (NASDAQ: PRGS) and Savvion Inc. drew my attention in particular. Why? Because, to my mind, Progress has thus made a large leap into the BPM space, a market where it has been notably absent.

Namely, from Progress’ analyst event two years ago, I vividly remember its displayed “federated wheel” of solutions, which ranged from an application development platform (Progress OpenEdge), a service-oriented architecture (SOA) management and governance product (Progress Actional), enterprise service bus (ESB) and messaging middleware (Progress Sonic and subsequently acquired IONA), and data integration products (Progress DataDirect), to a complex event processing (CEP) platform (Progress Apama), and so on and so forth. Lombardi Software was pegged there as a strategic partner solution for missing BPM capabilities, but I am aware of only a few common clients that have come from Progress and Lombardi’s joint effort since (although some companies might have coincidentally deployed both products).

Conversely, Progress’ infrastructure peers and competitors, Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, Tibco, and Software AG, have had certain BPM capabilities for quite some time, especially in terms of supporting system-centric and document-centric processes as well as enterprise architecture (EA) frameworks. With its Lombardi Software acquisition, IBM added a collaborative cross-industry BPM solution, Lombardi Teamworks [evaluate this product], that is relatively easy to deploy. Lombardi also has an on-demand business process analysis (BPA) tool called Lombardi Blueprint.

For its part, with its IDS Scheer acquisition, Software AG has not only added a market-leading BPA and modeling software and consulting provider, but has also gained a major revenue stream (being now well over Euro 1 billion in revenues) and access to major SAP Enterprise ModelingOracle BPA Suite, and ARIS for Microsoft BizTalk accounts (where the ARIS product has long been embedded). Last but not least, the impending Pegasystems (Pega) and Chordiant merger rounds out Pega’s customer relationship management (CRM) and case management capabilities with predictive analytics, on top of its already broad SmartBPM product suite.

Why Savvion?

Given that Progress acquired Savvion on the heels of the IBM and Lombardi announcement, this might have made some think of Savvion being Progress’ knee-jerk reaction or rebound. On the contrary, Progress had been examining BPM acquisition candidates for a long time, certainly well before IBM’s acquisition of Lombardi. In addition, Progress has noted that this move’s rationale was quite different from IBM’s for its acquisition of Lombardi (which IBM initially said [and has meanwhile regretted and retracted] would result in "offering a departmental BPM solution") because both Progress and Savvion are fully dedicated to providing enterprise-class solutions.

My initial reaction was that this was a great fit for both companies with many synergies (not in the least in terms of their almost identical vertical focus) and almost no product overlap (unlike in the case of IBM and Lombardi). By combining Savvion’s BPM, Progress Actional’s business transaction management (BTM), and Apama’s CEP capabilities, Progress bloggers begun to hint at delivering a next generation BPM with operational responsiveness immediately following the acquisition.

The Savvion acquisition will enhance Progress’ stated goal to provide unprecedented business visibility, responsiveness, and business process improvement (BPI), coupled with the highest possible degree of data integrity and integration. In their blog post on the reasons why Progress acquired Savvion, Progress Apama managers claimed that the Savvion BPM suite was a perfect fit for Progress because it offers leading capabilities for business process modeling and execution. The Savvion suite also, conveniently for Progress, brings with it other integrated key capabilities, including business rules management, document management, an event engine, and an analytics engine.

Savvion’s Background

Savvion was founded in 1994 by Dr. M. A. Ketabchi, with a first product release in 1999 that featured an event-driven and human-centric BPM system. The private and profitable company has been headquartered in Santa Clara, California  (US), with a product development subsidiary in India. The company is much less known in Europe than in North America and India (which Progress might be able to fix with its global infrastructure), although it claims to have 22 of the Fortune 100 in its customer base of over 300 enterprises in the financial services, telecommunications, and life sciences sectors.

Enterprises of all sizes claim to have achieved significant business performance improvements with sizeable return on investment (ROI) and low total cost of ownership (TCO) of Savvion products. Savvion's stated goal is "to be to business processes what Oracle is to business data and Microsoft is to desktop automation.” Savvion prides itself on customer focus and high quality standards in everything the company does (which might go beyond those of both Oracle and Microsoft).

Savvion has a rich history of BPM innovation since 1999, when it released its initial product dubbed Savvion BusinessManager [evaluate this product]. The company has reached major product development milestones in almost every year of this decade.

2000s: the Decade of BPM Innovation

In 2000 Savion delivered rule-based event correlation capabilities and an integrated development environment (IDE) called Savvion BPM Studio. The Studio is an Eclipse-based process model development tool that uses Java and extensible markup language (XML), and is comprised of the following key components: Process Designer, Rules Wizards Framework, Component Palette, Resource Browser, Repository Browser, Forms Designer, Simulation Engine, and Integration Adapter Framework (with a set of adapters to connect to any legacy system).

In 2001 the product featured multi-tier architecture with separate presentation, business process, and integration layers. Savvion BPM Server is the runtime environment of the BPM suite that is written in Java and able to run on multiple operating systems, databases, and application servers. The product consists of three runtime engines (one each for processes, rules, and Web services), a repository manager, and integration and portal frameworks.

In 2002 the BPM platform introduced support for clustering to promote higher scalability and availability, while in 2003 Savvion delivered an integrated user interface (UI) form designer that enables users to customize the default presentation page that they can see on-screen for each process work step.

2004 brought about a continuum of critical process functionalities, bi-directionally through the presentation, business process, and integration flows, and 2005 featured the Savvion Process Asset Management Repository. This feature extends the capabilities of the abovementioned Process Modeler (Designer) by enabling teams of business analysts to collaborate on process modeling projects using a process repository. The repository stores, manages and version-controls libraries of process models, process simulations, and process documentation.

In 2007 Savvion enabled integration of business intelligence (BI), business activity monitoring (BAM) and BPM within its suite, while 2008 featured the patent-pending Tabular Process Definition, which will be explained in subsequent parts of this series. For now, it suffices to say that the tabular view has been developed to provide a simpler way for business users to input information about project-based processes.

But not everything has gone so smoothly for Savvion, since in 2008 the company restructured (primarily in its marketing department) for cost savings and future growth. In fact, many competitors have grown much faster than Savvion in this period (e.g., think of Pega's meteoric rise or even Lombardi's much higer price tag, as compared to Savvion's). The new strategy focused on certain industries and delivered so-called solution accelerators.

To that end, 2008 saw the delivery of the Communications Order Management Solution (COMS). This business framework leverages Savvion's track record of building order management solutions for many of the world's leading telecommunications companies. Finally, in 2009 Savvion delivered integration of its BPM system and business rule management system (BRMS).

Savvion BusinessManager is a scalable, available, and relatively easy-to-use BPM suite. It is one of the most mature BPM products in the market, with the ability to handle high volumes of workflows that coordinate people, data/documents, and systems. For more details on the product, see an insightful two-part series from Bloor here.

In its indirect sales approach to international expansion, Savvion has developed a high profile set of systems integrator (SI) and reseller partners, including Accenture, Bearing Point, Infosys, Satyam, and Wipro. In addition, Savvion has technology partnerships with all of the key technology companies including SAP, Microsoft, Oracle (including Sun Microsystems), IBM, and Hewlett-Packard (HP).

Only time will tell whether and how Progress can help in this regard. Namely, in the past Progress has primarily sold infrastructure to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and independent software vendors (ISVs), and the company has not really imbibed a professional service culture. Deploying BPM is quite about professional services and being a trusted advisor.

Thus, I concur with Forrester’s John Rymer that Progress needs much stronger professional service capabilities than it has today to drive its growth opportunities. The company currently collects about 8 percent of its revenue from services. Progress will also need much stronger SI partnerships down the track.

In contrast to its past behavior, Progress will now need strange-bedfellow partnerships with IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, HP, SAP, and others to ensure that it continues to fare well. These “co-opetition” relationships are quite new for Progress, particularly in light of these competitors having their own BPM and infrastructure offerings.

Part 2 of this blog series will analyze what capabilities Savvion brings to Progress. In the meantime, please send me your comments, opinions, etc. I would certainly be interested in your experiences with the BPM software category in general and with Savvion and Progress in particular.
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