Today, Tibco Software — best known for its SOA integration, complex event processing, and business process management suite — announced its acquisition of Nimbus Partners, a privately held business process analysis vendor based in the United Kingdom. Nimbus Partners is smaller and less well known than the other more mature and full-featured BPA solutions, such as those from ARIS, Provision, and Mega.  Nimbus, which employs more than 100 people, sold process discovery and authoring tools along with its homegrown methodology for quickly capturing and managing detailed information on business processes. Nimbus’ features and ease of use appealed mostly to process architects, process analysts, and business stakeholders that wanted an environment more robust than Microsoft Visio but not as technical — or requiring as much training — as other BPA environments. 

So, why did Tibco acquire Nimbus? In many ways, this deal is a nod to the “Empowered BT” trend, where more technical capability is being moved into the business. For vendors like Tibco, this means building or buying functionality that puts business stakeholders in the driver’s seat. Over the past six months, one of the top inquiry topics I’ve seen from clients is around “models for increasing business engagement within BPM suites.” In short, I’ve fielded numerous calls from business stakeholders scratching their heads and saying, “I wrote the check for this BPM suite, but the IT guys are the only ones that can touch it.” Forrester predicts that Tibco will leverage the Nimbus acquisition to:

  • Extend the AMX BPM offering beyond developer-centric models. Over the past few years, Forrester has predicted the rise of social BPM methodologies and tools that extend the reach and impact of BPM initiatives beyond the traditional players — IT and business stakeholders.  Forrester expects Tibco to embrace this vision by combining Nimbus’ process discovery environment with Tibbr’s (Tibco’s social event streaming platform) social interface to deliver a compelling experience for collaborating on process design and execution. 
  • Bridge the process data divide where it really matters. Tibco is one of the few vendors that can boast of having both a comprehensive BPM environment and a comprehensive MDM environment. However, these environments continue to work at cross purposes, as they connect process and data through data services and data integration. Forrester expects Tibco to leverage Nimbus’ methodology and authoring environment to provide a business-oriented process data glossary that allows process analysts to easily capture process data relationships.
  • Make a down payment on dynamic case management and unstructured processes. Tibco is one of the few top-tier BPM vendors without a defined strategy or roadmap for addressing dynamic case management requirements. Most of Tibco’s BPM stack still focuses on prescriptive and procedural business processes. However, Forrester expects organizations to leverage BPM suites increasingly for dynamic processes in the form of dynamic cases and ad hoc work tasks. Nimbus, which provides a basis for collaborative work  (i.e., sharing process knowledge and delivering process guidance), could form the foundation of Tibco developing dynamic case management functionality.

As with all acquisitions, the devil is in the details. And in the case of software acquisitions, the devil is in the integration details. In this case, we expect the integration will be less onerous than other BPM acquisitions that merge competing and overlapping engines. To integrate Nimbus with Active Matrix BPM, Tibco will need to focus on developing a consistent modeling scheme across the two environments and also provide a consistent look and feel across the tools.

Tibco’s acquisition of Nimbus will be welcome news to existing Tibco customers looking to improve business engagement and — if executed effectively — should allow the developer-centric vendor to compete more effectively against more business-oriented players like Appian and Lombardi  (i.e., IBM BPM 7.5).