After spending some time at Tibco’s customer event in London today, I thought I would jot down some thoughts while they were still fresh. Tibco has managed that rare thing in the IT industry — to hang on to a mid-market position without being swallowed by one of the tech giants or being overtaken by more agile startups. Few companies achieve this over the long term (NetApp, OpenText and, until recently, Citrix spring to mind).
Having maintained its place through acquisitions of its own, such as Spotfire and JasperSoft, one year ago Tibco followed others in removing itself from the stock market ostensibly to give itself some freedom to think beyond the quarterly report. “Tibco will have added flexibility to serve our customers and execute on our long-term strategy,” said then-CEO Vivek Ranadivé, a view echoed today by his replacement, Murray Rode.
In practical terms this strategy has meant moving away from the traditional market of software running inside the enterprise, and looking towards delivering visualisation, integration and analytics services that fit with, dare I use the term, the ‘digital’ world — working with cloud-based services, devops practices and non-IT customers. Far from being marketing bling, Tibco believes that this aligns with clear and present demand. “We are just responding to what customers are asking for,” says CTO Matt Quinn.
In a nutshell, this means delivering tools that work with both in-house and cloud-based software. To reinforce this point, the company today announced it was acquiring Mashery, an API management company, from Intel. Can Tibco deliver? There is no reason why not; the only open questions are how well it manages to integrate the older and newer elements of its portfolio together and broaden its customer base (therefore growing revenues), both of which remain a work in progress.
All the same and like AWS, the company is highly oriented to responding to customer needs, a pre-requisite of survival in these messy times which appear to favour the new over the old. Unlike AWS, Tibco sees genuine benefit in both in-house and cloud-based technology. If the future is hybrid (which it will be for the next decade or so), there is value to add helping companies bridge the gap.
While the immediate future of technology may be difficult to chart, this doesn’t phase the company. “We thrive on complexity and change,” says Matt. Indeed, more fragmentation of technology, an inevitable consequence of current trends, begets greater need for integration and simplification.
Whether or not the organisation will retain its independence in the long term remains to be seen. In the meantime, simply helping its customers respond to the dual pressures of delivering innovation while keeping existing systems going (and helping both work together) should be sufficient basis for Tibco’s continued success. “We are blessed with some wonderful customers,” says Murray. And it is by helping these that Tibco will itself ride the digital wave.