Global CIO: Tibco Surges And CEO Flips Off IBM, Oracle, And SAP

Tibco's revenue is surging toward $1 billion because "20th-century" competitors like IBM, Oracle, and SAP "just don't have the goods," says CEO Vivek Ranadive.
"These are all 20th-century companies grasping at the question of 'How do we become 21st-century companies?' " he said. 'How do we change and enhance our core competencies? How do we marry the three great trends of today: event-driven models, cloud computing, and mobility—how do we marry those without destroying our legacy?' "

On top of that, he said, those big companies with vast rosters of legacy products and entrenched business units find it hard to embrace questions such as "What does the customer of the 21st century look like, or what does the Facebook phenomenon mean to my company, my products, and my customers?"

As a result, he says, "The odds are stacked against them—for example, why couldn't Accenture become the next Infosys? Because they would have had to cannibalize their own existing business—that's a terribly hard thing to do.

"And it's the same in the cases of Oracle and SAP and IBM: to become a 21st-century company, they would have to eat their own children. That is true for all 21st-century players. Oh, they'll still be around and they'll still make some noise, but mostly they'll just live on maintenance."

Inside Tibco, one way in which that 21st-century profile is playing out is in the company's ability to build out an expansive services business at a time when the traditional enterprise software companies are loathe to try to do any such thing because of the limits of scale and expertise.

But Tibco, Ranadive says, has been able to surmount those obstacles at a time when the unique nature of its products and the nascent needs of its customers are requiring the company to staff out aggressively.

"In fact, these 20th-century companies like Oracle and SAP have built up substantial service organizations but they deal with 20th-century problems," Ranadive said.

"On the other hand, we still have all the usual suspects as partners but on top of that our clients are increasingly looking for talent that has an understanding of these advanced technologies. In a typical engagement we might have a customer with a couple of hundred people on a project and Tibco provides 10% of 15% of them.

"But that is changing—rapidly—and as a result our offshore services business has tripled as we have come across massive—truly massive—opportunities," he said.

"On Sunday, I met with one customer who wants an escalation in Tibco people from the 40 now working on the project to more than 200. This is happening because we want to move them from their old 20th-century infrastructure to event-driven platforms and in order to achieve that with such new technology, we have to do everything.

"The tipping point has been reached, and an avalanche of people wanting to do this has started. And here's the proof: we are seeing a 10-fold increase in the number of people our partners are training—but we still have to go it on our own."

This industry needs more of that defiant spirit, and what it really needs as well is more companies growing at the rate Tibco expects to grow: about 23% from the third quarter ended Aug. 31 to the fourth quarter ending Nov. 30.

At the same time, I think Ranadive and Tibco would do very well to grow as rapidly as they can in the next 6 months or so because in spite of his zealot's protestations to the contrary, IBM and Oracle and SAP are going to come after the real-time market like hungry lions on a herd of young antelopes.

As they do, it is certainly reasonable to expect that one of them or an adjacent company will look to acquire to accelerate its play in this strategically essential part of the market. But Tibco's been on the list of "Top 5 Companies That Will Definitely Be Acquired This Quarter" for the past three years—and it's still fiercely independent.

Either way, this is yet one more reason why I believe that the IT world of 2011 will absolutely rock the CIO world with new technologies, capabilities, and business-value potential. And I also believe that Tibco, in one form or another, will be a major catalyst in the wild transformations to come.


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GlobalCIO Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.

For more Global CIO perspectives, check out Global CIO,
or write to Bob at [email protected].

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