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Tibco Plans To Blend BI With BPM In SpotFire Buy

Acquisition marks the first merger between a pure-play business-process management vendor and a BI company.
Tibco has agreed to buy business-intelligence vendor Spotfire for $195 million in cash, marking the first merger of a pure-play business process management vendor with a BI company.

Tibco said Tuesday it plans to keep the Spotfire brand and run the company as a business unit led by Spotfire's chief executive, Christopher Ahlberg. In addition to selling BI software separately, Tibco intends to integrate it with its BPM offerings. The acquisition is expected to close in the third quarter.

The industry has been moving toward a marriage between business intelligence and BPM for months. BI vendor Business Objects, for example, bought late last year Nsite, an on-demand process management platform that creates Web-based routing and approval workflows for applications such as quote-to-cash processes, sales discounts, expense reporting, and travel authorizations.

The convergence of BI and BPM have led to many partnerships among a variety of vendors, and has attracted the attention of tech heavyweights IBM, Oracle and SAP. "While some of the vendors have already been toying with the convergence of both disciplines, today’s announcement by Tibco that it will acquire Spotfire, is the first transaction that will merge a pure-play middleware vendor with a pure-play BI vendor," Boris Evelson, an analyst for Forrester, said in the research firm's blog.

As Evelson points out, there's only so much efficiency that can be achieved through rules and workflow engines found in BPM suites. BI adds the analytics that enable corporate employees to discover ways to improve operations. "For example, while workflow and rules are used to efficiently process a customer credit application, business intelligence analytics are needed to effectively segment customer population and extend the credit offer to a much more targeted customer segment for a better response, cross-sell/up-sell ratios," Evelson said.

It's those kinds of opportunities that Tibco had in mind when it decided to buy Spotfire. "Our overall story from a product perspective is to bring together Tibco's strength in real-time infrastructure and process management with the analytical capabilities of Spotfire," Jeff Kristick, senior director of product marketing at Tibco, said.

Spotfire is particularly strong at data visualization, offering more options than just pie charts and graphs in presenting analytics, Kristick said. Spotfire dashboards can run in a browser, or through a Windows client built with Microsoft's .Net framework.

In addition, the company provides Tibco an entry into new markets, such as high-tech manufacturing, clinical trial analytics in the pharmaceutical industry, and oil and gas production. Spotfire has more than 800 customers including Chevron, Merck, Pfizer, Shell, Texas Instruments and Toshiba. Tibco, on the other hand, does a lot of its business in the financial services and telecommunication industries.

Nevertheless, the Tibco/Spotfire merger is relatively small, and with so many larger companies in the space, the acquisitions are sure to get much larger, experts say.