BMC, reports of death exaggerated?

Its forward-looking strategy is unveiled in London

David Norfolk

Written By:
Published: 27th July, 2016
Content Copyright © 2016 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

Earlier this year, if you'd asked my opinion of BMC I'd have probably said that it had gone a bit quiet since privatisation in 2013; that it had lots of good technology and clever people; and, quite a few very large customers - but that it wasn't very exciting and that ServiceNow, say, was making the running with agile ITSM (IT Service Management). And, I'd have added that I really must take a look at agile open-source ITSM startups sometime.

These days, I might have a rather more positive view of BMC. It admitted at a recent analyst meeting that it had been so busy getting its own house in order that it had rather forgotten to shout about what it is doing new for its customers - who probably know this, although potential customers may, of course, be rather less aware of it.

If you think that agility is simply making lots of changes quickly, ideally in small enough increments for the impact of failure to be manageable, and that "process" is rather superfluous these days, then you may still think that BMC is a bit over the top. However, I'm not sure I'd agree with you, and I'm not sure that I'd enjoy doing business in such an environment. Also, I think that BMC would claim to support lightweight SaaS-based ITSM these days - if you've rejected its tools in the past, it might be worth taking another look at them.

Bill Berutti, President of Performance and Analytics and Cloud/DCA business units, Scott Crowder (CIO) and Jason Frye (VP, digital Innovation) gave us a fairly standard picture of Digital Transformation and the opportunities it represents for BMC. This is a strong story even outside of BMC (see this 2016 paper from the World Economic Forum) but the BMC opportunities are none-the-less real. It does seem that BMC is well-aware of the latest trends, although perhaps the emphasis should be on "mutable business" - continual transformations in line with a constantly changing business environment, not just digital transformation in the singular.

Frye and Crowder described the new digital workplace BMC is supporting, with a welcome focus on business outcomes. BMC has put a lot of effort into modernising its own internal operations. For example, rather than replacing its aging PBX-based phone systems, it migrated to Skype for Business and saved itself a fortune.

Christophe Bodin (SVP, Worldwide Operations) and Paul Cant (President, EMEA) reviewed BMC's go to market strategy and strategic priorities going forwards; and called on Cap Gemini to support its story.

I was told by Linda Berry, (VP and Head of Commercial and Contract Management Global Infrastructure at Capgemini) that, although there are other useful ITSM tools, they simply find that big conversion and integration projects are lower risk if people adopt a properly integrated BMC toolset. BMC (now, at least) has just about all the tools that you need, they work well together, and (CapGemini thinks) it has the right mindset around agile and user experience going forwards.

That was also very much my opinion after talking to the BMC execs, although I suppose that the Agile and user experience stories will have to be confirmed by customer case studies. Note also that I firmly believe that strong configuration management, fundamental to ITSM, is an enabler for the productive innovation and agile change that is core to the Mutable Business. This is because it enables you to take more risks, with a managed scope of impact, and BMC has got useful configuration management tools.

BMC is currently facing strong competition from ServiceNow, of course, which is gaining a reputation for innovation and agility. For example, the ServiceNow CMDB can now be kept current by the automated service mapping tool it calls ServiceWatch, launched at the end of 2015, which includes more service-aware functionality than just the capture and visualisation of business service maps. However, I assume that BMC will have equivalent functionality soon. We'll have to wait for customer stories to find out how effective this is, but Tim Fagg (VP EMEA Consulting Services) told a good story, from BMC's point of view, around treating customers as partners, taking innovative approaches suited to the Digital Enterprise (as BMC sees it) and recognising that business outcomes are key to achieving success. 

It is interesting that Ariel Gordon (who invented the CMDB concept while he was CTO of BMC back in the 2000s) now works for ServiceNow as VP Product Management, after its 2014 acquisition of Neebula and the original ServiceWatch - Gordon was CTO, VP Products and co-founder of Neebula. I liked both Neebula and ServiceWatch automated service mapping a great deal, when I first met them before the acquisition.

There was some legal activity between BMC and ServiceNow over patents (probably around the CMDB, but details are confidential, so that's a guess) starting around the time ServiceNow was acquiring Neebula - an accommodation was reached after the courts found in BMC's favour in 2016. All BMC will say about this is to point at its press release.

Herb Van Hook (VP of strategy and CTO) described BMC's current tool portfolio, which is based on service management, workload automation, performance management and analytics, datacentre automation (including hybrid cloud management and release automation, with security built in by design - SecOps). And zSystems (mainframe) optimisation is still important to BMC (eg mainframe Java management - see my blog here. BMC will continue to pursue acquisitions, where it thinks these will deliver value to its customers.

Despite my comments on ServiceNow, above, it is a truism that competition is good for innovation and my impression is that BMC is now back in the game, as a private company. It is now able to take a long-term customer-centric view, after having streamlined its internal processes. However, I suspect that its main competition, in practice, isn't ServiceNow or other ITSM tools, but organisations that don't see any need to effectively automate their ITSM processes in any coherent way.

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