On September 11th, and 12th, IBM strayed from its usual practice of briefing hundreds of research analysts en masse about its products and services, and instead chose to brief a handpicked group of IT research analysts specifically on its Software Group strategy.
These select analysts were chosen because IBM believed that they could understand "big picture interrelationships" between IBM's Tivoli, WebSphere, DB2, and Lotus product lines - and relay the big picture to IT audiences and readers in their respective constituencies.
In this briefing, IBM focused on three themes:
- IBM Software Group cohesion;
- IBM competitive advantage; and,
- IBM's success in recruiting Independent Software Vendors to its infrastructure/application server platforms.
Software Group Cohesion In previous years, some of IBM's software groups behaved like they were independent companies that were loosely associated with IBM. (In fact, Tivoli and Lotus actually operated in that manner for some time after being acquired by IBM). So IBM's challenge at this briefing was to prove that Tivoli, WebSphere, DB2 and Lotus software groups were all singing from the same hymnal.
To prove this point, IBM focused on how each of these groups are actively and aggressively sharing code modules as they build their respective products. Some Tivoli application code modules (such as Tivoli Access Manager and Tivoli SecureWay Directory) end up in WebSphere to help manage and secure WebSphere application servers. Some DB2 code modules end up in Lotus and in IBM Content Manager to help create directories and repositories. Some Lotus collaboration modules (such as Sametime and QuickPlace) end up in WebSphere to help perform advanced collaborative activities. And IBM middleware shows up in various places throughout the product line.
IBM then put forward product roadmaps that demonstrated how each software division is producing modules (or integrating modules) that are integral to future development for other software divisions.
The key message to be derived from this is that IBM can now demonstrate inter-group cooperation and commonality of mission - and this is truly significant (this analyst has covered IBM for seven years and has never seen this degree of strategic integration across IBM software product divisions).
Competitive Advantage After demonstrating inter-group cooperation, IBM then turned its attention to comparing IBM's software development approach to those of its competitors. The key message IBM put forward is that it believes that its very large base of reusable application modules gives the company a distinct competitive advantage over competitors like Computer Associates, Microsoft, Oracle, and others who also develop application integration and infrastructure products.
IBM's argument went something like this: "We have a huge inventory of standards-based application modules that can perform database functions, integration functions, collaboration functions, security and management functions - and so on. We make these modules available as components or as packaged, integrated solutions. By so doing, our customers can deploy reliable, function-rich, broad-based, integrated infrastructure platforms that can easily run a wide range of packaged and custom solutions".
IBM has created an expansive underlying inventory of infrastructure solutions using a modular application development approach that can be mixed-and-matched to enable customers to deploy innumerable applications on reliable IBM infrastructure (with minimal or no integration effort).
IBM sees this vast inventory of mix-and-match application components as a huge competitive advantage (and points to its performance versus BEA and others as a proof-point that its approach is working). And from our perspective, it certainly appears that IBM's modular application component approach to building/deploying infrastructure is a distinguishing factor in the company's success in these tough IT times.
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