Ian Gotts is CEO and Chairman of Nimbus Partners, an established and rapidly growing global software company, headquartered in UK. He is a very experienced senior executive and serial entrepreneur, with a career spanning 25 years. Ian’s proven track record driving successful technology businesses demonstrates his expertise in establishing, growing and maintaining profitability for organisations of all sizes.
Since co-founding Nimbus, Ian has been instrumental in growing the company which has since won numerous business awards including the Deloitte Fast50, Deloitte European Fast 500, Sunday Times TechTrack100
Ian has co-authored a number of books including “Common Approach, Uncommon Results”, published in English and Chinese and in its second edition, “Why Killer Products Don’t Sell” and books covering Cloud computing from the perspective of both the prospective buyer, and the software vendor.
Since joining Nimbus in 2004, Antony has successfully spearheaded the company’s growth in the financial services sector with recent customer engagements including JP Morgan, ZFS, RBS, HSBC, Man Group and Barclays Capital.
Before joining Nimbus Antony has worked for a variety of other leading software and consulting businesses including EDS, Informix/IBM and Atos Origin specializing in content management across manufacturing, media and financial services.
2009 was seen as a fairly turbulent for most but towards the end year many kicked off major change programs focused on process transformation. How do you expect 2010 will unfold for the BPM industry generally and for BPM Vendors ?
AB: From our client engagements the increasing trend we are seeing is a very strong focus towards effective communication of process information to the business users within a governance framework to drive the adoption of the transformation initiatives you refer to.
We constantly poll our customer base (1,000+) and the marketplace with the question ‘what percentage of the activities in your business are automated versus manual’ and the answer we are hearing is 20% automated to 80% manual but how much time and investment has been spent making sure the business users are being given what they need to be effective in their jobs?
With the constant cost cutting, headcount reductions, pressure on IT to keep systems running/enhanced and the business required to work under more stringent regulations it is imperative to provide the business users who represent the majority of the activities being executed with an easy to understand, personalized and dynamically driven operations manual that they can refer to and execute their processes from.
A lot of the activities/processes that have been automated are often in isolation to the overall end-to-end process with no change management between the two to assess the impact and audit of change.
So there are still lots of gaps across end-to-end processes that need to be uncovered, documented, signed-off and improved and target operating models need a strong governance framework to remain consistent and accurately reflecting how the business operates and how it is changing.
I am amazed by the number of customers who are still using visio or technical BPA tools for process documentation to support these initiatives and also using complex notation types which business users have to decipher and often assume they are reading/understanding correctly.
They also have to locate in addition to these visio diagrams policy and procedure documents from a network drive or Sharepoint site, business controls and activity checklists in Excel, emails for audit trail and multiple IT systems across multiple activities along the process – and that’s before they have thought to themselves ‘how can I improve this process to make my job easier, the team more productive and the company more valuable to its shareholders…….’
We are also seeing a lot more of our financial services customers linking their controls, risks and KPI’s/KRI’s into their processes so they can monitor and react to the performance of a process, control, risk or IT system and a move away from the multiple silo’d approach mentioned above to managing your operational data in the business into a single version controlled repository.
So in summary on the client side I can see a move towards embedding more of a process culture across the whole of the business so it is no longer in the domain or ownership of IT and also a more collaborative and governed approach towards the related operational data.
On the vendor side I can see more consolidation amongst the BPA and BPM vendors as they struggle to find a niche or relevant value proposition the markets are looking to invest in and more SaaS offerings to keep the cost of entry and ownership low.
IG: The market downturn was seen as a long term change, not a blip so companies were thinking about their operational efficiency. So 2009 was the time when BPM vendors, especially those focused on business improvement / better risk management, were in great demand. Those who were focused on process automation less so.
2010 will see a continuation of the same pattern. IT budgets will be continue to be tight, so a strong ROI will be critical.
Do you expect clients to alter their buying criteria as a result of the downturn and concentrate on initial cost first rather than ROI or the need for BPM itself to support strategy ?
AB: Good question – every client we deal with has a business case built at a very early stage in the buying process as we offer significant reductions in the time spent capturing, change managing, communicating and executing process information even before the client is re-engineering or looking at ABC/FTE information for savings.
I suspect the pattern we will see more of this year as cloud computing becomes more of a reality is the need to show a faster ROI and a lower TCO but also BPM applications should be at the heart of strategic initiatives and so should be factored in at the very start of major business transformation initiatives as a cost saving approach to the project.
IG: With more applications available in the Cloud there is RBI (Return Before Investment). Rapid process mapping drives out tangible changes in weeks not months, so they get the benefits before the first invoice is paid. These benefits fund further roll-out and projects of a wider scope.
Forrester recently said they’ll be turning to the process professionals more in 2010 and Gartner’s Magic Quadrant underwent a makeover in how they approached their analysis last year. Do you still see a need for the kind of research which is perceived to be vendor led given the rise of independent professional blogs and insights ?
IG: Companies still need independent analysis on vendors which is based on thorough research of the market. This is unlikely to be provided through blogging of a knowledgeable individual who simply does not have the time/resource to do the work unpaid. However, advice on b
est practice can and should be delivered by those in t
he field with current and practical experience, and this is those who have been analysts for a number of years.
AB: We see a difference between what our customers are using our application for and what the analysts are saying BPA/BPM applications should be used for so in my experience, and this does not reflect the view of Nimbus but purely mine, I think the analysts generally miss the real day-to-day requirements clients have to support their process led initiatives.
An important role I see the analysts taking is to provide the forward looking view of what BPA and BPM applications should be providing to the marketplace to meet the external and internal drivers companies will face that will change their operating models, cultures and market strategies and maybe the challenge the analysts have is joining the gap between future and present.
Professional blogs and insights tend to reflect what is happening now, what issues are being faced, what new approaches or options can be taken and the collective experiences of people day in day out worrying about and managing process led initiatives so probably provide a far more accurate view of reality being at the ground level.
What’s Nimbus Partners’ definition and philosophy for BPM ?
IG: “The only place Automation comes before Mapping or Discovery is in the dictionary”
AB: Very simply to make business process management do what it says on the tin! Help the business understand, collaborate, communicate and improve the processes used across the enterprise – business process is a language that has to be understood and acted upon by all with the same meanings and interpretations taken away from the information no matter what role or function you have from CEO down.
We have realized there are different ‘hats’ worn by people in a business who all want different information for different reasons at different times – Risk Managers want to understand where/why controls fail, Business Heads want to understand how their teams are performing, IT Managers want to understand where they need to build in resiliency to infrastructure. Operators want to understand how they operate a process or IT system today if it has been changed since the last time they used it so making this information simple to understand, easy and quick to access and also providing a forum to suggest and initiate change are all critical elements for businesses to perform well with a consistent common business process language.
At the heart of our philosophy as a company though is to help solve customer’s problems – our client conversations very rarely focus on functionality and more on problem solving and we are very proposition focused so we want to make sure we understand the client’s problem, can build a solution to address and form a long term partnership to help solve other problem’s and realise opportunities as they arise.
CIO recently named Nimbus Partners on their Twenty Companies to watch in 2010 list. Not many people have heard of Nimbus so this must have been a nice surprise ?
AB: Not to us! We are the world’s best kept secret but if you look at our customer list with the likes of Nestle, J.P Morgan, Carphone Warehouse, Toyota, Chevron and HSBC who have all chosen us to support their strategic business transformation initiatives it is clear to see we have got an application which is definitely going places – don’t forget all of these organizations have already tried with other BPA/BPM tools or visio to address their business process management but the difference being with our application and approach they are getting a much clearer view and understanding of how their business processes operate across their organization and significantly more return on their investment from our productivity tools from change to action management and collaboration.
We probably haven’t featured too heavily on the CIO radar up until recently due to our focus to the business users but as they take more ownership and mare more demands on IT and the CIO of the business processes we are spending more time talking to the CIO office who are also realizing the benefits we can provide into their organization also.
IG: We have more analysts and journalists talking about Nimbus. So it is always great to have 3rd party validation of what our clients are telling us. But yes, a great surprise.
BTW Nimbus has been in the D&T Fast 50 for 5 years, Gartner Cool Vendor in BPM 2007, and Microsoft TechTrack Best Use of Technology 2009
With a growing number of Cloud and Social Platform enabled BPM tools and services coming onto the market how do you see Nimbus staying ahead of the game ?
IG: Nimbus is setting the pace. We offered Nimbus Control as a Cloud offering 5 years ago and now 90% of new projects are Cloud-based. But we are now looking at deployment to mobile devices with our Nimbus Control for iPhone application and plans to support other devices. We are constantly inspired by our client’s passion and innovation and we have a flow of submissions into “Nimbus Ideas” (which is like the Starbuck or Salesforce.com Ideas)
And what about the social platforms, do you see them as being integral in future offerings to allow collaboration in process improvement projects and BPM or should it be left as a marketing tool ?
AB: One of my customers users a Facebook type approach to open up communication between their employees and I think that is a massive appeal and important step to accommodating the current and next generation of worker and keeping them effective at their jobs. So I definitely see more and more focus towards social platforms as a way of communicating, sharing and exploiting your most valuable and expensive assets, your employees!
IDS have released ARIS Express recently, a free version of their ARIS Professional modeling tool. Do you see a growing trend for BPM vendors to release free versions of their higher end products ?
IG: You have to ask the question why something is given away for free. We believe that a client will pay for something that gives lasting business value.
AB: I find it difficult to comprehend how any product designed to drive significant value to an organization can be given away for free. I can see people wanting to access a drawing or flowcharting tool may expect to pay a low cost or receive for free in a commoditised marketplace but the areas of business we are dealing with and strategic support our application is being used to help companies better run their businesses has a value to it that should be realized and respected and not minimized otherwise you just become another tool on the inventory that eventually collects dust!
The mobile platform has taken off and a growing number of vendors are joining the ranks to develop for the Apple, Blackberry and Android platforms. Do you see a future for BPM in this area ?
IG: Absolutely, which is why we have launched the Nimbus Control for iPhone application
Do you think there will be more M&A activity in 2010 across the BPM space and do you think this will improve solutions on offer or weaken the market ?
IG: Some of the niche players will be bought by vendors who need to fill out their offering. In the BPMS space there are so many vendors there will be some M&a
mp;A and a number of failu
res. Elsewhere, particularly in the process discovery/process improvement/end user support area there will be a rash of new companies emerging as the space is poorly supported.
AB: I think it will help to remove the players who offer no niche or real client value – my only concern is it will restrict the amount of technology evolution in the marketplace but as long as you listen to what your clients need and deliver against that the strong players will remain.
What’s the next big step you’d like to see in BPM ?
AB: More awareness that the new generation of office workers already in place and moving up the ranks have never used a green screen application or heard of client-server – they are texting, twittering, facebook users who expect the content they want to receive on demand via an aesthetically pleasing and easy to use user interface – unfortunately processes are boring so we need to make sure the future generations are able to interact and work within processes in a way that matches their experience with technology to date.
Finally, what next for you both ?
IG: I am very happy with the progress of Nimbus. We have a passionate client base, a stable and innovative product set, great profitable revenue growth, we are hiring some very impressive individuals, and see a huge pipeline of opportunity.
2010 is going to be a great year.
AB: After all these questions a lie down!!
I am busy scaling the financial services sector at Nimbus which has been a massively rewarding journey so far and I can see no end to! I am an Engineer by background so like fixing things and building solutions to it gives me great pleasure helping my clients solve their problems and realise their initiatives. As my team grows larger to support our growing client demand I can see me spending more time on aeroplanes as out footprint extends out globally but then time spent at 30,000 feet is always good thinking time for the plotting the future !