It is unusual for a software company to admit that it was spreading itself too thin, but TIBCO opened up about its need to refocus on its two core values: data integration and analytics.
Sat overlooking the Tower of London ahead of TIBCO’s London leg of its Inform tour this week, chief technology officer Matt Quinn set out the way software companies tend to evolve from making products to becoming a platform and giving “customers what they want, how they want it”.
Quinn, a straight-talking Australian, explained that interconnecting everything and augmenting intelligence are the two sides of the company. "Basically: we connect shit together and we make people smarter," he said.
TIBCO is now focusing on the two core tenets of its business. These are in connecting data across businesses through data integration, API management, and business process management, and in providing analytics tools to process that data, with dashboards, data visualisation and streaming analytics.
According to Quinn, over the last few years he and CEO Murray Rode asked customers exactly what they wanted, and to single out the features that actually drive value. TIBCO customers weren’t interested in new products like the loyalty management product Engage, for example, which launched in 2014.
TIBCO was limiting its scope by focusing on “died in the wool IT” or the typical CIOs, and in turn it was missing out on the new market created by the democratisation of IT.
“The advent of cloud and SaaS shifted workloads to this mixed model, the impact was business units are consumers of technology that aren’t involved with IT,” Quinn said. “We realised that by selling in this one single way we were locking ourselves out to other opportunities."
“If they want a platform, fantastic," he explained. "If they want a point solution they can use today and discard tomorrow, great. It is not about one or the other, it is about both. But the trick is, in order to do both you have to decide what that platform looks like, you can’t keep growing it exponentially.”
TIBCO will continue providing these bulky integrations for big applications and systems, while also providing software to the new technology users - but in a way that doesn't scare off IT teams and is integrated sufficiently to avoid costly data loss.
According to Quinn, the holy grail for all of its customers is a kind of data-driven virtuous circle where they can integrate everything, get data flowing through their analytics applications so that the users can make smarter business decisions, and then feed them back into their business application.
Every customer “will take different routes to get there,” Quinn said “We don’t want to say no, you either do it our way or we aren’t talking to you.”
This doesn’t mean TIBCO will put a stop to releasing new products, but it will try to focus its innovation around those two halves of the business, either making integrations or analytics better for customers.
An example is the recently announced graph database product. Quinn explained that when it comes to core TIBCO capabilities like master data management and complex analytics workloads, graph is a great fit because the data being used is “all a network, or a graph, so we needed a way to store that information”.
Instead of turning to the existing graph databases on the market for partnerships, Quinn felt none of them were sufficient for its enterprise customers, so instead the company spent the last few years building its own.
As SaaS companies grow and chase the valuable enterprise market this sort of focus on core activities should chime well with customers and investors.
The key will be for TIBCO to maintain this focus and to avoid becoming tempted by new revenue streams that just aren’t what its customers come to them for.