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IBM’s Purchase of Lombardi

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Technology giant IBM made another acquisition. This time it was Lombardi, an Austin, Texas-based software company whose fantastic product is totally unknown to the people who need it most.

Here’s some of the text from IBM’s official press release:

ARMONK, NY – 16 Dec 2009:  IBM today announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Lombardi, a privately held software company based in Austin, Texas. Financial terms were not disclosed. Lombardi, a leading provider of Business Process Management (BPM) software and services, helps organizations automate and integrate business processes to increase efficiencies and reduce costs.

Congratulations are in order to Lombardi, who not only managed to court Big Blue, but also offers excellent software products. Beyond the great news of the sale, the press release also offers more insight into the field of business process improvement:

Organizations are struggling to find ways to simplify their business operations to better reach partners and clients, improve decision-making and increase their return on investment. The management of processes supporting business functions such as product planning, supply chain execution, insurance application and claims management, human resources, IT services and procurement is vital to the success of every business. Helping companies automate these processes to make them more consistent, predictable and cost-efficient is a major requirement for businesses today.

The first part of this paragraph is strikingly accurate. At AccelaWork, we run across companies and non-profit organizations on a daily basis who are “struggling to find ways to simplify their business operations.” The problem is painfully evident, and it’s clear to anyone that some kind of process improvement is necessary. But what sort of improvement is what’s still up in the air.

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However, the press releases went on to advocate automation of processes. The specific objectives are to make processes “more consistent, predicable and cost-efficient.” These are goals which will appeal to management and company owners. In other words, if companies are to build software systems that complete processes without human interaction, such detailed modeling is essential.

We have already covered over-investing in business process transformation software. The challenge is not that we don’t have good software applications for conducting detail business process modeling work, but rather that most employees do not have a process-oriented mindset. Instead, stakeholders at all levels tend to be outcome-oriented. As we’ve also discussed, studies prove that employee satisfaction is high when they focus on the experience rather than the results. We’ve talked over and over again about how focusing on the process can even lead to better results, but somehow this is still lost on so many major companies.

Before companies can truly benefit from software tools like those offered by Lombardi, there must be a comprehensive stakeholder engagement around the potential for positive collaborative change. Then, there should be sufficient education among employees to understand the basic principles of a modeling language like BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation).

All of this work should be done in the most familiar of environments: in offices and conference rooms and on whiteboards and pen and paper. Only once everyone has internalized the nature, structure, and experience of process improvement should software tools be employed. This is the point when large-scale automation should take place. In effect, such implementation should be championed by the stakeholders themselves who were doing the work in the first place.

Congratulations to Lombardi. Celebrate their success by planning to utilize their excellent software packages in your organization down the road. But first, reach out to consultants who specialize in productivity and workflow consulting like those at AccelaWork. Before we recommend any tools, we listen, learn, and help you to empower change from within.

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