Will Boomi’s strategy succeed with new management?

It is always hit or miss whether a blog post will solicit dialogue from readers. TBR’s recent blog post Who is going to want Boomi? certainly struck a chord. The blog focused on the actions of the private equity firms intending to acquire Boomi, which ultimately led Boomi to provide TBR with deeper insight into its most recent achievements, activities and aspirations as the company moves to new corporate ownership. Boomi has a sound growth strategy with a high chance of success, assuming the company and its new owners are in strategic alignment.

Evaluating the business using an inside-out/outside-in construct provides a reasonable framework for the market implications Boomi ― and really any integration PaaS (iPaaS) vendor ― will face in the years ahead. The situation starts with a universal fact: Digital businesses gain a competitive advantage against peers if they automate the flow of data across their organization. Any step where a business has to add labor when a peer does not is a cost disadvantage. In this respect, Boomi’s value is twofold: 1) automations can be built into the process and tightly integrated so that they don’t break as applications evolve, and 2) organizations can create even greater advantage when they are discovering data from all of their sources and understand the data and applications involved in the automation process.

Figure 1

Outside in: The rise of data management and asymmetric competition

Our initial blog on the sale of Boomi referenced UiPath and startups Kong and Entefy as potential asymmetric challengers to Boomi’s core value proposition. Additionally, you have the basic PaaS offerings from the exascale cloud platforms providing prebuilt connectors and myriad additional services for security, data protection and data management. SaaS players, as mentioned in our prior blog, offer prebuilt integrations to popular, adjacent applications. Numerous vendors vie for what they generally call single-pane-of-glass management in multiple forms, with all vendors stressing analytics and automation in some manner.

Just as paramount is the economywide war for talent. Qualified talent versed in new technologies and tools are sought virtually everywhere, making it an employee’s market. As is the case with any acquisition, talent retention and recruitment will be key to the innovations Boomi has charted out in its development road map. In acquisition parlance, it is called putting “the golden handcuffs” on essential personnel to ensure they do not jump to a competing firm. Locking down key engineering talent will be critical.

Situationally, iPaaS tool sets can be acquired either in best-of-breed fashion or by standardization on one platform that is expansive enough to solve an immediate need and evolve with the organization. In large enterprises, there could be a mix of tools based on those brought into the organization via acquisition. In this way, iPaaS brands can be pigeonholed for what they have been offering and not necessarily given consideration for their go-forward innovations. In turn, tool purchases are often a derived decision as part of a broader initiative. The cost is justified in terms of the time savings for the business initiative rather than how the purchase will make the life of the IT department easier.

It is for this reason Figure 1 references “Strategic Alliances; ‘White Label.’” Externally, many global systems integrators (GSIs) are pivoting to managed services offerings, especially the advisory firms with deep tax and audit credentials, whose distinction comes from the tax and audit knowledge base they can automate to address data management, governance and compliance rules.

By underpinning GSI software development with its own tools, Boomi can gain a distinct selling advantage into large enterprises as it will have these influencers and quasi sellers  at its disposal. Tighter relationships will also help Boomi keep an ear to the ground on the emerging technology vendors that GSIs and early adopter enterprises are considering and those that pose an asymmetric threat to the Boomi core.

Furthermore, Boomi made clear it does not aspire to substantially grow its consulting and services operations. GSIs will find this clear swim lane delineation refreshing considering the ways in which traditional services and software firms are beginning to encroach on one another’s core offerings.

Inside out: Transforming direct selling and creating new demand through ‘add to cart’

As a technology firm selling technology to IT departments, Boomi has sound, traditional selling motions. Increasingly, however, we hear the clarion call of selling business outcomes, and that move to consultative selling to lines of business will be necessary, given technology matters less and less while people and process matter more. In turn, studies show buyers want to self-research products and then self-provision those products from online portals.

Boomi has made steps in that regard with the availability of its AtomSphere Go edition, which aims to give customers a frictionless buying experience, at an early entry price point of $50 per month. AtomSphere Go also gives Boomi a way to disaggregate the various services in the existing offer to allow Boomi to move down market to reach late-majority enterprises. Additionally, Boomi recently announced AtomSphere Go is available on Amazon Marketplace, the mecca for seamless, add-to-cart ordering.

That type of selling, often called “land and expand,” has a very different set of operating best practices than traditional direct, or blue suit, selling. The aspiration of this kind of selling is lifetime customer value (LCV). It requires a different type of telephone support that is part technical advisory and part consultative selling for cross- and up-sell opportunities with smaller enterprises.

It is also a business model where revenue and expense do not align to the 90-day quarterly reporting cycle. This requires a leap of trust to embark on such selling approaches, as costs will far outweigh revenue until scale is achieved and the “flywheel effect” kicks in. For startup operations it is a very prominent challenge, and for Boomi the challenge will come more from setting up the operations with different motions and finding a way to balance investing in selling motions with awaiting payoff of the new add-to-cart operations.

Situation analysis: Never confuse a clear view for a short distance

TBR has laid out Boomi’s situation analysis levers as 1) talent retention and ongoing innovation to continue evolving a traditional space (iPaaS) that is being encroached upon by startups and established vendors on all sides, 2) heightened partner selling, and 3) a challenging shift to the add-to-cart selling model primarily to move down market, which requires fiscal patience. Provided there’s a vision match with the new owners, Boomi has solid platform depth and breadth with a reasonable innovation road map to survive and thrive in this ever-accelerating business pivot where automating data management, seamlessly moving data and empowering the right users to engage with data are paramount to maintain a persistent competitive advantage no matter the standard industrial classification (SIC) code.

So, what do you think? Will Boomi’s strategy succeed with new management?

In TBR’s newest blog series, What Do You Think?, we’re sharing questions our subject-matter experts have been asking each other lately, as well as posing the question to our readers. If you’d like to discuss this edition’s topic further, contact Geoff Woollacott at [email protected].

Who is going to want Boomi?

In TBR’s newest blog series, What Do You Think?, we’re sharing questions our subject-matter experts have been asking each other lately, as well as posing the question to our readers. If you’d like to discuss this edition’s topic further, contact Geoff Woollacott at [email protected].

What Happened

Boomi will be sold to Francisco Partners and TPG for $4 billion in yet another in a series of asset sales, spinoffs and engineering measures Dell EMC has been making to cover the debt load from Dell’s acquisition of EMC in 2016. But this is not about Dell and the efficacy of its strategic actions. This is about Boomi. Who is going to want Boomi?

It is a broad question in terms of customers and potential buyers. Ultimately, the acquiring equity firms that shelled out $4 billion for the assets will want to “optimize” Boomi to resell the operation in whole or in part for more than $4 billion after having added their “value.” Rarely are these equity firms eager to sink money into long-overdue R&D to align an aging portfolio to the current market situation. If they were home flippers, they would want to put a fresh coat of paint on the clapboards for a five-year fix, not strip the bottom four rows of siding, replace the sill damage, reside it and paint it for a 15-year fix.

Customer Situation

Boomi lags with API tool sets in an era often called the API economy. Even those with sound API management capabilities such as MuleSoft are now being called into question for not having API automation for push-button development capabilities. There are a lot of emerging companies, such as Entefy and Kong, getting serious evaluation in early adopter enterprises as the next leap forward in the iPaaS tool set space while UiPath receives mention in TBR’s discussions with customers as having the capabilities to swing into this space as well.

Boomi’s sweet spot seems to be the late majority large and midsize enterprises, with most of these customer applications residing on premises and many of them bespoke or highly customized. These data transport vessels are like the African Queen steamboat chugging along in the data river.  These data center leaders will not find out-of-the-box API integrations into their bespoke applications from the leading SaaS apps they may be adopting at the start of their slow roll to native-cloud applications and data center consolidations that are a threat to Boomi as well as the traditional hardware manufacturers such as Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Lenovo.

Those are the customers that will likely want Boomi, but the number of potential buyers will rapidly dwindle as the market trends that threaten that sweet spot support the continued acceleration of cloud migration, sparked by the pandemic. Specifically, Salesforce’s 2018 acquisition of MuleSoft provided the SaaS front-office leader with an integration layer to tie together its proprietary solutions, in addition to integrations with AppExchange, its app partner ecosystem. While MuleSoft was born in legacy IT, its combination with Salesforce provides MuleSoft with substantial capital to innovate and evolve its offerings for better alignment with Salesforce by enhancing its tool sets for cloud application integration. Boomi’s challenge is to take these core strengths for business-to-business/EDI management and easy self-service reporting and integrations and build out the API and AI/machine learning capabilities sooner rather than later.

Buyer situation

In terms of who may want Boomi in their portfolio, the current owners likely eye Salesforce’s $6.5 billion acquisition of MuleSoft as the kind of pinata they hope to crack open with this $4 billion swing at a payoff. To TBR, that is likely a swing and a miss due to the aging portfolio issues referenced. Yes, SaaS players will increasingly bake in iPaaS tool sets, but emerging SaaS players will be less inclined to worry about on-premises and bespoke integrations where Boomi excels as they will be to have out-of-the-box connectors to market-share-leading SaaS apps in other segments.

This leaves buyers looking to consolidate aging assets to profitably manage opportunity in declining markets. A sound firm such as Informatica can follow the acquisition strategy deployed to great success by Computer Associates (CA) in the late ’80s and the ’90s as minicomputer consolidation started. In essence, CA became a software distributor of disparate, stand-alone utilities and tools for the various proprietary install bases that started their slow decline into irrelevance as Intel/Microsoft ate the data center. The CA acquisitions in that era were often asset sales, however. Ultimately, that consolidation caught up to both CA and BMC. While they are in operation, they likely lack the cash flow to justify adding Boomi to their boneyard — unless, of course, the equity partners decide to cut their losses if the financial pinata fails to crack open.

So, what do you think? Who is going to want Boomi?

Spinout will soothe some ailments for Dell and VMware

After over a year of discussions about the future of the Dell-VMware relationship, on April 14, 2021, it was confirmed that Dell (NYSE: DELL) will spin off its 81% majority stake in VMware (NYSE: VMW) to create two independent companies, effective CY4Q21. Evidenced by the market’s immediate reaction, the spinoff will be an overall positive move for both companies, giving Dell the chance to reorganize as a leaner, more targeted organization while offering VMware more go-to-market flexibility. Of course, as independent companies, Dell and VMware will face challenges, but increasingly differing portfolios, revenue models and market views will position both companies for longer-term success as separate entities. 

While mostly beneficial to VMware, the spinoff will offer stand-alone Dell some pockets of opportunity

While it is true that VMware has been Dell’s secret sauce for years, the announced spinoff will not necessarily cost Dell a long-term competitive advantage. Given the investments VMware has made in the last five years to accelerate its cloud strategy and position itself as more than a virtualization software company, it makes sense for VMware to operate separately. This is true even from a branding perspective, given Dell EMC’s play in many legacy markets.

However, there is also a potential upside for Dell, as the separation could enable the company to be less reliant on VMware and move beyond the big bets it placed on software-defined hardware solutions, which have generally performed below market expectations over the past few years. TBR suspects this strategy will allow Dell to become more focused on capturing the roughly 80% of enterprises that continue to operate on premises by providing them with access to cloud services and flexible pricing within their own data centers. There are already signs of this strategy developing.

While this release could be viewed as Dell giving the market a sense of what its post-spinoff portfolio could look like, at issue for the company is that it will now be more directly aligned with competitors such as Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) (NYSE: HPE), Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Lenovo. Given HPE’s head start in the market through its GreenLake brand, Dell will be forced to explore new avenues for differentiation with Project APEX, and this could largely come down to Dell’s still unique five-year go-to-market agreement with VMware and any potential influence from Dell Technologies CEO and Chairman Michael Dell, who will remain VMware’s chairman of the board post-spinoff.

Apart from the near-term impacts and challenges in the competitive landscape, the spinoff is best viewed in opportunities. Following the sale of RSA and current speculation regarding Secureworks (Nasdaq: SCWX), Dell has recently focused on shedding underperforming brands to become a leaner organization. TBR suspects the spinoff of VMware, along with potential sale of integration PaaS (iPaaS) subsidiary Dell Boomi, will present an opportunity for Dell to streamline its operating structure and support the large investment it made in legacy EMC.

Additionally, TBR believes Dell has in many ways backed the innovative concepts and ideas that have emerged from VMware, namely intrinsic security, but have not been fully executed. As such, this spinoff could help Dell become more selective in which markets it wants to innovate and truly scale in, which may include enabling enterprise hybrid cloud, edge computing and data management. TBR expects Dell will turn to its partner network as an immediate avenue for growth, yet as the company more aggressively pursues new growth areas, tuck-in acquisitions that complement the EMC software cannot be ruled out and, down the road, could be essential to competing on par with peers.

Corporate structure does impact performance

In theory, the ownership structure and model of firms do not impact their business model, but in practice they sure do. The evolving case of Dell and VMware is one of the most — if not the most — complicated in the history of the IT market. VMware has grown accustomed to operating under a complex and dependent ownership structure; the firm has not been fully independent since EMC acquired it in 2004 for $635 million.

Since that time, VMware has been an embedded gem within both EMC and Dell, driving growth and profitability well above the traditional hardware segments that made up the majority of both firms. VMware’s consistent performance over the past 15 years is driving this latest change in ownership structure, with VMware set to be spun out of Dell and have its most independent ownership structure since 2004. For VMware, the change is all positive, giving the firm a single-minded clarity to operate in its own best interest, without the weight of supporting the corporate performance of either EMC or, more recently, Dell

New Dell hybrid cloud pricing offers VxRail by subscription

“Last summer, Dell rival HPE laid out a bold plan to transition its business into a software- and services-only operation by 2022 and it would do so, in part, by making its entire portfolio available through a number of different subscription-based, pay-per-use and as-a-service offerings. HPE also, however, said it planned to make its hardware and software available in a capital expenditure and license-based model, thereby giving users a choice in consuming HPE products and services in a more traditional offering. ‘This is a counterpunch being thrown at HPE, which is in the throes of transforming to a software and services company via subscriptions using Greenlake,‘ said Geoff Woollacott, senior strategy consultant and principal analyst at Technology Business Research. ‘[Dell is] trying to do the whole lifecycle management as part of the overall service.'”

Is the IT hardware market ready for Hardware as a Service?

Hardware as a Service — or maybe you call it PCaaS, DaaS or XaaS — is basically referring to bundling some type of hardware (e.g., phones, PCs, servers) with life cycle services and charging a recurring fee over a multiyear contract. The customer never really owns the hardware, and the vendor takes it back at the end of the agreement.

Sure, it’s not a new concept. But the solution hasn’t exactly taken off like a rocket ship, either. So, is it going to? Maybe. Its initial speed may be more like a Vespa than a SpaceX Falcon, but there are a few things working in its favor.

Why do buyers want it?

  • Retiring hardware is a huge pain. I have talked to IT leaders who have literally acquired warehouse space solely to store old hardware they have no idea what to do with.
  • Making it easier to stay up to date with tech. Management can no longer deny the negative impact on morale brought by an unattractive, slow and/or unreliable device.
  • Automation & Internet of Things (IoT) usher in new capabilities. Who doesn’t want to make managing hardware easier? Hardware as a Service is basically IoT for your IT department. Device management features like tracking device location and health are key functions of many IoT deployments and is a core selling point of Hardware as a Service offerings.

Why do vendors want to sell it?

  • Business models are changing. That darn cloud computing had to come along and change expense models, not to mention make it easier to switch between vendors. From Spotify and Netflix to Amazon Web Services and Salesforce, “as a Service” is second nature to IT buyers in both their personal and professional lives.
  • Creating stickiness. Hardware is more often perceived as “dumb” with the software providing the real value. If you’re a hardware maker (or a VAR), you need to make the buyer see your relationship as one that’s valuable and service-oriented versus transactional.
  • Vendors desire simplicity. Most vendors will tell you they have been building similar enterprise service agreements on a one-off basis for years. These new programs will hopefully create swim lanes to make it faster and easier for partners to build solutions.

Buyers are used to monthly SaaS pricing models, but that’s not really what creates the main appeal for Hardware as a Service. Buyers really want the value-added services and fewer managerial headaches.

So, how’s it going?

As someone who manages several research streams, I get to peek at results from a lot of different studies. Here are a few snippets of things I’ve heard and seen in the last month or so.

  • Personal devices: It certainly seems like there’s the most buzz around PCs, with Dell, HP Inc. and Lenovo all promoting DaaS offerings. I have also heard from enterprises doing initial DaaS pilots with as many as 5,000 PCs, but we seem to still be in very early stages of adoption. Both PC vendors and their channel partners are beginning to report “legit” pipeline opportunities tied to DaaS.
  • Servers: Either outright purchasing or leasing servers is still the overwhelming choice of purchase method for about 90% of IT buyers recently surveyed by TBR. Perceptions that an “as a Service” model will be more expensive in the long run is the main customer concern to date that vendors will need to address via emphasizing the value-added life cycle services.
  • Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI): A bundle of hardware and a services bundle? This is the bundle of bundles! Not too many HCI vendors are openly promoting an “as a Service” pricing model at this point, but 80% of current HCI buyers in TBR’s most recent Hyperconverged Platforms Customer Research indicated they are interested in a consumption-based purchasing model, particularly to enhance their scalability. About 84% of those surveyed are using HCI for a private or hybrid cloud buildout, so maybe a more cloud-like pricing model make sense. Make no mistake, interest is not synonymous with intent, but it’s safe to say these buyers are at least paying attention to their purchasing options.

My general verdict is that things are still moving at Vespa speed. PCs have a head start over data center hardware based on the concerted go-to-market efforts of the big three OEMs and a consumption model that more closely aligns with the consumer services we’re used to. The second half of this year will be an interesting proving ground to see if the reported pipeline growth is converted to actual customers. Depending on how that goes, maybe we’ll see the data center guys making more serious moves in this space.

What do you think? Add a comment or drop me an email at [email protected].


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