Hewlett-Packard went shopping in Europe earlier this year – and snapped up Dutch service management company Prolin NV for an undisclosed amount. With a turnover in the $30m region and the prospect of explosive growth, Prolin would not have been a cheap purchase and HP is believed to have paid something in the region of $20m. And it’s not a bad outcome for a company that Prolin’s founder Jergoen Mol started as a hobby while a student. Initially, it showed little sign of the potential that might soon make it a world renowned software company. Only when it decided in 1993 to drop most of its portfolio of products and concentrate on one market – information technology service management – did Prolin suddenly start to show dramatic growth. Since then, the company has edged onto the radar of the big US analysts assessing the leading players in a market which is becoming less and less niche: information technology service management. Prolin’s ITSM software spans all the functions required to run a substantial information technology operation, including help desk management, service level management, and software control and distribution. What financial packages do for accounts, we do for the information technology department, says Mol. Prolin has been helped by the fact that it has few direct competitors. While there are many help desk suites, and there are all kinds of advanced systems management tools, no other company, argues Mol, offers a full range of products to help manage the information technology department. The nearest competitor, in terms of function, is IBM’s mainframe-oriented InfoMan – but Prolin’s software is much more open and more scalable. It runs on top of an Oracle database on anything from a PC server to an IBM mainframe. It has also been designed to ‘plug into’ and com- plement IBM’s Tivoli system management products and Hewlett- Packard’s OpenView, although it is not compatible with the other main systems management architecture, Computer Associates’ Uni- center.
An uncluttered field
Mol sees the software market for IT management as three layered. At the bottom level are the network management and device management products; in the middle are the software products for handling specific and largely technical tasks. Above this, the field for the largely non-technical management process where Prolin plays is uncluttered. Although some analysts appear to characterise Prolin as a help desk oriented product, Mol insists that the company’s flagship software suite, IT Service Manager, is far broader and does not compete against ‘point solutions’. Certainly, this message appears to be accepted in the marketplace. Shell, Unilever, and Phillips are among its customers. And, most notably for the US market, it has won contracts with UPS, Union Carbide and AT&T. These deals should substantially boost revenues, but the company did not disclose any figures. Prolin is now operated as a business unit of HP’s OpenView business unit and work is underway to ensure that its software is further integrated with OpenView in the future. HP has been looking for some time to sell information technology services on top of its OpenView network. The two companies insist that there is no conflict between Prolin’s configuration, help desk, change, problem, distribution, report and service level managers and some OpenView features which have similar names. They operate, HP maintains, at different levels. OpenView will provide the infrastructure and management while Prolin uses OpenView to manage delivery of application services.