There’s always a shareholder who believes he can do a better job than the company’s management and board, and they’re often right. But former Borland director and long-time shareholder, Robert Coates’ calls for Borland to be broken up look little more than opportunistic.
Following the resignation of Borland’s CEO Dale Fuller under the cloud of a profit warning that came on July 7, the company appointed the former COO as interim CEO while it conducts a search for a new chief. Seeing a power vacuum at the top, Coates weighed in by saying he is formulating a plan that he hopes to firm up by mid-August, but which he has already said would include the jettisoning of what he sees as a number of legacy products.
Coates believes that Borland should focus exclusively on its application lifecycle management (ALM) products, which is one of three major lines at Borland. The other product lines include IDEs (Integrated Development Environments) where the company built its reputation, and middleware, which stemmed from the 1998 acquisition of CORBA broker provider Visigenic.
These calls may come as something of a surprise to Borland, however, since the company’s own take on ALM, which it calls Software Delivery Optimisation, has indeed been its primary focus for some time. Besides, the whole point of full application lifecycle management is that it takes in the development, deployment and subsequent optimisation of applications, which in fact means that IDEs and middleware form a core component of any real ALM suite.
Coates says focusing exclusively on ALM would enable Borland to compete directly with IBM’s Rational software products, but perhaps Coates has missed the fact that IBM has been busily working on tighter and tighter integration between its own Rational ALM products and its Websphere line of development tools and integration software, and Tivoli line of applications tuning and management.
Indeed perhaps Coates missed the fact that IBM acquired Rational’s ALM precisely because both IBM and Rational believed ALM tools need to be integrated into a broader integration, development and optimisation portfolio, in order that development teams have a one-stop, integrated platform on which to base their service oriented architecture (SOA) strategies?
If Borland were to jettison its IDE and middleware lines, it would go from having a good selection of SOA products to being a niche modelling vendor. Niche modelling vendors like Rational and Popkin have already been acquired because they found life just a little too niche, and fellow modelling player Telelogic has been rapidly broadening its portfolio in order to avoid the same trap. History does not support the notion that it is best to concentrate exclusively on modelling – even if you choose to call it ALM.
Where Coates may have a point, is in his assertion that the sales force is at times confused by the broad portfolio at Borland, and that that has not helped matters very much. To this end, it would be good to see Borland to try and harmonise the branding of its different products, and thus begin to position them as a set of development, modelling and optimisation tools that really do come together to act as an integrated platform. Specifically, a platform to underpin SOA.
Most of the other vendors have already moved in this direction, and Borland’s Software Delivery Optimisation strategy speaks to that goal, but we’re yet to see the tight integration between the three major product lines that would really help to crystallise that strategy in the minds of its own sales force and its prospects and even existing customers.
If Borland could effectively harmonise its product branding to clearly match the requirements for a SOA platform, and also bring in the development quality and methodologies expertise from its recent Teraquest Metrics acquisition, it would have a far more compelling proposition for today’s enterprise IT department, and certainly a far more compelling proposition than simply focusing on ALM to the exclusion of other vital disciplines.