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January 10, 2011

‘The hype then the backlash’: Q&A with Matt Quinn, chief technical officer, Tibco

CBR catches up with the CTO of Service-Oriented Architecture and Business Process Management specialist Tibco, who shines a light on his role and tells us about the similarities in expectations surrounding SOA and cloud

By Vinod

Matt Quinn, Tibco CTO
I understand you’ve been with Tibco for some time?
Yes, I’ve been with the company for 14 years now. I had a couple of starter roles in things like real-time programming prior to coming to Tibco as a C developer, when I was much, much younger [laughs].

But your role now is as CTO, right?
Yes, I became chief technology officer about six months ago. In my time with the company I’ve had a variety of roles, most recently holding responsibility for what we call the Composite Application Group, which encompasses all our SOA, BPM, Infrastructure, Monitoring and Management, Governance and User Experience technologies. I have also worked in Product Marketing.

How would you characterise what you do now, then, as the company’s CTO?
My main role is to work with all the product groups to create a common, corporate-wide vision for all our products and technologies, ensure interoperability between the various products families, such as ensuring we have consistent architectural approaches and provide overall leadership and co-ordination of Tibco product plans and overall technology direction.

So do you report direct to the board, are on the board, what?
I have a dual reporting responsibility, to both the EVP Products and Technology and the COO.

From that long job description, I’m not that clear to be honest what your role and responsibility is. I mean, what’s your day-to-day work all about?
[Pauses]: I’d say it’s a real balance, a 50-50 split, between tactical and strategic. So as CTO I’m looking at our specific products and the organisational structure of the product groups, always asking myself, are we working with the right things there? And on the other hand, I have to keep my eye on any areas of potential interest in the wider sphere – are there new things we need to invest in?

Can you give us an example of the latter, for instance?
Sure. Right now I’m very interested in this NFC (near field communication) stuff, trying to look at the long-term implications of that for us.

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I suppose in a way we should back up a little and put all this in a bit more context; not all of our readers may be familiar with Tibco, 2011 style. What are you guys all about these days?
Ten, fifteen years ago we had two main products, the messaging stuff and the monitoring stuff to make sure that was working properly. We were talking a lot about real-time and event driven business and spent a lot of time building the infrastructure around that to make that work. I’d have to say that the market is in a way finally catching up with us now – hence the interest in the so-called ‘two second advantage‘. I see a lot of things coming together to enable that around new chip architectures, NFC, mobility in general, they’re all coming together and 2011 really has to be for us about maximising our opportunity as a result.

No doubt. Let’s get back for a minute to you specifically. I’m interested in what you see as your contribution to the firm.
I’d say it’s about relationships, relationships that in many cases have been built up over years with other stakeholders in the organisation. I am confident talking and horse-trading if need be with the guys who head up, say, the messaging or SOA groups about what the technology needs to be able to do. At the same time, I’m talking to the CIO – I always say our internal IT team is the toughest audience for anything Tibco does! – to see what we need to be doing for him and his needs, which are of course the classical drivers of reducing time, cost etc.

I’m really proud to be able to say that I foster our own IT as the best champions of what we sell. Part of what I do is assessing technology to see if we want to invest in it, if it’s a need to have, or if just nice to have, have a more hands-off approach, like an OEM relationship. It’s all about constantly moving the ball forward.

You’ve mentioned NFC and cloud as part of that dialogue.

So Tibco has got the cloud religion, what?
You know, we went through all of this with SOA. And I’d hate to go through it again.

What do you mean?
We had the same crap – the hype then the backlash – before we started getting solid results with SOA, and I think we should just concentrate on skipping to that part and start getting the real results out of what cloud offers. There are so many things that are great that we shouldn’t fear what’s coming down the pike here – I mean, just one thing, I love the way cloud’s changing developer behaviour, the way it’s freeing us up to break down and rescale things in seconds, so many things.

Interesting. Let’s close with a CTO new year’s resolution?
Easy. Focus and be internally prepared for transformation and so never be frightened of it.

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