Pivotal: slim pickings support big ambitions
Pivotal had all the signs of an acquisition target: small customer base, declining license revenue, and dwindling cash reserves. Still, no one would have anticipated the level of interest that has resulted in Oak, CDC and Onyx all squabbling over the potential feast. When the vendor pickings are slim, even the most modest of players looks attractive.
Merger frenzy in the IT sector has forced small vendors to assess their options to ensure ongoing survival in some form or other - and mergers and acquisitions that help increase critical mass can be an attractive way forward. But the last few years have taken their toll on CRM pure-plays, reducing the numbers.
With few vendors left in play, when one of them does hawk itself around the boardrooms as Pivotal has, it stimulates appetites. Few predators are willing to give up once they have scented their prey, hence the tussle over Pivotal. It is a dangerous game though, because with two of the three likely to remain hungry, they will either look elsewhere or become prey themselves having exposed their own needs.
The upside of this situation includes a potential increase in the price paid for the target company, which will benefit the shareholders, while customers should gain from a future roadmap, albeit sometimes less than ideal because it may require migration, where there was potentially a dead end.
On a broader level, the overall result is potentially an increase in confidence, and in a way, more market choice. As smaller players combine they become more secure, making it acceptable for customers to invest in their technology, rather than feeling they have to pay for the security of tier 1 vendors, especially now that the current PeopleSoft/Oracle saga indicates that even tier 1 investments may not be secure.
However, something has changed since the last bout of mergers and acquisitions. Successful mergers these days require more than balance-sheet consolidation or the pursuit of expanded features and functionality that characterized the acquisition frenzy of 2000/2001. The objective has to be to support the creation of application integration platforms, a move that marks another step in the shift in application architecture from database tables to loosely coupled business services.