My take: IBM buys Unica and what that means

A lot of people are talking about IBM buying Unica and what it means to Enterprise Marketing Management.  I know there is a lot of bashing going on about this deal – there is no bashing here.  Only some honest perspective from someone who has been inside IBM.   As a former IBMer, Unica expert and marketer by trade, I think most of the stuff out there is missing a number of points and does not remotely consider the acquisition’s depth and breadth.

1.  IBM is the largest Unica implementation (I think…), but while that gives us perspective, it does not give IBM a delivery model translating the internal capability outward. While IBM has done that in cases, the business model for sending marketers into the field to do campaign building, user adoption and knowledge transfer is not proven. And not likely. It is fairly challenging to free up Marketing resources to do consulting work.  In the short term, expect the model to rely on Unica professional services (which has been shrinking) and partners (like my employer covalent marketing – where our team has 100% project success on Unica implementations across our careers…)

2. You need to examine where in the software portfolio Unica ends up. Unica has to sit in a software sales stack – that’s just IBM’s way of allocating revenue,  people and support.  While most outsiders would see Unica it in its own vein, and it might grow to that (it might not be big enough to warrant it now), it was not bought for the Business Analytics and Optimization (BAO) side of the house (who are trying to own the marketing relationships).  It will sit closer to the web stack.  Most people say – oh, Core Metrics – a narrow assumption.  Try iLog and Websphere Commerce and Web Management and Social Media apps as well.  Connecting Unica to those pieces is where the big money sits.  Being able to detect and trigger campaign events to parties of one – bring it on…

You’ll likely see more blending on Unica Campaign Reporting and Dashboarding through Cognos (which has received a platform overhaul and looks pretty good now).  You won’t see SPSS and Unica Model/Optimize try to duke it out.  That will likely take place in the background, and I am not predicting who wins.  However, SPSS is the probably the stronger functionality wise, even if it is not for the *average* marketer.    I just hope the average marketer (not the average modeler) is considered.

This even gets to a smarter planet approach, my friends.  What happens when sensors detect that a power grid is likely to be reaching brownout stages?  Is there a way to alert those affected via SMS, TV messaging, phone call, email?  Now, there is…

Unica’s Universal Dynamic Interconnect means it can easily connect to a lot of platforms – and middleware – without a great deal of re-architecting…that will help it gain traction in the portfolio faster.

3. Unica’s largest implementer of EMM globally? Accenture. Enough said.

4. This deal changes Unica’s ability to get into Managed Business Process Services – for both small and mid tier clients. Given the initial IBM Red Pill acquisition, which was a MBPS acquisition, this functionality could expand outsourcing capabilities.  Now, Unica has been promoting these types of partnerships rather heavily, including at the Marketing Summit earlier this year.   A lot of the data and database service providers can see this as a threat or a promise (Experian, Acxiom, Harte Hanks, Merkle).    They can benefit from getting earlier alignment with IBM in terms of the right portfolio depth.  For them, it’s not about servers and software.  Its about data exchange and integration…they need to look at IBM as a new and different marketing partner.  IBM is not interesting in owning data, simply helping to make its management and usage better.  (Or at least heretofore it has not been interesting in owning data…)

5. Unica has not managed to offer deep functionality in a cloud based service yet. IBM can make that a reality.  IBM’s got one of the most baked cloud offerings out there.  And if IBM can marry a small but solid Cognos offering to a small but solid Unica offering through the cloud for SMB, there’s a home run.

6. IBM has a creative agency team with global reach and deployment to supplement complete program efforts.  So, if someone needs a campaign in 62 languages and 100 countries by next week, deployed and out the door…IBM can now not only serve it, and create it, they can help target and deliver it…

7. IBM also has a full complement of social software, with more in the pipeline.

So, while a lot of people are talking about who will IBM buy next, I think the question is how quickly can IBM make Unica  central part of the stack for sales and delivery.  The sales side is easier.  And I for one am volunteering our company to help them on the delivery side.  -c-

Cristene Gonzalez-Wertz


10 thoughts on “My take: IBM buys Unica and what that means

  1. +1 Cristene – think your spot on with “big money” A lot of the recent acquisitions have been about putting the data aggregation and optimization technologies in place and Unica gives them the ability to start funneling the messages out.

    Certainly also a signal to all others in the marketing technology space that selling a technology is no longer good enough. Buying centers are maturing and becoming more sophisiticated and to be relevant you need to be able to stack together the right combination of services that communicate business value – not a point solution. IBM certainly seems to be exhibiting some visionary leadership in the space.

    1. Thank you so much. I think all four perspectives are interesting and appreciate your sharing the recap. -c-

  2. Great analysis Cristene. I think you’re exactly right that IBM sees Unica primarily as a way to drive sales of its customer-facing Web site products. There could be a major flaw in their logic, though, since those are still controlled by a separate Web team, not the CMO. I’ve discussed other aspects of the deal at

    1. Hi Dave – thanks for your kind words. Been a while since we crossed paths.

      Well, let me put it to you this way…the website is much closer to the CMO – and often reports up through that side than most of the others places IBM has been. I think IBM views Marketing (and in this I agree) as the keeper of the customer relationship, no matter what channel it exists in. This is a sizable evolution from the days of IBM’s sole focus on the contact center. Alas, I find it a vast improvement from partners with dollar signs in their eyes, tagging along after the Oracle/Siebel folks looking for all the butts-in-seats and heavy configuration revenue.

      IBM has – should it really pursue this effectively – to connect the parts it has collected. Heretofore, that has met with some resistance, fiefdoms and lack of understanding of the customers. However, I hope they can become truly *smarter* and connect it all for the customers’ good. -c-

  3. Great analysis–and as another former IBM marketer, it’s about time the deal was inked! Lots of opportunity here.

    1. Hola, chica! Thank you for the feedback. Glad to see your name come by. I too am excited about this deal, so much potential.

      On another front, we’re writing a series on MRM on this blog (and eventually a whitepaper to go along with it). Would love to have your input. -c-

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