Management Buyout at Global 360

Today Global 360 announced the completion of a $200 Million management buyout led by TA Associates, with participation by Technology Crossover Ventures and JMI Equity. The buyout reaffirms the leadership of the current executive management team, led by Michael Crosno, and is intended to further the company's long-term growth strategy.

Global 360 is an interesting organization, with technology that goes back to the earliest prehistory of BPM. Under founder Sonny Oates, G360 - originally called eiStream - was successful at rolling up traditional workflow and imaging companies struggling to make the transition to what we now call BPM. Two of the more important ones were Eastman Software (formerly Wang Software, which Joe Tucci sold to Eastman Kodak for $360 Million!) and the ViewStar product from Lucent (formerly Mosaix, who bought the original ViewStar company; in 1991 or so ViewStar was the first software company to call its product "business process automation.") A common thread linking these acquisitions was a large and stable installed base in the Fortune 1000, representing a healthy maintenance revenue stream.

For the first couple years, eiStream/G360 kind of hunkered down, cut costs, and used that maintenance stream to stablize their fleet of leaky vessels. But then they started adding some interesting new components and began to hire generally-acknowledged BPM "smart guys" like Robert Shapiro of Cape Visions (one of the first modeling, simulation, and performance management tools integrated with workflow/BPM) and Jon Pyke (ex-CTO of Staffware, now dabbling in hosted BPM solutions).

Robert led the way to extending XPDL (the "other" business process modeling language) to version 2.0, designed to serialize the full semantics of BPMN (we're still waiting for BPMI/OMG to provide their own BPMN metamodel and schema). He also developed a graphical BPMN modeling tool for G360 -- including support for message links, intermediate events, and the other cool parts of BPMN that most BPMS vendors choose to leave out. G360 also linked modeling and performance management with the introduction of Business Optimization Server and its focus on "goal-directed" process implementation. And they introduced innovations like collaborative case folder management and integration of Microsoft SharePoint in a structured business process.

But the pieces seemed slow to come together in an end-to-end integrated BPMS. When I covered G360 in my 2006 BPMS Report last November, the BPMN modeler was supposed to be a free download. That hasn't happened yet. Also when you export the BPMN (or XPDL 2.0) to the G360 Designer, some of those cool BPMN constructs have no direct implementation in the Designer. And, while brilliant as a marketing hook, G360's "goal-directed" BPM still takes a fairly rudimentary approach to goals and optimization.

Bottom line, G360 has some really interesting parts that could be the foundation of a world class BPMS. I'm hopeful that the buyout now gives management the cash and the go-ahead to make it happen.