Today the GXS / Inovis merger closed (although not fully world-wide, as UK equivalent of our US DoJ continues its deliberations). Nevertheless barring any unexpected surprises there the combined company can now get on with planning the combined product and service roadmap. We’ve already published our position on how that will play, available here (subscription required), but the net-net is that:
- The merger strengthens GXS’s leadership role in the B2B integration market.
- It will take months for GXS to publish a road map to reconcile its B2B and managed file transfer (MFT) product and services portfolio; it will likely take years to finalize and execute that road map.
- While the future of GXS’s B2B software portfolio is less certain, GXS’s combined B2B services portfolio will likely create new opportunities for customers.
Had there been no other significant M&A activity in the B2B market segment GXS — as the incumbent top dog of B2B — would have the luxury of time to sort that out and refine a new going-forward strategy. However, IBM’s acquisition of Sterling Commerce (additional research on that to be published soon too) adds a substantial new element of urgency to the equation. Both GXS and IBM both need to assimilate new large, complex acquired B2B assets and re-assess how they plan to leverage those to attack the B2B market — and each other. Will they battle on integration software or services? Will they battle on business process networks, multienterprise applications or multienterprise business process platform or Cloud services brokerage?
At the same time by virtue of their own M&A activities IBM and GXS have jointly unleashed rampant speculation about other potential marriages — for example, will other IT mega-vendors — e.g., Oracle, SAP, or perhaps even Google, Salesforce.com — consider “buying a B2B network”? What is the future of stand-alone B2B providers such as Huspan or Boomi? Or B2B hybrid specialists like E2open or Liaison?
I can’t count how many client, vendor and investor discussions I’ve had in the last 6 months covering these and other angles on the future of B2B. One thing I am certain of though: if you don’t got B2B, you don’t get B2B. If it sounds to you like this claim is somewhat arrogantly self-serving (because after all I cover B2B — shame on me to hype it up, right?) my response to that is, well, yes, it may be a bit self-serving but — hey — I’ve been patiently covering B2B w/Gartner for over 10 years — many of those faithfully through the dark years of the dot com meltdown, the subsequent EDI VAN demise, recession, et al, and — by golly — it is more than about *time* that B2B has become fun, once again.
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