IBMs acquisition of Emptoris: So there was a plan after all by Jon Hansen

Posted on June 25, 2014


In my post yesterday regarding Oracle’s acquisition of Micros Systems I wrote the following:

The only concern I have is whether or not Oracle will screw things up by seeking to assimilate Micros into its culture, as opposed to capitalizing on its core or indigenous strengths.  In its purchase of Emptoris, IBM recognized that company’s core competency and allowed it to develop within the IBM framework while still maintaining its original vision.  Hopefully Oracle will do the same.

Besides the stated reference to capitalization versus assimilation, one might wonder why I would chose to write about an acquisition that took place in 2011 relative to this recent news.  For my regular readers you know that I always have a reason for linking seemingly disconnected events.

To start, just this past week I had the opportunity to talk with Terrence Curley, Director of Products for B2B & Commerce at IBM regarding Big Blue’s recent launch of its new cloud-based and on premise software and services.  You can tune in to the interview in its entirety through the link below.

Click here to listen to my interview with Terrence Curley

Click here to listen to my interview with Terrence Curley

Curley, who prior to IBM’s acquisition of Emptoris was the latter’s Senior VP Product Strategy and Development, confirmed something that I had known all along . . . that contrary to popular analyst belief, IBM did have a clear plan when they acquired the Burlington, MA company that has been credited with “transforming strategic sourcing.”  But it was a plan based on capitalizing on the original Emptoris vision as Curley put it, as opposed to simply gaining market share through an acquisition.

What this meant according to Curley, is that IBM recognized that Emptoris was by far the best player in their space – a space that IBM obviously wanted to get into, and as such provided them with the market presence to do that which the company could not do on its own.  In turn, Emptoris delivered a level of expertise that clearly fell outside of Big Blue’s existing capabilities and as such rather than attempt to mute the very vision that made the company an attractive takeover target in the first place, gave the new acquisition the freedom to develop within its existing collaborative framework.

This is an important point in that far too often an acquired company is forced to adapt its vision to fit that of the acquiring company’s.  This wasn’t the case with IBM, and as a result many industry pundits mistook it as an absence of their having a coherent or formal plan.  In reality, and as confirmed by Curley, IBMs plan was to support Emptoris in every way possible without attempting to indoctrinate the company into its corporate culture.  The results of this approach obviously speaks for itself, especially when you consider the fact that the vast majority of M&As fail to live up to expectations.

In the end, and perhaps unexpectedly, the IBM acquisition of Emptoris may serve as a model for future M&A success – Oracle take note.  Only time will tell however, it is a story that is likely to get better with time.

"If I can't control you, I might as well support you."

“If I can’t control you, I might as well support you.”