IBM last week announced plans to acquire Bluewolf, which has been a Salesforce consulting partner for more than a decade. This will bring together Bluewolf’s knowledge of the Salesforce world including cloud services and consulting with IBM’s own cloud services experience and strategic consulting chops, along with Big Blue’s capabilities in experience design, enterprise mobility, analytics and cognitive solutions.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. However, upon completion of the transaction, Bluewolf will join the existing IBM Interactive Experience (iX) practice of IBM Global Business Services with IBM.
“From our perspective, we’ve been a Salesforce consulting shop for 15 years and we consider ourselves a pure play,” Eric Berridge the CEO of Bluewolf, told eWEEK. “We are very familiar with their entire ecosystem, their products, their customers, the different business processes that their technology supports and we’ve just seen Salesforce explode over the course of that time into small companies, large companies, and medium sized companies across all industries and all geographies.”
Berridge said it “became apparent” to Bluewolf that for it to continue to dominate in the Salesforce.com space the company needed to scale and need a partnership or a marriage with a company with a lot more breadth than it had.
“And when we first started talking to IBM and more specifically IBM iX, it became apparent to us that there was a yin and a yang from a skill set perspective and also a belief that both of our companies had in place.”
Bluewolf is one of Salesforce’s top partners with 12 global offices and more than 500 employees in the United States, Europe and Australia, IBM said. Bluewolf is often recognized by market analysts as a leader in the Salesforce implementation ecosystem, including in The IDC MarketScape: Worldwide Salesforce.com Implementation Ecosystem 2015 Vendor Assessment. Bluewolf has delivered more than 9,500 successful Salesforce projects for clients including Stanley Black & Decker, Sapa Building Systems and Vodafone Hutchinson Australia, IBM said.
“We’re combining the deep expertise in Salesforce that Eric and his team are bringing with the broad, global reach that IBM has,” said Paul Pappas, Global Leader for the IBM’s Interactive Experience practice, in an interview. “And within the IBM iX team, where we’re bringing all this together, we are linking this and creating synergy with our design capabilities and out broader strategy capabilities including our analytics and our mobile capabilities. And now the thought of all the Bluewolf clients having access to that range of capabilities inclusive of Watson and cognitive computing is part of that. All of our existing IBM clients have access to some of the deepest expertise in the world around the Salesforce platform. So the combining of those two is going to create a combination that none of our clients is going to individually have had access to before.”
Together, Bluewolf and IBM will extend IBM’s analytics, experience design and industry consulting expertise with Bluewolf’s Salesforce familiarity. In fact, Berridge said in 2001, Bluewolf became Salesforce’s first consulting services partner. Today, according to Salesforce.com estimates, the Salesforce professional services industry, is projected at $111 billion.
“Bluewolf is a strategic acquisition that will notably expand and enhance IBM’s ability to serve customers who leverage Salesforce solutions,” said Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT. “That’s an important and growing customer constituency, but the deal also sets IBM apart from competitors—especially Oracle —that seem intent on derailing Salesforce with their own solutions. Bluewolf has a number of strengths that should make it an excellent fit for IBM, including deep expertise in Salesforce-related strategic services, and solution design, build and deployment. The company also offers cloud-related consulting, and solutions targeted at insurance and public sector organizations. Overall, the deal should benefit both IBM and Bluewolf customers, and help expand the Salesforce ecosystem.”
IBM’s Bluewolf Buy All About Salesforce Transformation
Berridge said Bluewolf faces competition in all shapes and sizes—from small boutique shops to large systems integrators. Yet, what makes the IBM/Bluewolf combination so unique is that they are taking an agency approach to their market.
“We’re taking an approach that’s focused on customer experience and customer engagement,” he said. “And we’re less concerned with how we compete against traditional Salesforce players. So we think this opens up a whole set of opportunities for our joint customers and for our future customers to take a broad set of services that really doesn’t have competition in the marketplace. That’s the way we’re looking at it.”
As part of IBM Global Services, IBM iX focuses everything it does on helping our clients transform customer experiences, Pappas said.
“That means providing services that are related to defining different customer experience strategies, implementing customer analytics, designing all digital and mobile experience work—for example we’ll do all the digital experience work for the Masters Golf Tournament,” he said. “We do everything around helping our clients transform and transform how they engage with their customers.”
Pappas called Bluewolf the “perfect fit” for IBM iX.
“We help our clients transform all aspects of their organizations and their operation,” Pappas told eWEEK. “And the holistic set of services we provide are far greater than a traditional agency. We do strategy services, analytics services, mobile services, design and all the technology implementation services. We really think of ourselves as a hybrid of three types of companies: Traditional digital agencies, management consultancies that provide pure strategy consulting, and then as a global systems integrator. So imagine if you were to combine the best of all three of those worlds together, that’s the mission of IBM iX.”
IBM’s planned acquisition of Bluewolf comes with the blessing of Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff.
“I’m so proud of Eric, who built Bluewolf from a startup into a leader in Salesforce services,” Benioff said in a statement. “The powerful combination of our strategic partners, IBM and Bluewolf, will help clients transform and demonstrate the growing client demand for our Customer Success Platform.”
IBM’s news of its plans to acquire Bluewolf comes right on the heels of the company announcing its acquisition of Optevia, a U.K.-based Microsoft Dynamics CRM consultant and integrator.
“We’ve been focused on CRM and customer experience for the last 25 years—riding all the waves from when this was a non-idea to the early on-premise software days where Siebel was a dominant player in this space and then since the advent of Salesforce and other players,” Pappas said. “What’s interesting is this term CRM is going through its own evolution where there is a bigger focus on customer experience and on transformation around customer experience. But for us that’s been a focus for over 25 years. The Optevia acquisition is focused on a different platform and IBM has a different team that will be the doing work around that platform.”