BMC Software, Going Private, Puts Consumer Spin on IT, Cloud Services

As companies large and small try to figure out where they fit in with cloud computing and IT services, a competitive landscape has evolved where everyone is vying to create the next big innovation.

BMC Software, a 33-year-old firm, is making its way through the cloud-computing maze in Houston, and it is defending its territory from competitors like Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and CA Technologies. Last month, the company (NASDAQ: BMC) agreed to go private in a $6.9 billion sale to private equity investors.

On the IT front, the company has an internal team to work specifically ahead of different tech trends, said Jason Frye, a director in the office of the CTO at BMC Software. The team looks at the trends, sees which ones have the potential to stick, and then considers how best to apply a technology.

Over the past year and a half, BMC has focused on “quantified enterprise”—the relationship people have with data created by an enterprise, like a specific project or communication. It can also have a social aspect, such as how someone reacted to content created by a company by commenting on it or “liking” it on Facebook.

The company started to see a trend around enterprise users wanting to have the same experience with their own company that they had being consumers of other businesses, Frye said. His emphasis at BMC is on mobility and cloud computing.

“We thought about what was happening on a mobile perspective,” he said. “People want to buy a plane ticket, check-in, request an upgrade, all on one device.”

Frye added, “To do that previously, you had to pick up the phone and talk to someone, go to the airport, and wait in the security line. Today, we have more power in one hand. There are all sorts of things you can do now from a mobile device or a home PC. You can cash a check without going to an ATM.”

That led to Frye and his colleagues wondering how they could harness trends in consumer tech and the cloud to provide that same kind of interaction between an employee and his or her company. And at the same time, get rid of the friction between employees and IT departments, as well as provide social capabilities.

One of the tools that Frye said will make quantified enterprise easier to manage for companies is called MyIT, which rolled out last fall. At first, the project was a huge shift for BMC, which had not built a product before that was consumer-focused. BMC decided to go that route after seeing companies struggle with three key issues: making interaction between employees and an IT department seamless and easy; dealing with increased volume of calls to the IT help desk from employees using multiple devices; and finding ways to restore lost productivity for their employees.

Frye cited a recent Forrester survey showing that 87 percent of employees reported losing three days per month in productivity due to IT friction.

Taking those issues into account, BMC says it designed MyIT so employees can control the workplace services they need anytime, from anywhere, and on any device. Users can see what conference rooms are free and which printers and copy machines are not in use, as well as get access to IT support. It also allows employees to see where there are computer issues without having to call the help desk.

“What do you do when you come in in the morning and your e-mail doesn’t work? You go ask your neighbor if they are having the same problem, then you walk around in a group seeing if anyone else knows what’s going on,” Frye said. “MyIT allows the IT department to report to everyone that e-mail is down, before anyone asks and all of that productivity among that group of employees is lost.”

Other companies are doing bits and pieces of what MyIT does, but have not pooled them together into an integrated platform, Frye said. BMC is also innovating on the side of the IT department, in areas like location services—taking a physical point of interest in the building and enabling someone to send action items to the IT department, like scanning a printer’s QR code to report it not working.

Rather than the IT worker checking all the printers on a certain floor in a certain building, the location tool will show the help desk specifically which one it is, Frye added.

BMC is also considering add-ons like a concierge or “genius” bar where employees could go and request face-to-face assistance, instead of filing an IT issue online and waiting for someone at the help desk to get back to them.

“This will eliminate people queuing up and bothering each other,” Frye said. “We see this as a transformation of the relationship between workers and technology.”

With regard to how significant the consumer-focused aspect is to BMC’s overall business and future, Frye said it is “paramount,” as MyIT is a “first significant step that helps consumerize the front-end of IT for all employees.”

BMC is also applying consumer-like experiences to other areas, such as a shopping interface that allows users to request virtually any type of infrastructure, IT service, or application via a shopping cart. The approach enables non-technical users to request and control cloud services in ways that were previously only available to the most technical users in an organization.

“Providing simple-to-use, consumer-like experiences powered by the traditional strengths of BMC’s industrialized back-end management capabilities provides a key competitive advantage for our customers and partners,” Frye said.

Christine Hall is a freelance business journalist based in the Houston area. Follow @ChristineMHall

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