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Deal Radar 2010: Nimbus Partners

Posted on Wednesday, Mar 31st 2010

Nimbus builds business process management (BPM) software for the iPod generation. Its main product, Nimbus Control, has evolved from a single user documentation tool to a Web-based application. Clients can use Nimbus Control to create an online operations manual which can, the company says, act as the “single source of the truth” for all employees to understand their role, responsibilities, and the processes which they have to follow. The benefits are easier change management, leaner operations, fewer mistakes, less risk, and easier compliance.

Nimbus started offering a hosted SaaS version of Nimbus Control about four years ago, and now 90% of projects on the tool start this way. But the goal remains the same: to provide a business-friendly process analysis and documentation tool which is suited to the needs the employees who are doing the processes and to quality managers, rather than a more technically orientated tool used by highly trained business process analysts.

Carphone Warehouse, the largest cell phone retailer in Europe, estimates that the 815 of its stores that use Nimbus Control to run standard operating procedures have seen a £55 million ($82.9 million) increase in sales simply because staff are more proficient at following required procedures, and therefore provide better and faster customer service.

Nimbus is based in the United Kingdom and has offices in ten countries. It was founded in 1997 by CEO Ian Gotts, who was previously IT director at Accenture and is the author of “Common Approach, Uncommon Results”; VP of Sales & Implementation Richard Parker; and CTO Paul Linsell.

At the time of founding, there was no clear dominant player, though technical process modeling tools such as IDS-Scheer Aris were generally perceived to be leaders. But in talking to customers, the team found that even if the IT department invested in such heavyweight tools, users were far more likely to document their business processes in MS Office and Visio. The opportunity was clear – to provide a tool which offered process analysis capabilities which these applications lacked, but to keep the tool and the content it created simple enough to have mass appeal.

“Consumer IT, social media and the iPod generation all have a bearing today on our market,” says Gotts. “If we are going to improve the adoption of business processes, we have to improve the end user experience. They expect personalized, intuitive delivery of relevant content [and the ability] to collaborate and engage socially in process improvement. They want bite-sized information targeted to their needs, rather than information overload.”

Nimbus aims to deliver this through its cloud offering, personalized portals, and more recent innovations such as remote access to process tutorials via the iPhone/iPod Touch and Storyboard Player. The team believes that such as approach sets them apart from other BPM vendors that remain focused on process automation.

Gartner estimated BPA software license revenue of $420 million in 2009. Revenue has grown an average of 10% to 15% during the past several years. But Nimbus says that this figure underestimates the total accessible market for an application such as Nimbus Control since it is focused on both the end user audience and the small number of process analysts. The company thus estimates the market at $5 billion. End users only need access to the Web portal, not the full content creation toolset, so the individual price is low per user, but high volume. There also is a considerable market for implementation and business process improvement consulting.

Nimbus’s ideal sectors are subject to regulatory compliance and complexity of operations across multiple countries, such as financial services, oil & gas, pharmaceuticals, and FMCG and nutrition. Customers include JP Morgan, Royal Bank of Canada, Chevron, Marathon Oil, AstraZeneca, GSK, Nestlé, and Unilever. Around 300 clients are enterprise clients that have multiple authors, hundreds or thousands of ends users, and plans to roll out the content to the entire workforce.

At first, Nimbus sold mostly to quality managers. Now the decision makers can be in a variety of roles, for example, COO, head of operations, head of business controls, CRO, head of compliance, and so forth. Being able to provide Nimbus Control as an SaaS solution has proven critical to gaining traction. There were 34 SaaS installations in 2008, 63 in 2009, and the company projects 79 in 2010.

Nimbus had revenue of $12.9 million for FY end March 2009. Of this, 35% is on-premises software license revenue and the increasingly popular hosted service around 15%. The annual maintenance renewal rate of 96% accounted for around 27% of revenue and consulting the remaining 23%. Nimbus’s U.S. revenues are currently $3 million, but the company has ambitions plans for the North American market to grow to $10 million by 2012.

Gotts was initially the sole funder, and Nimbus was cash flow-funded for the first seven years. To become a enterprise software vendor capable of supporting global clients, the company took a €4.5 million round of venture funding from 3i in 2004 followed by a $3 million round split between Solon Ventures and Chevron Technology Ventures in January 2009. As the company looks to drive more aggressive expansion into the United States, there is a potential for a far larger round of funding.

There are no plans for exit. As Gott says, “The fun is about to start. We’ve worked hard to get here. It has taken way longer to get to this point than any of us expected. Why would we bail now?”

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This segment is a part in the series : Deal Radar 2010

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