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IBM acquires Bluewolf to bolster Salesforce services

As businesses expand use of the Salesforce platform for their customer relationship management needs, IBM continues its cloud acquisition spree with Salesforce consultancy Bluewolf.

Salesforce is big enough to generate its own gravitational force. Businesses are drawn into it as a platform for running their own customer relationship operations. Developers are attracted to the growing industry of building integrated cloud applications. And now, IBM has become the biggest star in the Salesforce galaxy with its acquisition of Bluewolf, one of Salesforce's longest-standing software as a service consulting partners.

Bluewolf is a New York-based global consulting agency and Salesforce Global Strategic Partner that has completed nearly 10,000 Salesforce customer engagements over 15 years. The company will retain its name and become a component of IBM's Interactive Experience (iX) digital agency operation, creating applications -- what it calls "experiences" -- for Salesforce clients that are themselves racing to transform relationships with their own customers.

"This is incredibly relevant for cloud application developers everywhere," said Bluewolf CEO Eric Berridge. "IBM has a long history of being aligned with the development community through software and services. This move to align with Salesforce sends a message to developers in every corporate IT department that building solutions for the Salesforce platform is a healthy, robust, growing industry." Berridge said the overall demand for developers is only going to get bigger. "This is one of the largest practices on the planet and the pace for getting involved and growing a career as a developer is phenomenal."

Developer as artist

Where Berridge looks for developer talent may strike some as unusual. "I've seen liberal arts majors jump in and become highly skilled developers. You still have to be analytical, have to embrace coding and know how a database works, but we value communication skills. If I don't need to have a business analyst between the developer and the client, it is a huge advantage all around." Berridge said Bluewolf teaches developers how to present and how to run scrums. "Anything we can do to shorten the development cycle."

Matt Candy, who heads IBM iX in Europe, agreed. "Art and science are coming together. New coding languages and frameworks come and go, and that makes the creative spark more important in this space," he said. "IBM iX is in significant growth mode, organic and through hiring. We have a significant need for talented developers."

Bluewolf is the last of a breed

According to Liz Herbert, a vice president and principal analyst serving application development and delivery professionals at Forrester Research, Bluewolf is the last big, specialized boutique with a Salesforce-oriented focus that has not diversified or already been acquired. "This gives IBM a real brand in the Salesforce space, which it was extremely late to enter," she said.

Building solutions for the Salesforce platform is a healthy, robust, growing industry.
Eric BerridgeCEO, Bluewolf

IBM iX, described by Advertising Age as the world's largest digital agency, is expanding primarily through acquisition. In the past 12 months, iX snapped up cloud video services providers Ustream and Clearleap, The Weather Company, hybrid cloud storage vendor Cleversafe, Meteorix for finance and human-resources cloud services, StrongLoop, Compose for cloud data services, medical imaging provider Merge Healthcare, Blue Box for open hybrid clouds, and deep-learning cognitive API developer AlchemyAPI.

As the needs of Salesforce customers' applications have grown into global deployments and the Internet of Things, it has become correspondingly more difficult for specialized consulting firms to serve large accounts successfully, Herbert said. "This is where Bluewolf has historically had good traction," she said. "They gain from being part of this broader capability -- not only IBM iX but the whole of IBM with technologies like Watson and the world-class business consulting on a global scale that IBM Global Business Services offers."

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