The chess pieces are moving in the ECM world

Does OpenText’s $US1.62B acquisition of Dell EMC's enterprise content division, including Documentum, represent a defining point in the middlegame for enterprise content management (ECM) or the beginning of the endgame? Analysts and competitors have been vocal in their widely varying interpretations.

The deal came less than a week after 37-year-old EMC ceased to be a publicly traded, independent company and officially became part of Dell.

OpenText CEO and CTO Mark J. Barrenechea is positively beaming. "This acquisition further strengthens OpenText as a leader in Enterprise Information Management, enabling customers to capture their Digital future and transform into information-based businesses. We are very excited about the opportunities which ECD and Documentum bring, and I look forward to welcoming our new customers, employees, and partners to OpenText,” he said of the purchase.

According to a company statement, OpenText will inherit all Documentum customers — more than 5,600 in total — including some giants in the global pharmaceutical, banking, insurance, oil and gas, and utility industries.

David Goulden, President, Dell EMC, observed, “Today's news is great for all stakeholders." The two companies have said they will work closely together from henceforth.

Rob Gascho, Vice President at Canadian solutions provider XY Vision, believes the move was entirely predictable.

“From my perspective, this was an inevitability. Documentum has long been suffering under the shadow of EMC - slowly conceding their industry leading position over the past 5 years. OpenText on the other hand, has benefited from the strength of their partnerships with Microsoft and SAP - and to a large extent from the revenue growth fuelled by their acquisition strategy. For OpenText (and CEO Mark Barrenechea) to acquire Documentum, it was just a matter of waiting it out, until they could acquire it for the right price.

“Now where does this leave the state of the Enterprise Content Management industry? This is a topic that will be much debated by industry analysts and CIOs over the coming months.

“My quick take on the industry is that it is a battle between the "two kids on the block" - the industry giants with the greatest market share and maturity - versus the "new kids on the block" - the new players that may outpace the current leaders in innovation and user experience.”

Peter Brink, an executive at European ECM solution provider Informed Consulting, believes ECD wasn’t able to achieve its full potential within the EMC family.

“Like in real life, marriages sometimes result in unforeseen and unwanted tightness for one of the partners. Within OpenText everybody breathes Enterprise Content Management and/or Enterprise Information Management. It’s all about it. No distraction.”

“The focus of the current OpenText product is mainly on collaboration and business intelligence. For Documentum it is mainly on enterprise control and compliancy. There is some overlap but also a clear strategy around that because there is a visible difference in purpose and focus.

“In many cases there was a head on fight between Documentum and OpenText for the same prey. Now the strengths of both are leveraged and better solutions will become available to clients from a single vendor.”

Forrester analyst Craig LeClair notes that “OpenText needs to be careful. It does not want to trigger shopping events for Documentum customers, and many are already in that process. Newer cloud-based content services, like Box and Drop Box are slowly becoming the next-gen repositories for content. And this means keeping the pedal on the floor for EMC’s Project Horizon, a platform-as-a-service offering for content services, it critical. Independently consumable capabilities, like secure collaborative document authoring and digital document exchange, which firms can use standalone or integrate into other consumable services, is the future.”

John Newton, CEO of competitor Alfresco and cofounder of Documentum, says “the product lines will wither away” amid neglect from OpenText in favour of their own ECM solutions.

ECM Technologist Consultant John Webber, having worked on both Documentum and OpenText solutions, believes the details of the next five years of execution will be interesting.

 “It’s not about loyalty. Some folks characterise Documentum’s customers as being loyal. I don’t buy it. Most of the original proponents of Documentum in these companies have moved on to different positions. This is legacy software now in many large companies who’ve had it installed for over a decade. It’s a matter of risk analysis now, not loyalty. Point or more integrated solutions are stepping in and sweeping away the new projects.

“I can tell you that both of these platforms are difficult to upgrade for different reasons.”

“I’m not sure either platform will supersede the other. For years EMC threw in Documentum as a bonus to its storage solutions. What does this mean? Well, at the metadata architecture and storage level it means that not only OOTB applications, but custom apps and integrations are dependent on the storage addresses. This will be no small feat to migrate to OpenText.”

The acquisition of EMC Documentum by OpenText is the last nail in the coffin of what we knew as ECM, according to Gimmal director Becky Thomas.

“Did we really ever achieve "Enterprise" Content Management? Or a bunch of silo-centric solutions implemented in the age of client-server applications? The way we work has changed drastically over the last 15 years. The consolidation of the market is a sign of the changing times.

“As was predicted in 2010 this game was going to turn into a platform war between Microsoft, IBM and maybe Oracle. Now with Cloud Services the new buzz, times are changing and content will be cloud centric and accessible from any device. The winners will be those who emerge with cloud-centric offerings providing secure, compliant content management for the future.”