SharePoint and the ever-changing ECM market

By Dan Anderson, CEO and Co-Founder, SeeUnity Inc.

When SeeUnity began in 2005, we knew Microsoft SharePoint was going to be a large player in the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) market. What gave us insight to this was the ever-changing landscape of the ECM market.

In the years leading up to SharePoint’s emergence in the market, we saw a trend happening where players were consuming their competition. This has continued on in the past decade, and we have seen players with large market share get lost in the mix, never to be seen again. What I want to talk about here is the history of the market I have spent my adult life involved in and some of my predictions about its future.

I started with PC DOCS, one of the first true ECM solutions involved in file management and scanning of documents, in the late 90s. In 1999, PC DOCS was purchased by Canadian software company Hummingbird.

Hummingbird was, in comparison to PC DOCS, a large company and therefore it lacked the ability to focus on one product. Hummingbird also lacked the ability to innovate and improve PC DOCS to keep them competitive in the market.

In my opinion, Hummingbird ignored the capabilities of PC DOCS for a few years, and by then it was too late. Subsequently, Hummingbird was acquired by OpenText in 2006, shortly after I co-founded SeeUnity. Acquisitions of this nature had the ultimate goal of increasing the amount of market share a certain company held in a market or industry, and this wasn’t the last acquisition to do so. 

iManage, another highly focused and innovative document management player had come into the picture in 1998, and almost overnight took 50% of the market share. Similarly to PC DOCS, iManage also went through a series of mergers and acquisitions by other companies that wanted to absorb that market share. The first of which was a merger in 2003 with Interwoven.

Then Interwoven was acquired by Autonomy in 2009, which was then acquired by HP in 2011, when they decided they wanted to play in the software market. Throughout all of this, iManage’s innovation was stalled.

During the initial turmoil of ECMs like iManage and PC DOCS, SharePoint emerged. Although it was never meant to be a full-blown ECM system, people who had seen their ECM system get acquired and ignored had an appetite for something that was new and modern. That’s when they turned to SharePoint.

Unfortunately, SharePoint didn’t anticipate what was going to come next. SharePoint was heralded as the solution to all of a company’s document management problems and huge influxes of people left their systems, like PC DOCS and iManage, to adopt SharePoint as their ECM.

As a matter of fact, SharePoint beame one of Microsoft’s fastest growing application, next to the XBox. Because SharePoint wasn’t intended to solve all of a company’s document management problems this caused a lot of confusion and failures in the beginning.

So, after the mass exodus to SharePoint, we saw many disgruntled companies as they came to realise they might still need a full-blown ECM. Since then, Microsoft has worked towards providing a more complete picture of document management, and organisations have realized that often SharePoint works best in conjunction with an official ECM or 3rd party add-ons for Records Management.

Where all of this leads to is what we are experiencing today, a shift back towards the ECM. At least an ECM that supports that back-end document management goals of a company.

Some of the ECM companies are even taking back their power. Most infamously, iManage has since become independent again. This is a perfect example of the “revolt against consolidation” that we see happing now. Since the buyout from HP, iManage has gained momentum in the ECM industry again, and is well on their way to leading in market share again.

However, we are seeing major complications in the business world as more and more organisations need to share content externally, and globally, and as many firms and businesses move towards the cloud, they are turning towards solutions like Box. This tendency is driving the next round of acquisition fever: external share and collaboration capabilities.  

Most frequently now, we are seeing ECM vendors add capabilities like workflow and collaboration to their suites of solutions through acquisitions and mergers. That is resulting in a market that has everything cobbled together in an all in one solution that most closely resembles conglomerate rock.

What we see now is a mature market and companies are looking for that next generation ECM system. More people are taking the leap to cloud and hybrid solutions rather than on-premise. We see vendors like Alfresco, iManage, M-Files, and NetDocuments gaining market share in their perspective markets. Technology is forcing the market to grow, and as we continue to see next generation platforms emerge, the market will become competitive again.


  • 1991-98: OpenText starts as a full text indexing and string-search technology. Then becomes a search engine. They make a number of acquisitions that pull them into the ECM market.
  • 1998: iManage is born
  • 1999: PC DOCS purchased by Hummingbird
  • 2001: Microsoft SharePoint emerges into the market
  • 2003: iManage merges with Interwoven
  • 2003-06: Makes a number of different ECM acquisitions, and expands the scope of what they do.
  • 2005: Enter SeeUnity
  • 2006: OpenText acquires Hummingbird
  • 2006: IBM Acquires FileNet
  • 2009: Interwoven (iManage) gets acquired by Autonomy
  • 2009: OpenText acquires Vignette
  • 2011: Autonomy (iManage) acquired by HP
  • 2015: iManage buyout from HP to become their own independent company again
  • 2016: OpenText announces intent to acquire Documentum


SeeUnity is a Microsoft Gold Certified ISV Partner, specialising in Integration of ECM system, and serving customers of all sizes across the globe with heavy influence in North America, Australia, and Europe.