I was going through press releases and ran across an announcement about the Open Text earnings release later this week. Something caught my eye in the text that may be more relevant now than ever. Since the acquisition of Hummingbird in 2006, they have been using the tag line “Largest Independent Provider of ECM Software.” All of the industry reports make a point to pick up and push this message on their behalf but these days it seems more of weather worn “For Sale” sign than a business strategy.
Independence is great, as long as it is sustainable against competition with one’s own resources. Open Text has a great product. Actually, they have a lot of them. Rather than expanding LiveLink into other ECM patterns, they’ve been browsing through the product markets picking up core components attempting to consolidate them into a single product family. The acquisition of an archiving system (IXOS), a DAM product (Artesia), a WCM (RedDot via Hummingbird) and another ECM (Hummingbird proper) have certainly added to their customer list but has the strategy in the end made it less attractive to acquisition?
Who is Open Text really independent of anyway? They need an O/S, hardware, a DBMS, a search engine, etc.. Independence is an illusion of marketing looking for differences in product lines that essentially seek to solve the same problems in the same way as their competition. There just aren’t that many differences in core technology once you choose between .Net or Java. Real differences such as cost, access to resources, and consistency in deployments across solutions are not necessarily better served by not having a relationship between the ECM applications and core infrastructure.
Unfortunately for OT, there may not be anybody that would be interested in taking in the blended family they have assembled. Oracle’s acquisition of Stellent probably closed the door on the best option they had. SAP may go shopping but this does not seem to be the direction they are taking for this component of their offering. SAP shed their interest in IXOS just prior to the Open Text deal. The business application giant’s more recent work in Knowledge Management and NetWeaver does not seem to suggest that the hodgepodge that is Open Text would serve their traditionally pragmatic approach.
When one looks at the competitive landscape, SharePoint seems to represent a greater threat to Open Text’s flagship LiveLink than it does to any of the offerings from IBM or EMC (with the possible exception of eRoom). With this in mind, it is impossible to believe that a serious offer to acquire Open Text wouldn’t be jumped on and independence would cease to be all that important. I imagine that someone may one day walk down the tables at the ECM Flea Market, looking to pick up this function or that capability and decide that acquiring Open Text would give them everything they need to claim Enterprise Content Management as an offering. If not, then being independent will mean beating SharePoint in the market place rather than serving it as the current strategy implies. Time will tell if that’s possible. Do it well enough – and maybe Microsoft will buy it.