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Output Management Acquisitions

A vendor you might not have run across, Optio, is being acquired by Bottomline Technologies. Optio is a competitor of Document Sciences which was acquired recently by EMC. No one seems to really know what to call this space. The best term is probably output management but looking at a Venn diagram of related products is like trying to read a newspaper through a bubble bath. Composition, publishing, customer communication, transactional document management. Whatever you call it, two similar products in this field being snapped up at the same time by bigger fish is generally reason to take notice.Output Management – high volume extraction, transformation,format and consumption of content through multiple distribution channels of presentation, has been an obvious hole in Documentum’s core capabilities for years. I suspect part of the lack of interest in this area was rooted in a gentleman’s agreement with the likes of Adobe, ArborText and other publishing oriented partners to stay neutral. Consolidation and acquisition now make format and application agnosticism barriers to growth. Customers want as many features as possible from a single vendor to eliminate the complexities of integration inherit in these types of systems.

This is the case even when the one stop shop myth is revealed for what it is during implementation.Optio, Omtool, StreamServe and Document Sciences are all examples of companies that have in some form or fashion built companies around “documents” that MS Office will never see and in volumes that boggle the mind. The Optio acquisition is not surprising because they have been bleeding money for a while but what it does suggest is that document output management may have a difficult time standing alone without being closely tied to an ERP or some other technology stack. For Streamserve in particular a casual observer might see a closer relationship with SAP as almost inevitable.

Documentum has traditionally been weaker when it comes to providing good tools for getting content out of the repository. The very term output seemed to stick in the sales guy’s throat. Those of you that have used Site Caching Services and it’s less successful step-brother Site Deployment over the years will attest to the relative lack of innovation in the arena of content consumption for Documentum. There are certain architectural themes that run through major software companies. These themes guide everything from product pitch to platform choice. Documentum was no different and one of the guiding themes for at least the first 10 years was the desire to have everything in one repository, and once you have it – NEVER let it go.

It was this desire to control all content that seemed to make the EMC / Documentum combination such a natural fit. Unfortunately, once the most obvious content consumption problem was solved for the web publishing suite, it seemed no one seriously looked at the potential of other large volume content consumption capabilities for the core product set. A brief attempt with RightSite left some with scalability scars and no upgrade path. (until now – warning: this link is a shameless plug) ISV’s have been building add-ons to do this in Documentum for years but now there seems to be the realization within EMC that someone might want to do something more with content than put it on a website. I imagine that sometime in the middle of the development of TaskSpace someone asked the question “just how are we going to print all these transactions anyway.” Enter Document Sciences.

The addition to the portfolio is a logical next step once the decision was made internally to get into transactional content. I only hope there is an equal level of commitment to integrate the engineering, sales and partner networks and deliver a true product to the market instead of just one more unused line in a license agreement.

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