Why OpenText will not Lead ECM

Oh what a few weeks we’ve had in Enterprise Content Management (ECM)!  After the news that OpenText will acquire its competitor Documentum, we’ve seen some comments from Alfresco, with a simple reply back from OpenText CEO Barrenechea.  Lee gave his thoughts, as did Bill Forquer from the OpenText front.

There also been a lot of independent assessments.  Dave Giordano of TSG, who has been a partner of both Alfresco and Documentum, gave their assessment.  While Word of Pie, Laurence Hart, gave us a new volume in his humorous view of ECM.  All of this really exemplifies the importance of this merger to the ECM industry.

First off, these are my personal opinions and not those of Big Men On Content (BMOC) as a whole, any other BMOC blogger, nor our affiliated companies past or present.  This opinion has been formulated based on my years in the industry along with what I’ve seen or heard in the news.

What Lee and Bill mention is not an isolated view inside each company, it’s an overall attitude that exists in most field staff with any longevity in both companies.  With the acquisition of FileNet by IBM in 2006, OpenText and Documentum became bitter enemies at the deal level.  Most other vendors were column fodder on RFPs.  The battles between Documentum and OpenText were challenging.  The wins were big for each side.  So getting these two teams to work together and decide who gets what deal will be an interesting endeavor.

Customers will also be fun for OpenText.  Those that know the long history of Documentum will recall situations where the company wanted to do one thing and the customer thought not.  Leaving pharmaceuticals to partners was attempted by Documentum twice.  The big difference is that those customers will now have limited choices with whom to threaten OpenText.

Finally some true diehard Documentum fans will take Barrenechea’s response to John Newton’s post as an insult.   John Newton was one of the co-founders of Documentum.  John did found another company and most Documentum diehards accept this like a parents’ second marriage.  One doesn’t insult a founder in front of customers and employees, just like a new spouse shouldn’t insult the ex in front of the kids.

What About Products?

While the aggregation of product lines makes great corporate story, separate products make buying the right platform difficult.  When supporting a product selection a few years back, I had to point out to another vendor that they were mixing platforms for a single platform solution.  “Sure you offer feature X but it’s only in product 1 not 2.”  The base architecture of any ECM platforms is not the same such that you can move one component to the other platform.  Even Gartner warns of this now in their Magic Quadrant.  One really needs to look at the OpenText suite with a microscope to see which product really works with which other product.

OpenText continues to support Hummingbird, an ECM platform it acquired ten years ago.  This now makes three platforms.  Buyers of ECM from OpenText will need to be clear on which platform they are considering when looking for a solution for their enterprise content management challenges.  This starts by customers being clear at the RFP.  Make sure you clearly state you want one product platform.  I had to do this for one of my clients when separating IBM Content Manager from IBM FileNet back in 2006.

What about  services? Just because you can deploy and configure OpenText, does that mean you can deploy Documentum?  Many of the product specific required configurations need to be addressed at initial design.  Sure the high-level document models and attributes can be defined without a product in mind, but then how those get mapped into the products is different.  This is the biggest reason that a design work done before product selection often needs to be readdressed after a platform has been selected.

OpenText won’t be “The” Leader just “A” Leader

In my opinion, OpenText won’t be “The leader.”  I’ve pointed out the headaches ahead.  These will not be simple to overcome.   The real question is at this point in the evolution of ECM does it really matter?

So where will the leader come from?  When I discussed the acquisition of Documentum by OpenText, I pointed out that the new leader will come from one of four areas.  I’ve narrowed that list to three: Open Source Solutions, Low-Code Solutions, and Content Enabled Solutions.  I’ll have more on each of these in my next article.

One thought on “Why OpenText will not Lead ECM

  1. Marko – thanks for the shout-out. I too was surprised by Barrenechea’s response to John Newton’s post but didn’t hear any of that type of tone from him in the investor’s conference call. Could just be the reporter looking to put some edge in the article.

    I am not a big fan of the Gartner quadrant since probably 2002 – see my post on 2015 – http://www.tsgrp.com/2015/11/12/gartner-ecm-magic-quadrant-2015-is-it-really-magic-anymore/ Gartner typically thinks bigger is better and, from my client experience, I would have to disagree.

    I think the one stop shopping and cross-selling are not as important any more and service will differentiate successful versus unsuccessful implementations, regardless of the tools. Buying a product from the same vendor doesn’t matter as much anymore, particularly if it isn’t integrated well with the products clients have committed to buying.

    It will be interesting to see what OpenText does with Documentum but my thoughts are we won’t really know for a year or two.


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