Image by: SilverV, ©2016 Getty Images

Editor's Note: On Monday, January 23, OpenText announced the completion of the previously announced acquisition of Dell EMC's Enterprise Content Division, including Documentum. View the full release here.

On September 12, 2016, OpenText announced that it would acquire Dell EMC’s Enterprise Content Division (ECD). ECD includes all the enterprise content management (ECM) software assets of Dell EMC—a large part of which is Documentum. No one expected that ECD would remain inside the newly combined Dell EMC, but most everyone was surprised by OpenText’s acquisition, because OpenText and Documentum have been fierce competitors since the 1990s. This old rivalry has opened the door for other competitors to now predict gloom and doom for Documentum users and proclaim their platforms as safe harbors for the customer’s content.

Since the announcement, ECD customers have been wondering what this means for their future. In November, OpenText's Muhi Majzoub spoke at Documentum’s European User Conference about the promising future of OpenText and ECD together but offered no specifics. After his keynote, Documentum’s Rohit Ghai jokingly mentioned that Muhi would now be escorted out of the building. In reality, this was somewhat serious as a quiet period is required by the SEC for all publicly traded companies between an acquisition announcement and the close of the acquisition.

Now as we start 2017, we are still left wondering how this story will play out. Officially, we can’t know a lot, but we can make some educated guesses.

This is about more than just Documentum
The Documentum platform is the main focus for many, but ECD is more than one product line. ECD includes several other platforms like Captiva, ApplicationXtender (AX or AppXtender), LEAP, InfoArchive, and even eRoom.
  • Captiva is a high-volume capture platform that works with any content platform, not just Documentum and AX. Captiva customers continue to require that ECD maintain support for other ECM platforms.
  • AX is another one of ECD’s ECM platforms. AX serves the mid-market rather well and is a leader in that space. It is sold directly and also embedded into other solutions. In recent years, AX has been making a comeback inside ECD through the demand by its own customer and partner base.
  • LEAP and InfoArchive are the latest product innovations from inside ECD. LEAP is a series of micro applications intended to make ECM functionality easy to consume. InfoArchive is a solution for migrating data from legacy systems. Early indications are that both have promising futures.
  • Finally, eRoom—the collaboration portal—is still hidden somewhere inside ECD. In 2002, Documentum acquired eRoom, who was then considered the leader in that space. At the time, Documentum’s iTeam competed with eRoom. eRoom users had the same feelings and concerns then as Documentum users have today. eRoom is still supported and sold by ECD today.
What we can expect:
Documentum and AX will not go away
Each of these platforms support customer scenarios that none of the OpenText platforms support. Documentum has always been the top platform for complex document situations. Documentum was designed to handle large documents, which are authored and edited by multiple individuals, with sections that are shared with other documents. It started with aircraft maintenance manuals and regulatory submissions, and it now includes manuals written in several languages and custom document publishing, like policy files.

AX continues to be used by thousands of customers in the mid-market. Hundreds of partners have developed solutions on this platform. In fact, many of these are embedded, so users don’t even realize they are using AX.

OpenText itself sells and supports over a half-dozen different ECM platforms. OpenText Web Content Management comes from the RedDot acquisition, while OpenText Digital Asset Management derives from the Artesia acquisition. Additionally, OpenText Document Management eDOCS Edition is from the acquisition of Hummingbird, which was acquired from PC DOCS.

Buying a single ECM solution from OpenText will be confusing
New customers need to use caution to ensure they are getting what they expect when buying a single solution from a vendor that sells multiple platforms. This is especially the case with OpenText due to the large number of different platforms it offers. Documentum and AX add two more ECM platforms, bringing the OpenText ECM platform count closer to 10. (Furthermore, ECD’s Captiva adds another capture solution to those OpenText already acquired from Captaris and DOKuStar.) Each of these platforms has its own core set of features and add-on functionality that is different from any other platform. Rarely does a vendor's add-on component for one platform work with another.

For instance, if you are looking to manage video files, there are several OpenText platforms that can be used. OpenText Livelink, OpenText Digital Asset Management, and Documentum can all manage video. Only two offer the additional video features of storyboarding and time-based indexing. The right platform depends on the type of document features you need.

New customers need to be clear when talking with OpenText if they are looking for one platform. The customer needs to ensure that the platform meets its requirements.

Not all future technologies will become reality
If there are any ECD technologies to be concerned about, it is LEAP and InfoArchive. LEAP is being promoted as the new way to enable content management functionality, while InfoArchive is creating an easily accessible data lake for legacy data. Both have a few early adopter customers.

These two add to OpenText’s July 14th announcement of “game changers” in collaboration and analytics. OpenText’s Project Bandaroo is going to take on fast-growing collaboration leader Slack, while OpenText’s Magellan will take on IBM Watson. There has been no news in six months on either of these two technologies.

It would be very impressive, to say the least, if OpenText could introduce a new approach to content management and create a data lake, complete a major acquisition, and take on two well-positioned competitors. Odds are that one or two of these new ideas will need to be put on hold.

The bottom line
This is not OpenText’s first acquisition. OpenText continues to support technologies from acquired companies as demanded by their customers. OpenText would not stop supporting platforms they just spent $1.62B to acquire. Release dates may change. Features may shift releases. The six months following the close will be one of give and take as the new organization learns to work together to meet their customers' needs.

Marko Sillanpaa is co-founder of the blog Big Men On Content and the founder of BMO Consulting. He has been working in ECM for over 18 years for vendors like Documentum, EMC, Hyland, and SDL Trados and systems integrators like CSC and Accenture. Follow him on Twitter @MSillanpaaBMOC.

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