OpenText's Documentum Acquisition Doesn't Change Much


When OpenText announced its acquisition of Documentum on Monday, the Big Three of enterprise content management were reduced to two: OpenText and IBM. 

The news didn’t come as a surprise. We were all waiting for the Documentum shoe to drop since hearing the news of Dell’s EMC acquisition. The only question was where Documentum would land. 

Like most ECM practitioners out there, I’ve been caught up in the hype, excited to have something so momentous to think about in a space that ordinarily is a little bit sleepy and academic.  

However, as the dust has started to settle and I’ve had a chance to think more about the acquisition and what it might mean, it occurred to me that I don’t think it will change much in the end. 

Here’s why.

Milking the Cash Cow

The most likely outcome is that OpenText will milk the acquisition for maintenance revenue rather than try to evolve Documentum into a vibrant, thriving product. 

This cash cow will bring them returns for at least five years (if not more). If this happens, current OpenText customers won’t notice much difference from a product standpoint: OpenText will continue to drive Content Server, et al, as its flagship ECM product. 

On the other hand, Documentum customers won’t notice much difference either. It’s not as if EMC has done a bang up job evolving the product recently. 

The only difference in this scenario would be that Documentum customers won’t get their hopes up that things might change and instead will resign themselves to being on a platform that’s going nowhere.

Lose the Sales Team

If Open Text operates Documentum for the maintenance revenue, the Documentum sales organization will be gutted — either through attrition or layoffs. 

Again, not much changes here for Documentum customers. EMC has done a mediocre job at best serving its customer base with its Documentum sales team in the last five years. Ask a current Documentum customer whether they feel like their sales reps value them and give them good service, and I bet you’ll mostly hear complaints.

So losing the sales team won’t impact Documentum customers all that much.

Challenged By a New Breed of ECM

Finally, all of the big three of ECM have been losing ground in the enterprise these days to some combination of Office 365 and “non-traditional” content management systems (like Box and Dropbox but also cloud/SaaS services like Veeva Systems and Newgen). 

And whether EMC, Dell or OpenText owns Documentum, it won’t alter this shift among Documentum customers. So regardless of the acquisition, customers still need to sort out how they’re going to most effectively leverage these other content management systems and to what extent (and in what capacity) they will continue to rely on Documentum.

Documentum Déjà Vu

In the end, we might just see the OpenText acquisition as the culmination of the EMC acquisition of Documentum in 2003, which many considered the beginning of the end for what had been a great independent software company. 

At the time, the logic of a storage vendor buying an ECM platform was far from clear and EMC’s struggles to find success over the years with Documentum seem to bear this out. 

So while the OpenText acquisition may not change much for Documentum customers, it does make it clear that, unless something dramatic happens, the end is in sight for Documentum as a viable ECM platform. 

Title image John Towner

Joe Shepley is a strategy consulting professional living and working in Chicago. In his current position as Vice President and Practice Leader at Doculabs he focuses on helping organizations improve how they manage information using technology and processes.


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