Content Management Moves Continue

EMC bought Documentum; IBM bought FileNet; Oracle bought Stellent. That M&A scramble left Open Text as the sole independent ECM player and, not to be outdone, last fall Open Text acquired Hummingbird.

That consolidation came even as demand for content management among companies of all sizes is growing, solution providers say. Much of that demand is generated by corporate governance regulations. The complicating factor is that the mandate for those controls butts up against an explosion of document-resident data.

Extravagant numbers get thrown around all the time. On Tuesday, for example, Microsoft corporate vice president Jeff Teper spoke at the AIIM Conference in Boston citing Accenture estimates that more information will be created in the next two years than in the rest of history combined.

Not that anyone can confirm that, but nobody doubts that there is huge growth in the amount of structured and unstructured data being created and saved.

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A potential downside to this vendor consolidation is that the acquiring companies tend to have a very direct-sales mindset. Oracle, IBM, EMC will all "take a deal direct in a heartbeat," said one ECM specialist.

But, Dan Rotelli, president of Business Imaging Systems, an Oklahoma City-based content management solution provider, says even those big boys need professional services in a big way. "They all show up with smiles on their face," he noted. He said they often ask his company to be the prime contractor but to also take the order "at no margin."

Solution providers often do so to get the services business, he added.

VARs say platform providers such as IBM, EMC, Oracle and Microsoft are diving into document management even as a bevy of young open source turks are also taking the plunge. They cite the emergence of inexpensive but proficient open-source solutions like Alfresco and Joomla as a healthy sign.

There is "big time demand" for both high-end and no-frills content management, says Jim Nasr, CEO of Armedia, an Atlanta content management specialist. Armedia works a lot with Documentum and some of the open-source players.

"Content management is better understood now by the enterprise and even small and medium sized businesses but only a few of those smaller companies can afford a Documentum solution," he noted.

Even execs with mainstream ECM players, including Cheryl McKinnon, portfolio manager for Open Text's Livelink ECM say that open source players provide the "basic content services" that many companies need.

Armedia's Nasr says academia, with its budget constraints, is a perfect home for open-source solutions and.

Microsoft is treading a fine line in content management, positioning its own SharePoint as a repository for unstructured documents. It also fields its own information management rights infrastructure and basic workflow that it says is a good foundation for third party, value-added ECM solutions. Teper stressed that his company works closely with both Open Text and Documentum in these areas.

"Organizations will have a mix of applications and systems. We're committee to working with these vendors," Teper said.

One hot trend at the AIIM/OnDemand Expo in Boston was distributed image capture, according to Rotelli.

"The goal is to put these small, connected devices around organizations as intelligent capture nodes. The difference now is you can now bring up the full image on screen [locally] and do quality control while you archive and index," he noted.

Some other nuggets from the show:

Open Text, which is betting that its independence will win accounts and which partners with other ISVs, said it is extending its rapport with SAP. It's records management works with SAP applications and both companies will sell the solution.

Oracle will lay out its Stellent-based ECM roadmap. It plans to ship updates to its ECM suite and its component pieces-- content management, records management and imaging and process management in the next 12 months.

"All three are based on Stellent products that were previously offered individually, said Greg Crider, senior director of marketing . Oracle Unified Content Management will be first out of the chute and will be previewed at AIIM this week.

Armedia's Nasr says he expects to see more of Oracle in this arena now that it's had Stellent under its belt for a few months.

"Oracle has tried for a few years to get into this space [by] trying to pawn off their database plus some other functionality as a hybrid solution,' he noted. Stellent gives Oracle credibility here, he said.

This report was updated Wednesday morning with additional VAR comment.