Oracle and Documentum

This evening I attended a webinar on the subject of the recent offer from Oracle to existing Documentum customers to trade in their Documentum licenses for Oracle Webcenter licenses. Apart from the shock factor of such an offer I am genuinely interested as Oracle has been something of a sleeping giant when it comes to Content Management. They have bought a vast number of companies but the message has, for some reason, failed to really take off.

Before I go into my observations I must say that I was late for the start of the webinar and my internet connection was very intermittent so whilst I saw the majority of the slides it was clear that a lot of the value came from the voice overs. I’m hoping there will be a recording to watch later on and if there is I will add an updated post if there is something I have missed. I must also say that I have knowledge of the Oracle solutions but I have experience of the Documentum solutions; I don’t favour one or the other by default but my greater experience of the Documentum products enable me to have a better appreciation of their strengths and weaknesses.

I’ve put down what I understood to be the reasons for moving from Documentum to Oracle below:

- Lower labour costs. Oracle are claiming that labour costs will reduce by 93% by moving from Documentum to Oracle. If this is true then it gets my attention immediately. However I do have big reservations on this number, both in its specifics (who can really give evidence of a 93% reduction) and also in its magnitude (just consider that 93% is slightly more than reducing a 10 man team to a 1 man ‘team’).

- Better Web Experience Management. Yes, I get this. With the purchase of Fatwire Oracle have definitely stolen a march on Documentum. Remember EMC originally looked to Fatwire as a partner and potential acquisition target. Documentum does not do WEM or WCM well, end of. If all you are using Documentum for is WEM or WCM then I’d suggest a move.

- Savings on costs relating to Search. It was discussed on the webinar the new Documentum search tool xPlore and the costs involved in upgrading to this. Yes this will be something which Documentum customers will need to face in the near future but its not a compelling reason to move in my view. Interestingly it was also discussed that the Oracle solution enables search of other repositories…well the same goes for Documentum so not an advantage there.

- Better integration points. This homed in on integration with the core Oracle Apps such as E-Business suite. This is definitely an area which I would expect Oracle to have an advantage over Documentum on but its not an area where they have an exclusive advantage. There are third party products available to enable this integration and with the advent of CMIS I would expect this advantage to be marginalised to a degree. Having said that there was no mention of SAP customers, maybe they should just go for OpenText ;-).

- Better Social and Innovation Capabilities. I’d probably agree here. Documentum’s attempts here, Centerstage, have missed the mark for one reason or another and if you’re using Documentum purely for this then you’re probably not on the right platform, although there are other alternatives to Oracle if you do look around.

- Documentum has limited Use Cases. Took me back a little this one, there is being bold and then there is being bold. With any ECM product you can do just about anything, whether you should do just about everything is a different matter but my experience with Documentum is that it is a very flexible platform, in fact I would say at times its disadvantage is its flexibility as it can become an issue as people try to create a silver bullet with it. I’d be surprised if Oracle is any different, from my knowledge it may have integrations with other Oracle products but it lacks some of the flexibility of an xCP style implementation.

What came out in the Q&A session is that the offer is purely for the Content Server licenses. I don’t know of many customers who just use Content Server and do not extend it with something like xCP or Records Manager so there is an interesting challenge to be addressed there.

So where does this leave me?

To be honest I was disappointed. I expected a compelling reason to come out which would help me understand why I can approach Documentum customers and tell them they should move to Oracle. That didn’t come out. There are some situations when a move would make sense and some when it would not and for anyone out there who either has Documentum or is looking at buying it you need to do the right research for your situation. Nothing new there, you don’t invest in a new ECM, either in a greenfield situation or as a replacement, without a high level of due-diligence.

Oracle remains a strong product in this space and to be honest I think they will continue to strengthen in this space, especially with the acquisitions of Fatwire and Endeca. If you’re looking for a new ECM product then it should be one of the ones you look at but make sure you know the capabilities you want from your ECM and map these against the product capabilities.

Final Point

Just a final point on the timing of this offer. Next week is the EMC Documentum conference Momentum. At last year’s conference EMC started to talk about their Next Generation Information Server (NGIS). This will be a big change in the product platform and one of the big advantages is that customers will no longer need a 3rd Party database to support their Documentum implementation as they will bundle everything together with their XML Database xDB. What is the relevance of this? The vast majority of Documentum implementations I have seen use Oracle as the back end database. In the future these will not be required. Food for thought.

OpenText and Global 360

The recently announced acquisition of Global 360 by OpenText has raised a number of eyebrows and prompted quite a reaction in the blogosphere. I tweeted that I would be worried as a customer of both, especially given the acquisition of Metastorm. However to put this all into perspective I thought I would post an article which put down 3 potential positives from the deal and 3 potential negatives.

On the Plus Side

  1. By purchasing Metastorm and Global 360 OpenText are making a major play into the BPM part of the SharePoint world. This could be viewed as a disruptive or defensive tactic. It is well known that one of the weaknesses of the SharePoint platform is its BPM capability. By purchasing two of the leading BPM vendors who integrate well with SharePoint OpenText could be seen to be putting down a marker to defend their market which is being moved onto the SharePoint platform. Either of the two companies were potential targets for Microsoft themselves so OpenText have moved to stop this.
  2. Both Metastorm and Global 360 are leading BPM technologies, albeit with overlapping capabilities. If OpenText can take the best bits of both and incorporate them into a Case Management Framework with their LiveLink repository as the back-end document store then it could be a very compelling proposition.
  3. OpenText already have a strong relationship and this could strengthen that relationship and move OpenText away from being an ECM player to being the BPM product vendor of choice for SharePoint, given the weakness of SharePoint in this space it could be a very shrewd move for OpenText to diversify from their traditional ECM roots.

Looking for the negatives

  1. OpenText have not traditionally been good at integrating new products into their stack. The typical approach is to rebrand the product as an OpenText product. If this is the case then why would they continue to invest in two overlapping products, it would make financial sense for them to move customers of one on to the other at some stage. Even if they do try and integrate then there will be a need for customers to move to the new solution at some stage in the future.
  2. The timing of the acquisition is strange given the recent Metastorm acquisition. Its hard enough integrating one fundamental component into an existing technology stack, taking on two will be an interesting experience.
  3. Whilst Point 1 of my positives could be seen as a positive for OpenText as they cling on to defend their market share I cannot really justify it as a positive for either Metastorm or Global 360 customers. If it is a defensive or disruptive move then it does not exactly promote OpenText’s willingness for long term investment in the two products. At some stage Microsoft will plug the gap in SharePoint on BPM so this possible tactic would only act to delay this.

Summary

All of the above is pure speculation and I would say even OpenText are probably a little unsure of what the future holds. There is the possibility they could make an excellent move into the Case Management market through a fully integrated solution but on past experience this is not how they have operated. The speculation is fun, watching what happens next will be interesting.