Engaging through Content or just Filing it?

More thoughts on Vignette and OpenText.

The news of OpenText planning to gobble up Vignette and the recent Interwoven acquisition by Autonomy sees a new chapter for these grandees of content management and I think is further evidence in the shifts that have been occurring in this market around Enterprise Content Management and what organisations really want to do.

I’ve often described ECM as turning your organisation into a filing system, a necessary activity that keeps everything neat, ordered and regulatory compliant. It brings operational efficiencies and it can even help save the planet as you de-dupe and remove all that redundant server room kit.

The functionality and products of an ECM suite are all about that business function of keeping stuff ordered, records management, document management, asset management etc. Over the past 5 years this is the path that both Interwoven and Vignette set themselves strategically on, mainly through acquisition.

This was the path to becoming the new SAP or IBM and to becoming the System Integrators friend through alignment with big business change and major IT projects. Documentum, arguably the ECM pioneer was swallowed up by a storage company EMC (which kinda emphasises the point).

In the meantime, specialised Web Content Management vendors had stuck to their knitting, detected the shift toward agile solutions for business users and away from big IT projects. Technically organisations started to go “small IT” to bet their on-line business on Open Source, SaaS, Microsoft and away from the traditional platform of the web (Sun/Oracle).

Many vendors have prospered in a vibrant space that Vignette and Interwoven originally helped shape, driven by new business focused mantras of “ease of use” and “quick time to value” – of engaging the marketer, the communicator or anyone outside IT who has a message to deliver over the web.

These are things that I have always considered as delivering on the promise of content management software – yes you need the IT stuff to work, yes you need governance, but to truly deliver it’s about democratizing the contribution and user adoption. The web site as a business tool.

To put it very simply, you have a divergence of ECM and WCM – but I don’t identify myself with you as a brand because you have a neat and tidy warehouse or you are Sarbanes-Oxley complaint – it’s good to know, but it’s not what I like about you.

The challenge to the marketer is not about simply publishing content, it’s about what our websites are for – the audience – or more specifically the websites role in persuading, encouraging, educating, communicating – engaging the audience to act.

This is a trend that really came through at Internet World this year in London, with vendors and speakers talking engagement (some based solely on a screenshot of Google Analytics).  

So, what interests me about the two acquisitions (so far, it’s still early) is that the OpenText path appears to be doggedly ECM (with a bit of social media), whilst Autonomy is talking the language of engaging with the visitor making the Interwoven acquisition look far more interesting.

Also published on our corporate blog.

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2 thoughts on “Engaging through Content or just Filing it?

  1. Very interesting. Do you think Open Text will make any attempt to harness the Vignette “ECM-centric” products? Or just leave them and their customers to live out their natural life?

    And you can’t get away without saying something about the RedDot/Vignette -> Immediacy/Morello comparisons flying around 🙂 ? My thoughts are here:


    What do you think the main differences are? We’d love to hear from you.


  2. Good post Ian – a great summary of ECM vs WCM history.

    Vignette really got ‘web 1.0’ buzzing with the idea of engaging with customers via the web through content. The problem was that for large enterprises in particular ‘content’ equated mostly to traditional documents – and vast numbers of them too. It was really a wake up call for just what a mess these companies were in with electronic information management, hence the resurgence of organisations like Documentum that had been kicking around since the 80s and early 90s.

    Unfortunately I think the WCM pioneers like Vignette and Interwoven got distracted by this as they saw the many millions of dollars big enterprises were prepared to shell out on heavyweight documents management and wanted a piece of that action – hence round upon round of acquisitions to shift from WCM to ECM which, as commentary shows, did not achieve those ambitions and no doubt meant they took their eye off the ball.

    The problem now of course is that the Web 2.0 innovation wave and growth of Social Media has left those WCM pioneers looking like over-engineered dinosaurs, as enterprises look to shift from web broadcasting to engagement. I think the Open Text acquisition is an attempt to differentiate and gain more relevance in the WCM space but given the very wayward path Vignette has travelled in recent years whether it will deliver this is questionable. As CMS Watch rightly observe though – it’s a good move for shareholders.

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