The Battle of TLAs: BPM is Transforming ECM

  • February 2, 2011
  • Scott

OpenText is buying Metastorm.  As soon as I saw this announcement, I could guess what transpired.  At first glance, Metastorm has some assets that don’t really fit with the OpenText direction as I’ve understood it (in the recent past, OpenText bought Vignette, formerly a content management powerhouse in Austin).

But if you follow the content management space, you might be aware that in general, the ECM vendors are targeting BPM as a way to stay relevant to their IT and Business buyers.  It is about wallet-share and mind-share.  But there’s more than just the general trend, there are specific data points to look at:

  • IBM bought Filenet, along with a BPM software vendor (Lombardi, our coverage under the link).
  • EMC owns Documentum. I‘m not aware of a BPM product in their portfolio, but now that all the content management companies seem to be paired up with bigger vendors, it creates some pressure on the remaining players in the space. Looks like they have their own BPMS as well.
  • Alfresco has sponsored the Activiti project – an open source BPMS, started by the leaders of the jBPM effort, which has been getting traction and is already in GA.  Activiti is already a key to Alfresco’s value proposition.

I think OpenText was feeling a need to round out its portfolio and the options in the BPM world are a bit more limited than they were a few years ago.  Metastorm has some good product assets, however, and I expect OpenText will find new ways to leverage them, and it will help them stay relevant.

As a BPM services vendor – we see a lot of BPM projects that involve documents, and managing processes relating to key documentation assets.  There’s clearly an overlap at a project or solution level.  But I have to admit I liked the more old-school approach of having clean implementation and interfaces for document management systems, rather than baking the two products into a single offering with a more “UI-driven” integration.  Having said that, the UI-driven integration of ECM and BPM is clearly going to make it easier to build hybrid process solutions.

Side Note:  I can see BPM capabilities being rolled into other products in other horizontal and vertical niches, and improving the value proposition of those products.  That future is coming.

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  • Back to the future: The acquisiton of external know-how is also nothing new and integrating it instead of having a consolidated solution will remain the same challenge as always.

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  • EMC has been marketing a BPM product under the Documentum label for about 4 years (see

    • thx Sandy – obviously I haven’t run into it “in the wild” but it doesn’t surprise me that they have something to pitch.

  • Scott,
    Hi. Your side note is interesting. I think that in theory you are right – BPM should be part of any number of vertical apps- users and management would both benefit.

    The problem is that most standard BPMS’ are too “heavy duty” to be integrated with a standard app – they require a lot of knowledge (and work) before they can be used by an application or by IT. The whole idea of an app is the it mostly works out of the box – configure and tweak it a bit and off you go. That doesn’t fit the paradigm for most BPMS’.

    Jacob Ukeson – CTO ActionBase

    • Jacob- fair point – but I think in the case of integrating with a standard app – it is the standard app developers and their consultants that end up leveraging the BPMS. Think about it as something more flexible than SAP and less flexible than just buying and deploying a BPMS. The experience to the end customer is still tweak it a bit and off you go – but for the OEMing vendor, it is an investment to build, just a bit easier than rewiring the core functionalities of their application.

      Incidentally I’ve worked with a couple vendors who do this, and do it successfully. They’ve been good partners for BP3 as well.

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  • Some additional analysis on opentext buying metastorm is out:
    “An OpenText/Metastorm platform could result in:

    * A user- and partner-friendly foundation for case-based processes and solutions

    * Further confusion regarding the business strategy behind OpenText’s many acquisitions and the resulting potential combinations”

    And, an overview of reviews:

    I get the mix of ECM and BPM, but I’m not sure all ECM vendors get the value BPM really brings to the table. Gartner seemed to think that this was a forced sale of Metastorm to OpenText (meaning, presumably, investors were losing patience). That could be, but I don’t have any inside sources one way or the other.

    • Metastorm announced an IPO in 2008, then withdrew it — investors had to be applying pressure for an exit strategy by now.

      • I’m sure you’re right. I would have been 🙂

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