EMC rumored to sell off Documentum

Not so long ago, Documentum could do no wrong.

It was probably the most well-known "Enterprise Content Management" (ECM) product, and several large companies used it (still use it) for highly complex scenarios. Documentum obtained early blessings of big analyst firms, and was acquired by EMC in 2003. EMC then also acquired several other complementary products, such as Syncplicity for cloud-based file sync and sharing, Document Sciences’ xPression for document composition and others.

Being a large storage and hardware vendor, EMC also packaged Documentum with its hardware offerings.  But the Documentum stack itself seemed to lag, especially with the rise of the likes of simpler alternatives like SharePoint and then Box.

And then the rumors started

Dell and EMC announced the biggest industry merger in 2015. Many commentators believed there were synergies to be exploited. Fast forward to 2016 and there are rumors that EMC wants to sell off Documentum as part of its strategy to dispose “non-core” assets to finance the combined firm's huge debt.

From “bringing synergies” to being “non-core,” that’s a huge step in Documentum’s evolution.

But it didn’t happen overnight.

A bit of history...

Many believed, or were made to believe, that ECM was a super rich platform, and that you should strive to address all your ECM requirements using a single product based on a unified repository. That is also the pitch EMC Documentum made to the market. It got lots tick marks for Document Management, Records Management, Business Process Management, Web Publishing, Cloud-based File Sharing, Document Composition, Imaging, Collaboration, and other ECM-y features.

But once you looked beyond the tick marks, you realized that all these features actually did not come from a single product or even a single repository. Many of these were acquired capabilities and had their own architecture and different underlying infrastructure. In fact, EMC under the Documentum “family” sells a large number of different products (sometimes called “components” or “modules”). Many of these products, such as Captiva, Syncplicity, xPression, Kazeon, and others are independent products and are sold separately.

To be fair to Documentum, some of its modules became de facto industry benchmarks. It also offers deep capabilities for platform customization and extension. In recent versions, EMC worked intensely to integrate its various pieces (most acquired via acquisition) into a broader whole. They also worked to simplify and improve usability using new interfaces and developments.

However, the Documentum platform still remains one of the most complex and expensive offerings in a marketplace that increasingly favors simplicity.

And now it’s non-core for EMC.

What’s Next?

Well, I can only speculate. First of all no one knows for sure whether EMC will actually dispose of Documentum, though I think they will. Whether it’s an existing competitor like IBM, Oracle, or OpenText (who loves complicated tools with recurring maintenance revenues), or a private equity player who acquires them, we will hopefully know soon.

In the meanwhile, I’ll point you to my colleague Tony Byrne’s sage advice (You can read the complete post here):

    "This is the part of the post where I typically encourage you the customer to do something differently. But this time, I'll just advise to keep being yourself. In a world of shrinking datacenters with expanding clouds, a thinner SharePoint, a mobile workforce, and a more customer-focused IT operation, you should keep seeking out vendors for the quality of their individual offerings, not their breadth."

While you seek out vendors, remember that ECM is much more than technology. Check out our ECM RealScore Effectiveness model to benchmark your implementation and find out what else do you need to sort out in addition to technology.

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