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ECM Consolidation - Should Professionals be Worried?


The steady consolidation of the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) market can sometimes make it seem like a scary industry to be part of. In theory, the rise of full service ECM suites should be a blessing for companies. After all, what could be better than increased functionality?

A company that can seamlessly integrate more content management functions into its key business software is a company with a more productive workforce, and hiring any employees with experience of ECM suites can increase company efficiency overnight. It's a no-brainer.

However, the rate at which consolidation is occurring can scare off new users, and shake the confidence of legacy users and this can leave some industry professionals nervous about the future.

The unstoppable march of consolidation

With consolidation comes a wider consumer base, which provides a hefty financial uptick for developers and vendors. This inevitably piques the interest of bigger industry players, and the sharks begin to circle. The last decade or so of headlines have been dominated by vast global tech players, like IBM, Oracle and HP, involved in takeovers of industry leading ECM companies. ECM has arguably seen more consolidation - with varying degrees of success - than any other area of workplace technology, with each big player scrabbling for smaller companies to bulk out their own ECM suites.

Some of these takeovers have been perilous, to say the least. In 2011 for example, Hewlett-Packard took over Autonomy - the UK's leading software business at the time - for $10.2 billion. HP was already relatively late to the game. IBM had already taken over FileNet in 2006, and seemingly as a direct response, its key competitor, Oracle, had promptly snapped up Stellent later that year. The market was booming, and HP was being left by the sidelines.

Perhaps that goes some way to explaining why HP went into the Autonomy takeover with such wanton disregard. Even at the time, the deal was widely agreed by outsiders to be obscenely overvalued; at best a catastrophic miscalculation, and at worst an indication of potential fraud on a huge scale. Whatever the cause, within a year of the deal HP had been devalued by a whopping $8.8 billion, and would spend the following years embroiled in a plethora of law suits arising from it, brought by shareholders and criminal investigative authorities around the world. Meanwhile, the features it should have gained from Autonomy ended up being dismantled, separated out, and sold off to the highest bidders. As recently as last year, HP was still selling off the shrapnel of Autonomy, with OpenText purchasing TeamSite, Mediabin, Qfiniti, Explore, Aurasma and Optimost to add to its own already substantial offerings.

As Canada's largest software company, and one of the leaders in the ECM market, OpenText has not just been benefiting from HP's failure. They too have joined the flurry for acquisitions, most recently purchasing Dell's EMC's entire Enterprise Content Division, including Documentum, in mid-2016. HP is a cautionary tale, but it hasn't stopped the other key industry players from ploughing ahead.

The negative impact of industry turbulence

So, where does this ever-changing landscape leave ECM users? Every merger inevitably leads to well-established software suddenly becoming part of a whole new software package, which can make the market look unreliable for new customers. Worse perhaps is the impact on legacy customers, who may feel like they don't even know whom their key systems provider will be from week to week. All this, understandably, can make experienced professionals worry about their relevance.

A positive outlook (if you know what you're doing!)

For me, however, the benefits of consolidation far outweigh the uncertainty, and a good candidate has nothing to worry about. Although disruption is inevitable - and is likely to increase as cloud computing goes from strength to strength - the benefits that any of the major commercial suites offer to their users are well worth the risk. When a single software package can meet all of a company's ECM needs at once, getting used to a new logo from time to time is a very small price to pay.

This is especially true when employees are well versed in the changes. As long as you keep up to date on how the ECM marketplace is evolving, you can adapt to any changes and continue to be a hugely valuable asset to employers. Stay in the know, and hiring you will be as much of a no-brainer as the decision to invest in an ECM suite. Whatever it happens to be called at the time.




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