This week I have been heads down reviewing RFP responses for a large ECM project. These vendor proposals could give readers the misimpression that the products in a complex suite of modules were all designed on the same drawing board, that they were built to work together. Typically, ECM Suites are the result of a long journey of growth by acquisition, with many modules in a suite having a quite different heritage to other modules in the same suite.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, if the vendor has acquired smartly to quickly build and fill out perceived gaps in their portfolio, but it can present buyers with something of a challenge on occasion. Some vendors do a better job of digesting acquired products and companies than others, and in extreme situations buyers can find modules they have purchased as a part of an ECM have different code bases, a different look and feel on often different support and development teams.
As a buyer you should ask some serious questions regarding the heritage of each module and ensure it really is the right fit for you. It may well be that a suite may offer many of the right elements to meet your needs, but a couple of modules may be better replaced with third party best of breed alternatives.
More for fun (serious fun as we like to say) than anything else, I have put together some ECM family trees, and will share them with you over the coming weeks. I may well have missed a few pieces here and there, and I welcome your feedback to refine them further. But my aim here is simply to share with you our understanding of how some of the better known product suites have developed over time.
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First up is Open Text -- a firm that has made many acquisitions over the years, often buying firms that were acquisitive in their own right. There is some excellent technology in the Open Text portfolio. I think this particular family tree makes for interesting reading, as Open Text is the largest remaining 'independent' ECM vendor. If you are at any point in the procurement process, do remember to check out our detailed evaluations of ECM vendors.
Next up will be EMC|Documentum, followed by Autonomy.