IBM Acquires Datacap - First Take

  • 10-Aug-2010

Today IBM announced the acquisition of Datacap.  It was no surprise really as Big Blue has been talking for a while about enhancing their overall imaging offering, to better leverage advanced case management (case management with analytics).  Datacap essentially fills in the remaining gaps that existed between IBM's homegrown capture products, and those of rival EMC (who acquired capture specialists Captiva in 2005).

Enterprise Content Management IBM-style is typically a million miles away from ECM Microsoft-style. Rather than the broad collaborative environments SharePoint targets, IBM goes after high volume imaging, intensive and complex rules, as well as case and process management. Layering analytics into the equation is only really possible when you have normalized incoming information/documents at the capture stage. Hence this acquisition.

IBM already had some pretty good capture capabilities, but Datacap offers better, and in particular Datacap had a number of industry specific solutions that could be of great interest to IBM. In fact it may well be this ability to extend FileNet more deeply into sectors such as Healthcare and Logistics, as well as further enhancing their existing presence in Insurance and Government, that drove the deal forward.

From a buyers' perspective many acquisitions are problematic, but this one might prove positive.

Let me explain.  To achieve solid business goals with ECM you often have to bolt incompatible components together and hope for the best. Vendors' response -- the ECM Suite where everything worked out of the box and in any configuration -- is still just a dream. Nevertheless, some ECM Suite offerings are starting to look better integrated and a bit more uniform, whilst yet others still look like Frankenstein's children.  Some ECM acquisitions are little more than standalone cash cows, others (like this one) could enhance existing products.

I don't doubt for a second that we will see more ECM related acquisitions (some of which will be capture related) before the year is out. But far from this being a sign that the market is consolidating and shrinking, it is rather a sign that the market is growing and getting ever more competitive.  And as always I will make a point of saying that only time will tell how well this acquisition works out. On paper today it seems pretty sound.

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