Tim_walters By Tim Walters, Ph.D

Not quite, but that’s the general tone of the “rescue program” recently announced by Web content management (WCM) vendor FatWire. Following the acquisition of Interwoven by Autonomy, and the announced acquisition of Vignette by Open Text, FatWire is offering Vignette and Interwoven customers the opportunity to switch to their Content Server solution at no cost.

Naturally, there are some provisos. First, although license fees are waived, the maintenance and support payment (typically 15-20% of the original license fee) that has gone to Interwoven or Vignette is now paid to FatWire. (Bad luck, I guess, if you’ve just made the annual payment to the other vendor.) Second, you’re also supposed to sign up to employ (and license) content migration tools and services from FatWire partners Vamosa or Kapow Technologies. (Vamosa has jointly agreed to waive the initial license fee for their migration solution.) Third, this limited time offer expires on September 30, 2009. (But try calling on October 1 and see if they refuse to answer the phone.)


FatWire acknowledges that the program does not by itself constitute a compelling financial argument to switch. But they hope that by removing the license fee hurdle, they might entice some disaffected Interwoven or Vignette customers.

That target audience could be huge. In our recent survey on WCM adoption, 7% said they are “very unsatisfied” with their current WCM solution and a further 25% are “unsatisfied.” Since Interwoven and Vignette together claim about 2000 customers, and if we assume the (dis)satisfaction rates apply equally across the board, that’s (theoretically) 640 unsatisfied customers that should be stamping out HELP in the sand to signal passing aircraft. But before FatWire staffs up their HAZMAT trucks they might want to tend to the (equally speculative) 160 unsatisfied users of their own products.

Despite the high dissatisfaction rates for WCM, announcing a “rescue program”is a touch too dramatic, and one has to hope that the rhetoric doesn’t escalate. What’s next: “SDL Tridion vows to free customers held hostage by FatWire’s TeamUp splinter group”?

Why the theatrics? Here are two potential benefits for FatWire:

  1. It makes some noise. FatWire is the only privately held company in Forrester’s 2009 WCM Wave report. A publicly traded vendor would get plenty of coverage for announcing a boring “customer transition effort.” FatWire has to propose a rescue program that tosses a “lifeline” to customers who are, evidently, trapped in a cave without “a path forward.”
  2. It smokes out the prospects. The real challenge with a competitive replacement program is finding the WCM program owner at the target companies. By announcing a putative financial incentive, FatWire might hope some targets will identify themselves.

Finally, think about the effect of this announcement on those FatWire prospects who are not current Interwoven or Vignette customers. If, say, a major airline that’s currently using SDL Tridion asked to be “rescued” on the same terms, is FatWire going to turn them down? If a current prospect with a pen posed over a fat six-figure deal catches wind that FatWire is giving away licenses, aren’t they going to want some of that too?

In short, the announcement could have been simply, “The Deal Desk Is Open.” It’s a buyer’s market. FatWire is being a little more obvious than others in acknowledging that vendors have lost pricing power, at least for higher end solutions. As the street hawkers said during a recent visit to Rome: “Half price! Half price! . . . How much have you got?” If you can scrape together a little cash, it’s a great time to buy WCM.

And if your chosen solution later leads you into the wilderness, you can always count on a competing vendor to rescue you.