by Kyle McNabb.

A few recent technology vendor announcements point out how the ECM market continues to mature — ECM acquiring Berkeley Data Systems, Interwoven acquiring Optimost, and Autonomy acquiring Meridio.

EMC takes ECM to consumers

EMC announced in early October it was acquiring Utah-based Berkeley Data Systems Inc., the operator of the Mozy online-backup service. Right now you’re probably thinking, "Kyle, what the heck does this have to do with content management?" Well, read me out…

What EMC has done is bought an online service provider (more than just software-as-a-service) that allows us (all of us with an Internet connection) to securely back up and archive OUR content (files) we have on our home workstations and laptops. All of us have digital pictures of family and friends, and one electromagnetic pulse can wipe out years of personal history. Heck, simple hard drive crashes have caused countless tears as parents realize they no longer have pictures or videos of their sons and daughters. And how many teens have lost their music collections after spilling coffee on their laptops?

The need is pervasive. And frankly, it really isn’t that hard to offer up a backup and archive service. What makes EMC’s move more interesting is that they have content management technology (Documentum) that when added to this newly acquired service moves it beyond backup and archive to ‘content management for the masses.’ Imagine the following: EMC builds this service up, adds greater metadata management, content analytics, and additional features from their Documentum product line. Doing so lets EMC not just simply offer a place to backup and archive content, it gives them the ability to do something with that content, to put it to use.

Don’t expect EMC to build out a consumer brand and market this service directly to us, I don’t believe they will. Instead, expect them to offer this service to your local cable company or telecom provider. Each will have the chance to private label EMC’s service and give us one more item we can add to our bill – content archiving and backup.

Interwoven acquires Optimost, shows how SaaS will impact the ECM market

On October 17, 2007, Interwoven announced its intention to acquire Website optimization vendor Optimost. This move continues Interwoven’s push away from marketing itself as an ECM vendor to a vendor that helps enterprises put content to use and, in this case, improve the customer experience. Acquiring Optimost also gives Interwoven a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering — interactive marketers, online channel managers, and site administrators can utilize Optimost’s technology without having to install it on premise, they can simply subscribe and tap into a service to help improve site effectiveness.

The SaaS part of this acquisition geeks me up. Why? I think it shows how SaaS will really impact the ECM technology market. Many organizations I speak to believe their core investments into ECM help them build a better information management foundation. They have to have this technology in place to help them manage and retain important intellectual property and other valuable assets. And I think most of you wouldn’t feel comfortable relying on SaaS for your company’s foundation for managing content. But what about value added capabilities that help you put content to use? Wouldn’t tapping into a readily available server be easier than trying to build out or implement, on-premise, all the tech needed to satisfy the varying ways in which content needs to get put to use to help employees, improve business processes, and drive better customer experiences? I think so.

Autonomy acquires Meridio, and may perhaps expedite the move to contextual access to content

On October 23rd, Autonomy announced its intention to acquire enterprise document and records management vendor Meridio for about $40 million. Autonomy’s slowly added ECM technologies to its portfolio, most recently with its purchase of email archiving vendor Zantaz to help tackle growing eDiscovery needs.

Search is important technology. Yet many organizations I speak with often note that search is an add-on, it is replaceable — especially when they consider they can get search on the cheap from platform vendors like Oracle, Microsoft, and IBM. And there’s Google, offering another inexpensive enterprise search alternative. But more alarming to search advocates is the recognition by many that search sometimes isn’t the answer. Sometimes content needs to be delivered to a user, within the context of what that user’s doing. If the user has to search, they’re taking an additional, sometimes unnecessary step, in order to get a job or task done.

Autonomy’s moves on Zantaz and Meridio, I think, helps set the stage for the next evolution in ECM and search. For Autonomy, it gives them something not as easy to replace as say, enterprise search. Instead, they now have technology helping organizations take ownership of their content — not simply find it. For you though, search technology, now, gets really interesting. With technology to help you manage documents, emails, and other intellectual property, imagine the new ways Autonomy can help you enrich that managed content with metadata, classify it, and index it in ways to help you more easily put it to use in a business process. Better yet, imagine not having to search for content, its just there, in your context. You can’t easily pull this off with independent search and content technologies, the integration burden put on you is just too much. Heck, IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft all have visions to help us put content into context, but let’s face it, they all move slower than maple syrup on a cold day in January. But with non-platform vendors like Autonomy (and others will follow) focusing on this, we’re getting closer…just don’t hold your breath — we’ve a long way to go.