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Exstream Acquisiton: Forget CCM for at Least 18 Months

June 27, 2016

There’s been a lot of ink spilled on the recent acquisition of Exstream by Open Text, and I’ve spilled some myself. But beyond what the acquisition means for Open Text and Exstream customers, it raises a larger issue in the customer communication management (CCM) space: if you’re looking to make a CCM technology play, you might as well wait at least 18 months to do so.

The main reason I think this is true has to do with vendor risk.

Three of the top CCM product have been involved in an acquisition recently. Dell bought EMC, which owns Doc Sciences. Open Text bought Exstream and already owns StreamServe. Leaving aside the marketing spiels we’re hearing from both firms about the strategic value of the acquisitions, the fact remains that any software acquisition brings at least 18 months of uncertainty with it: will the development teams remain or jump ship? What happens to the sales resources? What’s the long term plan for the new product? Are we planning to just milk license maintenance revenue or is this a platform we’re going to invest strategically and significantly in? Can we successfully weather the road bumps in the months following the acquisition to continue to develop the product or will we take two steps back (and potentially kill the product altogether)?

Now, to be fair, there are at least two major players out there that are acquisition free and still solid: Oracle and GMC. But as good as they are, to limit your vendor selection to these two would be short sighted. So if you’re an organization that’s considering a platform decision, you’re in a hard place given that three of the top players are off limits until the dust settles on acquisitions.

But most large organizations already have a CCM solution in place, even if they haven’t fully replaced their main frame output with these more modern options. Even for these folks, however, the current landscape is risky. As they seek to keep their platform portfolio current, they need to evaluate whether to continue with their current vendor or change course. If they currently own StreamServe, Exstream, or Doc Sciences it’s hard to know what to do, because the future of these products is up in the air given recent acquisitions. If they own Oracle, GMC, or another solution not involved in recent acquisitions, their options for making a change are severely limited without being able to consider StreamServe, Exstream, or Doc Sciences.

Given all this uncertainty regarding CCM software, the safest thing to do is to wait until the dust settles. But what do you do in the meantime to continue making progress with CCM? There’s some basic blocking and tackling organizations can do while waiting to see what happens with StreamServe, Exstream, and Doc Sciences in order to add significant value to their CCM programs:

  • Forms – most organizations are sorely behind the times in how they design, create, and manage their forms. Regardless of platform, efforts to streamline forms, redesigning them to optimize ingestion and improve customer experience will add huge value to the organization.
  • Post-capture processing – the so called “second mile”, i.e., processing captured documents to make sure they’re in good order with the right image quality and index fields, often incurs substantial processing resources and can be optimized significantly even without technology.
  • Process improvements – typically, the processes for creating, producing, and maintaining customer communications documents are wildly inefficient. Although technology can help optimize them, huge gains can be made through lo-fi efforts without any change to technology at all

The Final Word

So much for my doom and gloom prognostications about the challenges CCM faces in the wake of the Doc Sciences and Exstream acquisitions. Hopefully, Dell and Open Text get their acts together and figure out what they’re doing with their CCM products ASAP. If they do, all will be well for the CCM marketplace. But even if they don’t, I’ve tried to point to some areas where firms can continue to make progress on CCM until the dust settles in the vendor arena.

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