On my hate affair

A week ago, Open Text announced it was acquiring the Documentum business from Dell EMC (I’ll just refer to them by their old ticker symbol DCTM).  I’ve read most of the pundit opinions that have included descriptors like “graveyard”, “predictable”, “sad”, “smart move”, and more.

My hate affair with DCTM dates back over 20 years. In the early 1990’s while at Information Dimensions, we competed against DCTM around complex publishing applications based on SGML.  And speaking honestly, they beat us.  They kicked our ass.  I recall feeling a death nail reading that they hired Jay Leno to speak at their user conference.  They had achieved a level of scale we couldn’t duplicate without help.   My hate-o-meter redlined because they were that good.  So in 1998, Information Dimensions was acquired by Open Text.  That was a big deal at the time.  We brought forward years of experience and great enterprise customers.  Open Text brought forward a versatile collaboration and document management product.  We both believed in the web and SGML.  We both hated DCTM.

Upon arriving at Open Text in 1998, I was surprised that our product positioning could be summarized as “we’re different and unlike any other vendor”.   That meant publicly, we were in denial about competing with DCTM and consequently never used the term ECM.  Hating DCTM wasn’t nearly as much fun as before.  Time and change rolled forward and with that DCTM’s and Open Text’s products both converged.  Around 2002, Open Text joined the foray of squarely positioning itself in Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and the hate affair with DCTM was back on.  Rejoice!

In 2003, EMC came along and acquired DCTM with the promise of managing and archiving content using both hardware and software.  Open Text remained independent growing organically and by acquisition.   I’ll leave it to others to comment on how hard it must be to get hardware and software product and sales teams aligned.

Last week upon hearing the news of Open Text acquiring DCTM, I re-watched the movie Rush.  Its a must-see for anyone who cares about competitive strategy.  The two lead characters were bitter F1 drivers and had a hate affair for one another.  And it was that hate affair that made each of them great.

I am still an OTEX shareholder and cheer for their success from the sidelines everyday.  So to all my good friends still at OTEX, you now need to play nice with your DCTM brethren.  And just as importantly, launch a new hate affair with one competitor so you can continue being great.

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3 responses to “On my hate affair

  1. Well said, Bill! I still remember the good old fights between ‘us’ and DCTM even here in Germany. So let’s see what the new ‘marriage’ will bring the customers and employees of OTEX.
    Cheers Oliver

  2. Good blog Bill. I recall that hate affair as well however times have changed and so has DCTM and OT. I think that this will likely not be an issue as both companies’ employees are very different now. I would guess that most OT employees needed to research who DCTM is when the news broke.

  3. Bill, nice post!
    I agree that we (IDI) were “that good as DCTM during the 90’s years”. It’s fair to recognize it. After 10 years on the same boat as you, i leaved OTEX in 2000 and joined DCTM, I recognized that the ‘power’ of DCTM was to apply Geoffrey Moore’s lessons to dominate a vertical segment (Pharmaceutical companies). The DCTM years were extremely successfull, working with all-star teams, and beat the competition for any major RFP. EMC takeover was a cold shower. I agree with John Newton that the OTEX takeover is the final scene of DCTM life, showing that a stand-alone player, expert on its niche, is today the best approach for a long life!

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