May 2009
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OMG! Open Text buy Grandpa Vignette

We grew up together
From the cradle to the grave
We died and were reborn
And then mysteriously saved.
- OH, SISTER

I gotta admit, this one took me by surprise. Open Text has just announced that they are aquiring Vignette. There were the usual rumours in the air, but I don’t think many people took it seriously. I know I didn’t. First RedDot. Then Vizible. Now this. Anyone remember Gauss and Obtree? I’ve been using Vignette since 1999 and have become very fond of it. Maybe this is the Stockholm Syndrome, but anyway.

opentext

I’m not going to write much now – I need time to digest things – but there is a lot to think about here. But off the top of my confused head:

  • The Vignette name will probably vanish in the same way that the RedDot name recently did. How about “More Open Text Web Solutions”? That’s catchy. The end of an era, as I blogged about here.
  • I suspect that Vignette Content Management is going to be around for a while. A lot of customers have been through a lot of effort recently to get onto the latest versions. I can’t see Open Text messing with that baby. So it looks like three Open Text CMS choices for a while – the original, the ex-RedDot and the ex-VCM.
  • Vignette have a Collaboration product, and have recently announced their new Vignette Community Services. OpenText have a large Collaboration and Community Management component. Something is going to happen here.
  • I think the Portal will stay as it is. Open Text currently have the Open Text Portal Integration Kit. Expect to see this become tightly ingrated with VAP via the JSR-168 portlets. Hopefully it will replace Dynamic Portal in the longer term. Open Text don’t have their own portal.
  • The needs to be some Records Management consolidation I would think. No point have both Open Text Records Management and Vignette Records Manager is there? I’m guessing one of these will become dominant, and customers will be (slowly) migrated. This will take many years, though.
  • Maybe there will be a similar product collision in the Imaging/Workflow/Capture area, and the Business Process Management areas. I don’t know much about this stuff, so ain’t going to guess anything.
  • Open Text have a more more mature DAM offering in Artesia. I wonder if the much heralded, newly launched Vignette Rich Media is going to have a long and healthy life. Maybe some of the fancy front end technology will get used (Vizible is more fancy). I suspect the Vignette’s DAM days are numbered.

I really really hope that this is going to be a good thing for Vignette. Maybe it is exactly what they needed. But, on the other hand, maybe it isn’t. In my experience, these things are never that smooth for the company that gets absorbed. I do worry about the existing Vignette employees. These kinds of deals are never without pain, and I hope that the people that have been sweating blood for VIGN aren’t badly affected. I also worry about the existing Vignette customers – I see roadmap changes on the horizon. I’m sure the customer-centric analysts will have a lot to say here.

And finally, I wonder how much fun Tony Byrne is going to have drawing the 2010 Content Technology Vendor Map. The number of big stations is getting smaller every day.

Can’t talk any more now. Got a call with a Vignette OpenText client.

[UPDATE: It seems not everyone was as surprised as me! Laurence "@piewords" Hart gazed into his Crystal Ball and called it in January. And the Big Men On Content picked it up last August. Matt Asay even had the numbers right back then. They've got their ears to the ground.]

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24 comments to OMG! Open Text buy Grandpa Vignette

  • Chris Regan

    Nope… Did *NOT* see that one coming…

    Not heard a dickie from the boys at the big V either which is not entirely surprising, but is a little disappointing.

    So much to think about here, but my first thoughts would pretty much echo these. I can’t see how they can replace the VCM in anything like the short-term given the amount of work us clients have been doing of late upgrading,updating and migrating… Frankly though, I can’t say I would welcome it even if they did plan to replace it… Like you, I’ve grown to love/fear the thing in equal measure and can’t imagine a life without it… I would even genuinely miss the big purple nightmare if it went away… I’m starting to shiver now just thinking about it…

    I don’t know enough about the Open Text portal integration kit to be able to comment properly, but I can see pretty much any alternative to DPM being very eagerly anticipated. Much of the black art of DPM is so veiled and hidden in the deepest, darkest depths of the system that there are very few people alive who truly know what it is up to at any one moment…

    The community and social side of things is particularly interesting… Although Vignette have been making a lot of noise about community apps/services for a while now I don’t know of any client success stories (Cohn & Wolfe intranet aside) to speak of, and they have only just managed to get their whole ‘social’ offering together as one coherent package… Be a shame to see that one go before it really had a chance to bloom…

    I guess this is a ‘watch this space’ moment… and in the meantime, I will contemplate my life as an OpenText customer and wait to see what my account manager has to tell me. If indeed he still exists.

    • Love the comments. Good old “big purple nightmare”. I’ll miss them too. As you say, there are few people alive that understand DPM. I think we both might be in that exclusive group.

      That’s another thing that saddens me about announcements like this. I hate to think how many days of my short life I’ve poured into understanding various technologies. The idea that one could simply disappear leaving my brain even more redundant is quite scary.

      That said, I know someone that still makes a decent wage from Vignette 5 migrations so maybe it won’t vanish quite yet.

      For the record, the term “CMS Stockholm Syndrome” was actually coined by Chris R over a pint fuelled Vignette discussion. I just thought it was so cool I stole it and have it patented.

      I’m watching this space. My eyes are glued to it. CMS Watch, bring on the juice :-)

  • Chris Regan

    …incidentally, there was an *ahem* missing immediately before the word ‘migrating’ in that last post. Just in case anyone was wondering.

  • All seems fairly quiet as far as commentary is concerned so far..

    The first statement in the press release from the Vignette CEO: “After a thorough evaluation of strategic and financial alternatives, the Vignette Board of Directors believes that today’s announcement provides attractive value for our shareholders” – words that make a technologists or a product man’s heart sink. As you know, I’ve pitched in some early thoughts.

  • The real analysts are throwing in their opinions now. So if you’re tired of random speculation from nickel-and-dime clowns like me, maybe give these a read:

  • Maria Harris

    Definitely a watch this space moment. In particular, as an existing customer, I’m waiting for some direct communication from Vignette. Maybe it’s just because I work in Communications, but I had hoped to see something already.

    I hope you are right that the VCM will be around a while. Our implementation is getting on for 5 years old now so due a review but I know from bitter personal experience what a headache content migrations can be and I don’t relish the idea of being pushed into one.

    On another note, I was surprised to get a sales call last week from ‘RedDot’ so the name is not as dead as you’d think. I was busy so asked them to call back – when they do it could turn out to be a very interesting conversation.

  • Rory Bernard

    I think if you look at the financials Opentext acquire a bunch of great customers and some good long term support revenues for a bargain basement price (<200m after you take out the assets). The cash Opentext are paying basically comes out of Vignette’s short term assets (plus a bit which can be loan financed) and the Opentext shareholders have to take a minor dilution to effectively gain the biggest share of the enterprise market (I am guessing here – someone might correct this). Even without any cross overs it looks after itself in the short term and with some smart management it will work even better long term. People like Maria are not going to change in hurry – times are tough out there especially in industries like hers and investing major sums in changes to these systems is something that is on hold at the moment.

  • When MOSS launched a couple of years it was interesting to see that Open Text was one of the first big ECM players to form a strategic alliance with Microsoft – which was heavily promoted at the UK’s Internet World show in 2007. I guessed at the time it was probably a case of ‘keep your friends close and your enemies even closer’. Having used Livelink a lot in the past it was clear what a threat MOSS was to that particular product line and no doubt edged into the Hummingbird and Reddot territory too.

    So now, with SharePoint 2010 coming into view on the horizon, perhaps Open Text, as a Microsoft Gold Partner, is thinking ahead to how it is going to continue to differentiate itself as Microsoft seeks to commoditise the ECM space further? In many respects, you couldn’t do more to differentiate yourself than add in the granddaddy of Web Content Management Systems that for many years has been at the bleeding edge of Enterprise web content delivery. It will be interesting to see the Open Text positioning when the next SharePoint arrives :) Technical integration, as and when it comes, is a different matter altogether but I think definitely secondary to the strategic thinking right now.

    • Yeah, you’re right. The strategic thinking is certainly the main driver behind this. The technical integration, if they ever try, is a problem for later. But a techie nerd like me doesn’t understand the M&A world much, so I’ll focus on the boring tactics. I’ll leave the strategy for the wise men and the analysts.

      But if I had to guess, I don’t think they will attempt much integration at all in the short or medium term. And I don’t think they’ll attempt much cross-sell either. Too confusing. Maybe they will try to leverage the services channel that is currently a significant part of Vignette’s revenue. I can’t see how the aquisition will help new prospects select Vignette technology. Surely the new increased financial stability will be outweighed by the confusing myriad of Open Text products that are now available. Buying a mix of ex-Vignette, ex-RedDot and Open Text products to work happily together in a solution would need quite a brave guinea pig.

      Which means I don’t really see how Open Text will make more money out of this. I think EMC and Autonomy/Interwoven are probably overjoyed with the news.

  • Could of course have been that your insightful blog comments pushed Vignette over the edge and they decided to ‘cash out’ once and for all… http://jonontech.com/2009/04/04/when-cms-memes-attack/ ;)

  • Suzy T

    No more V spinning right round, like a record baby, round round, right round? I’m disappointed.

  • Frank Henry

    Good news if OpenText breaths new life into Vignette Portal as a standards base presentation tier for scalability and dumps the legacy monolithic concept of combined content (VCM) and non-standards based presentation (DSM). If you didn’t go into production with VCM and portal with standard portlets you’re dead in the water. I found that out the hard way. Vignette media is not even close to a DAM, it’s some javascript on good old VCM, good luck with that. Collab and the new standard portlets in portal that connect to collab are far beyond anything opentext has. And hopefully the Texas mentality that we can beat microsoft will die and we can finally have sharepoint compatibility. Vignette Portal on top of sharepoint and VCM is my dream.

  • Emerson Lopes

    I’ve been working with Vignette technologies since 2001. I really don’t like the V/7 content management approach. Its out-of-box solution is so hard to customize that a few brave companies did it (and even them with very limited success). For the vast majority of customers there is no customization effort done in the CMA, so there are no bonds to break, you are already free to choose another CMS while keeping a lot of logic intact in the CDA (ok, DSM/DPM can pose some treat to this, but not that much if you used some MVC2 pattern).

    V/6 was a great product that didn’t evolve correctly. It was simply abandoned in favor of a “modern” j2ee application that didn’t delivery much more than the basic funcionality that you would get creating your own CMA on V/6.

    Vignette stopped hearing customers, and became a reactive company, a huge mistake in a dynamic market with (literally) hundreds of similar solutions. Too much effort spent in stuff that no one really used, too much bugs, too complex in all sense, too bad.

    I’m not optmistic about V/7 VCM future. VAP, on the other hand, because Vignette failed to really deliver a true integration with VCM, can have a briliant path ahead. It is a very good portal solution, though need improvements in many areas.

    Being a VCD I’m really sad with this situation, but that’s life, improve or die.

    Regards, Emerson

    • Interesting comments, Emerson. I’ve also been using VIGN for a long long time. I actually like V6 the least of all of them and really liked V7 when it came out. But I agree it is a bit of a J2EE beast, which has really hurt them in retrospect. Especially on the upgrade path. However, for the customers that have made it to 7.5 or later, hopefully the upgrade pain is over. V8 looks like it might have potential too, although I’m worried that a lot of the work has gone into DPM rather than VCM. Looking forward to playing with it.

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