September 2009
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When CMS Genes Won’t Splice

Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?”
God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done?”
God says, “Out on Highway 61.”

People are talking about Open Text’s CMS roadmap again. There were some interesting statements made in the latest Earnings Call, the most notable of which is quoted below:

Paul Steep – Scotia Capital

What sort of the timing for the integrated platform, and I guess, would the plan be to migrate that Vignette product over to RedDot that [number] there. I think they are on a different architectures as I would recall?

John Shackleton

Actually, it probably be the other way, Paul, where we would migrate the RedDot to the Vignette platform. We will be showing a detailed road map at the conference in October, so I think you’ll get a good clear. But it looks pretty interesting, the way that things are shaping up.

Ho hum. Another migration in a box. I really liked the post from Markus Giesen on the Unofficial RedDot blog. He asks many of the questions that customers, implementors and investors should be asking. He also has good inside knowledge, and so I’m not going to repeat what he’s already explained so nicely. Read his post. Instead, I’m going to outline the options as I see them.


Option 1: Sophie’s Choice

This one is easy to explain – a tragic choice between two unbearable options. Kill either RedDot or Vignette, one bullet for the CMS product (VCM or LiveServer) and one for the Delivery product (Vignette Application Portal or Delivery Server). This is most likely to mean bye-bye RedDot unless, of course, the people at Open Text pay more attention to the Gartner Magic Quadrant than me, in which case it’s goodbye Vignette. However, there is no chance at all that VAP will die so I think Vignette is safe. Option 1 isn’t going to happen.

Option 2: The Quick PurpleDot Brundlefly

So, next option. Merge the two products together into some kind of new hybrid product. Now this simply isn’t going to work. I’m not going to waste anyone’s time by listing the numerous reasons why this is insane. Instead, I’ll let the good children of South Park explain this for me:


Kyle: Well, what about our pot-bellied elephant?
Mephesto: Oh. Well I’m sorry children, but, pig and elephant DNA just won’t splice … Although, maybe I could help you add a few asses to that swine of yours.
Cartman: You can keep your hands off of Fluffy’s ass!

‘Nuff said. I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried to implement a site on a CMS with four asses. It isn’t pretty. Trust me.

Option 3: The Long Winded PurpleDot Brundlefly

Okay, so we’re not killing a product, and we’re not merging them either. The next option that is being discussed is the creation of a brand new product using the best engineering ideas and lessons from both products. Realistically, however, it’ll take far too long to build a brand new product from the ground up. In reality this will either end in the euthanasia of a product  or a slower route to market for a PurpleDot Brundlefly. I see this option as a marketing spin on the infeasible Options 1 and 2. Not going to happen.

Option 4: The Alterian Gambit

Here is a viable option. Keep them both, keep supporting them both, and keep both products separate. Re-assure existing customers and implementers that nothing is really changing. This approach would keep existing customers happiest, but might make new sales more difficult. However, I think there are many ways they could differentiate the products, as I explained in this post. They could split by technology (Java/.NET), by industry vertical, or by dramatically reducing Red Dot’s license fees to compete lower down the food chain.

Option 5: The SKU Jedi Mind Trick

Keep them both and make the sheeple believe they’re part of the same integrated product suite. It’s amazing what new product name and a CSS change can give to a marketing manager. So in reality this is similar to Option 4, with a bit of confusion thrown on top. This is a fairly likely outcome.

Option 6: The Maintenance Milking Machine

Now this isn’t really a separate option, but a given. Open Text would be insane to rock the boat and potentially scare of the maintenance paying existing customers. The MMM could work in conjunction with either Options 5 or 6. The Shareholders will demand it. Expect to see both products being supported for many years to come, although don’t hold your breath for too much innovation.

While I can’t predict what’s going to happen, maybe history can teach us something. In the spirit of ignoring copyright rules, I’ve attached a screenshot from the CMS Watch CMS Report from 2004.

Extract from CMS Watch 2004 report. Please don't sue me.

Extract from CMS Watch 2004 report. Please don't sue me.

We all know what happened last time. Let’s see if history repeats itself.

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40 comments to When CMS Genes Won’t Splice

  • I vote for the never going to happen, option 1. And I await Jedi training for their sales teams…

  • Well, I don’t vote for John Shackleton!

    I should buy a few shares of open text and I will be able to ask the following question at the next general meeting “why did you buy a company for > 300 M$ without giving details about the integration plan for months & months?”. I don’t like useless critics but I just don’t understand him this time! & I would just love to know the answer to this question btw…

    • I think he’ll answer that quite easily. They got Vignette for a bargain discount price. They’re pretty good at figuring out some ROI magic for their purchases. And if they don’t, it was a comparitively small investment. I’m reasonably confident that it isn’t a bad thing for the Shareholders. It’s the customers and implementors that I worry about and, I suspect, they haven’t been given much thought yet. I’m pretty sure the Board Meetings where they discussed the aquisition had a lot of Finance people and M&A Strategy people and not very many technical people at all.

  • Yep, and I would fully agree but (without starting here a boring financial discussion and without underestimating Open Text strong experience in M&A) I don’t see the price so cheap. That said, you should be 100% right about the reason, I don’t see any other one too… At least he should have been better making us believe in something else.

  • Don’t forget the $150 million VIGN has in cash ( That makes the acquisition a lot cheaper and more attractive.
    And I agree with Jon that the interest of the shareholders is in the foreground where the customers and so called partners are certainly not having the feeling they are under the TOP10 of Open Texts interests.
    It’s sad to see the way RedDot evolved from ‘Infooffice’ to RedDot CMS 6.5 and as soon as Hummingbird entered the ship things became worse on the development and maintenance front.
    As stated in my article, I vote for Option 1 and would sacrifice LiveServer with a smile to keep the CMS.
    Oh, and thank you for the nice words :)

  • I suspect it will be option 6, with some Jedi Mind Trick training for the sales force.

    “This is not the integrated platform you were looking for”

    Prior to the acquisition both RedDot and Vignette were losing market share. What little license revenue they produced came mostly from the install base, not new customers. Keeping both platforms will allow OpenText to continue to upsell into the install base and continue to opportunistically compete in new deals. In new deals there are discreet use cases for both RedDot and VCM/VAP so keeping both gives the sales force the most flexibility. OpenText probably uses some sort of flow chart to help the sales teams determine the right product to sell…

    Will be interesting to watch!

  • I’m going to guess Option 6 with some lingering affection for Option 5. I actually think OT couldn’t wait to rid themselves of RedDot.

  • Only just saw this now: Open Text outlines Vignette strategy, product plans

    Sounds like maybe we’ll see a Long Winded PurpleDot Brundlefly in 24 months time:

    Open Text has said it will continue to develop both Vignette Content Management and Open Text Web Solutions as complementary offerings to meet the full range of WCM needs …. Open Text will release Vignette Content Management version 8.0 and Vignette Portal version 8.0 later this year. The recently released Web Solutions 10.0 will be followed by the release of Web Solutions 10.1 in the first half of 2010. Within 24 months, Open Text will launch an offering that combines key strengths of Web Solutions with the Vignette Content Management platform, making it the undisputed market and technology leader for WCM.

  • OK Jon, further to your tweet – I’ll comment.
    I didn’t comment as I thought our option was a sideshow compared to your entertaining commentary of the fairly broadly held view of the pain this organisation is going to face.
    The difference of course from a sales and marketing perspective with the ‘Alterian Gambit’ is that we picked up a product that was fairly non-competitive in a different market tier – we have a better chance of making that differentiation – these guys have been duking it out for the mind share of the same folks for as long as we can all remember ;-)

    • Always glad when you comment. Thinking about this, I think that it might be the most sensible option for them. As long as they can stop ‘duking it out’, and keep employees from both sales and marketing teams …

  • I think that would be tough, it seems to be a shareholder value type acquisition and so driven by cost consolidation, that cannot be great for maintaining a joint channel. Plus product and company loyalty run deep, I know from experience what a great job VIGN do on getting their staff on message – sprinkle that with a little bit of job uncertainty, which unfortunately brings out the worst in folks and it’s quite a recipe. I don’t mean this unkindly, I’ve blogged sympathetically about this guys – it just is what it is.

  • Tim

    It screams out for all along the watchtower, but I see that’s been taken so how about a little of Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts:

    Big Jim was no one’s fool, he owned the town’s only diamond mine,
    He made his usual entrance lookin’ so dandy and so fine.
    With his bodyguards and silver cane and every hair in place,
    He took whatever he wanted to and he laid it all to waste.

    As to what will happen betwixt RedDot and Vignette, I’d go Alterian Gambit, split the products high and low (where Reddot was going) and quietly milk VIGN S&M, whilst at the same time wheel the OT marketing/spin team into operation and away you go.

  • Ian, which product does this: “fairly non-competitive in a different market tier” refer to? I have to assume that Alterian’s pain is similar to that experienced by Open Text? The names Immediacy and Morello have been expunged by the Alterian marketers leaving the audiences to wonder what future either/both have. Perhaps Options 4 is not that accurate?

  • Thanks to the people at Open Text who’ve approached me and offered clarification.

    I guess what I want to understand most is how the new “offering that combines key strengths of Web Solutions with the Vignette Content Management platform” will fit in, and which products will it replace.

    Very simplistically speaking, the Vignette current offering consists of the VCM for pure content management and VAP for Delivery (with Dynamic Portal glueing them together). These are both pure J2EE applications. Web Solutions has Management Server for content management, which is mainly .NET based and LiveServer, which is Java based. In both architectures, the content production and content delivery components are essentially different products. Will the new offering replace all four of these components, or will it focus specifically on either the CMS compontent or the Delivery component?

  • Anonymous Coward

    By my count that would mean that the PurpleDot Brundlefly option would have 5 asses, rather than 4 (VCM, VAP, DPM, Mgmt Server, Live Server). Perhaps implementing a CMS with a prime number of asses is the content management nirvana we’re all in search of? ;-)

  • Peter Monks

    I think option 1 is almost inevitable in some form, unless they choose to divest themselves of some of the products (perhaps after milking them dry). I’m also intrigued by the possibility of “mashups”: Management Server with VAP, for example. Anyone think there’s any chance of that happening?

    • The lines between Option 1 and Option 4/5 could start to blur. They might well kill a product internally but keep it on life support for a many years to keep existing customers (and revenue streams) happy. And it would almost certainly be the product sitting in the Leader part of the Gartner MQ, keeping the Niche player alive and kicking. Just goes to show – even a product in the top right can die suddenly:

  • From the webinar, option 4 with a side order of option 3. But then, what other option do you have if you want to keep option 6 alive? I guess it comes down to – do you believe what OT says? If so, do you believe they can deliver? If so, do you believe they won’t change their mind when the next “bargain” comes along? I am not sure history is with them on any of those counts…

  • One of the big factors of what survives will be because of people. Open Text demand loyalty. You only have to see how they stamp their name on a well established brand in the first heart beat after a purchase to know what loyalty to a single vision means to them. Open Text see the Vignette people as more willing accomplices in going forward than the RedDot people. You can see signs of this in the announcements. Not surprising really given Vignette were saved from extinction whereas RedDot probably has buyout fatigue. It is probably the prime reason Vignette has all the front running right now, before the tech. analysts come in and do their jobs properly – I’m guessing they’re doing the right talking at the top level.

    If Open Text worship their revenues (they do) then they would be mad to shut down the RedDot product given their relationship with SAP. The SAP relationship from what I see is working extremely well and I’m not sure why you would tinker with this. What RedDot needs is some love! Instead they got renamed from RedDot CMS to Open Text Web Solutions Suite and must have felt like Cinderella living with the step mother and some ugly sisters.

  • If OpenText wants to dominate a future WCMS market Option 3 is the only possible choice if they are not going for option 7 (buy all other WCMS vendors too). Sooner or later someone will rethink the WCMS concept and develop a new rising star. It’s just a matter of time. It’s the fast that eat the slow.

  • Hi John,

    We tried to answer your question explicitly in the post by Marci:

    “Regarding comments on our recent earnings call about “migrating RedDot to the Vignette platform,” the intention is not to combine two products into one or to create an entirely new product from the ground up. Those ….The intention is to take some of those concepts (not the actual code) and implement them on the Vignette platform. At the same time, Web Solutions would continue to be developed and remain a viable option for existing customers. ”

    This statement refers to the combined management and delivery components of both products. There are ongoing conversations to evaluate what other combinations would make sense for customers, for example enaling Vignette Portal as a delivery tool for WSG (Red Dot) Content Management.

    As Marci’s post states, there won’t be a new offering built from the ground up. As you mention in your post, viable to merge two different products.

    I hope this clarifies


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