The IBM acquisition of FileNet made me start thinking about how companies manage acquisitions and subsequent integration very differently.
I used to work for Tower Technology, an imaging, workflow and records management vendor that was acquired by Vignette (my current employer) back in 2004. Reminiscing, I went to the Way Back Machine to dig out the old, lurid colored Towertech.com website. Interesting headlines on the homepage about recent customer wins (back then) in the US, Europe and Australia made me think about how Tower used to consider FileNet their number one competitor. I'm not sure, maybe purely because of size, that FileNet considered Tower a great threat, but probably acknowledged the Australian company's existence.
The first positive thing Vignette did was to change the garish colors of the Tower website, replacing it with a more acceptable Vignette look. Unlike EMC with Documentum, Vignette did not retain the Tower Tech name, and within days mostly replaced the messaging to fit more of a Content Management theme, which the mother company was most comfortable with. The first home page after the acquisition was substantially different in messaging, and I remember the shock of many salesmen to find out that they no longer knew the story behind what they were selling. They were also worried, because a significant portion of leads came from Google, and it looked like Tower web properties were going away.
Much of the core talent behind Tower Technology, its Integrated Document Management (IDM) product and Enterprise Records, Document and Case Management product (then Seraph, now Records and Documents) fortunately survived. Many have done wonders to rebuild the messaging, to integrate with the Vignette organization and technology, and to take forward a stronger ECM story.
Sometimes I have to ask myself, wouldn't it have all been easier if the Vignette marketing group of the day had not messed with the brand and the messaging, allowing itself to learn over time how to really take these products to market under the Vignette banner? EMC seemed to get it right with Documentum. Will IBM get it right with FileNet?
Just to round up the thoughts out there, Sandy Kemsley did a nice round up of the comments around the Big Blue acquisition of FileNet: Comments on the IBM-FileNet acquisition - Column 2 - ebizQ
Not all were in agreement that FileNet's BPM was the focus of IBM, although I must say that the content-based BPM offered by FileNet certainly is appealing to customers wanting to capitalize on their investment in content management rapidly. Hopefully the dust will settle and we will see this as more than a land grab and door opener for the IBM sales-teams, and some real use made of the technology and most importantly the FileNet expertise.