Enterprise content management is always a hot topic. It gets even hotter when you start talking about mergers and acquisitions. This is why the Autonomy / Interwoven deal got so much attention in January. One of the biggest ECM vendors is snapped up by one of the biggest Search vendors -- and in the name of eDiscovery and compliance.

Is this acquisition a sign that we can no longer look at these three areas as separate and individual? That the tools are converging and perhaps becoming secondary to the mindshare that sits behind that technology?

Craig Carpenter, Vice President of Marketing and General Counsel at Recommind, a provider of Search and Information Access solutions, took some time to talk with us about what the Autonomy/Interwoven deal means for the search and eDiscovery markets and how enterprise content management can't escape the inevitable ties to either one.

The Autonomy / Interwoven Deal

Autonomy may be a very smart company. They appear to be working very hard towards gaining major exposure in the eDiscovery market. With their acquisition of Zantaz, they gained a strong tool set for the eDiscovery space. With Merido, they picked Records Management capabilities.

The move to acquire Interwoven has fit nicely into their patchwork quilt of capabilities for the eDiscovery market. This, of course, is not because Interwoven is strong in enterprise content management or offers a top notch eDiscovery technology. But because they have a big piece of the legal market -- the people who constantly look for compliance and eDiscovery solutions.

Autonomy has seen the light. That light is the growing need for strong eDiscovery solutions. The problem is, eDiscovery is as much about the people who know it well, as it is about the technology. And this is where Autonomy may fall short.

Growing your technology and expertise organically takes a lot of time. Maybe too much time to keep ahead of the pack in a market like eDiscovery. The challenge with acquiring other vendors with established market presence though is the risk of losing the mindshare that built that market presence.

This is what happened with Zantaz. Much of the knowledge in that company walked away when Autonomy acquired them. Many have said the Autonomy culture is a tough one, so the question for the Interwoven deal is -- will we see the same thing?

If Autonomy really did buy Interwoven for its legal market connections, don't they need to keep Interwoven brain pool to continue to build those relationships? If the Interwoven mindshare walks away, what will this do to Autonomy's plans? 

It's About Trusted Relationships

Craig Carpenter says Recommind's M.O. is different from Autonomy's. They have placed a premium on trust and longevity in the market. And on satisfied customers. With search as their sweet spot, they have a legacy of supporting professional service markets for high-end knowledge workers -- like lawyers and accountants.

These deep relationships are what led them to eDiscovery a few years ago. Law firms and legal departments have strong inter-communication. These guys really talk to each other, so relationships mean a lot in the eDiscovery market.

Carpenter says the most important part of eDiscovery is not the technology. The most important part is a solid understanding of the processes, the workflow and the people. Any solution must be able to solve the problem and be easy to use.

So much data is being generated and the media used to generate it is so diverse, that organizations don't have a choice when it comes to implementing eDiscovery solutions. And it's not going to go away -- increased regulations are coming. Add the problems with the economy to that pile and you see that strong solutions are required.

Integration with Enterprise CMS

eDiscovery solutions do not stand on their own. Carpenter says they are seeing a convergence of tools in the areas of search, eDiscovery and Enterprise Content Management. Add to that Records Management and Archiving and you can imagine what it means for the Enterprise Content Management industry.

ECM vendors are typically very large and often slower to adapt to new technologies and needs. At the same time, they need to continue to grow to survive. These vendors are looking for new markets to sell their solutions to. They often do this by partnering with other technology providers to reach new markets faster.

Open Text's relationship with Recommind is a prime example of this. Open Text's new eDiscovery Early Case Assessment is built upon Recommind's Insite Legal Hold application. Carpenter says that working with Open Text has also given them access to a new install base, so it's been a win-win situation.

Predictions on the Future

Open Text is just one example of the growing move to partner to bring new eDiscovery solutions to market quickly. The question is, will this trend continue? Or will Enterprise Content Management vendors start working on their own solutions in-house? Craig Carpenter thinks ECMs will choose to partner first with an established eDiscovery partner - at least for the short term (12-24 months).

Why? Because as we said earlier, eDiscovery is not just about the technology. The eDiscovery market is different -- the risk profile is different.  It' is important to have domain expertise and that is what vendors like Recommind have. It's also what Autonomy is going to need to truly gain a foothold in the market.

Long-term you will see ECMs build this functionality into their solutions more closely, but it will be by a combination of building, buying and partnering.

Craig Carpenter believes Recommind is positioned to do well. They are a software company first, but they have also worked diligently to understand the needs of their customers and built their solution based on those needs. Where necessary, they too, will partner to build the right stuff.

As for Autonomy, well they haven't finalized the Interwoven acquisition so it may be some time before we see what happens to the Interwoven team and technology. What we are seeing though, is Autonomy's continued presence in the compliance and eDiscovery market with solutions such as the Conceptual Search Module and ControlPoint for Multimedia for SharePoint.

The convergence of search, eDiscovery and Enterprise Content Management will continue. Carpenter says he expects to see more acquisitions this year that will demonstrate this. We watch to see what happens. Who do you think will make the next move.