Competition in the Web CMS market is cutthroat. Not a single weakness goes unnoticed. Not a single slip goes unattacked. But it’s just business as usual, right? We all seize opportunities, especially in tight times.

FatWire (news, site) is no exception. Demonstrating as much, the web content management vendor has launched a "rescue program" for Interwoven and Vignette customers who are apparently plagued by their recent acquisitions by Autonomy and Open Text respectively.

What is FatWire offering as bait? Free licenses and "proven migration tools" valid until the end of September. Should you consider?

No-Cost Licenses

Waved licensing fees sounds like a great idea. Except, licensing is only the beginning of any CMS total cost of ownership (TOC). Usually, it is a minor cost compared to the actual CMS implementation work, and then there's ongoing maintenance costs.

Licensing costs will, of course end up on your short-lists right next to CMS vendor names as one of the decision-making factors. And, yes, from this perspective the CMS market is competitive across all tiers. If you’re looking for a cheap solution none of the vendors in this article are cheap, even when offered for free.

Migration Tools

Part of the proposed deal is that you ought to use FatWire’s “proven”migration tools and “services that reduce the risk and increase the speed of migration.” By services they mean the partnerships with Vamosa and Kapow Technologies -- known migration services providers. And they are not free.

Let’s (once again) not take content migrations lightly, as it is a major (and often very painful) endeavor in the majority of cases.

Do You Need to Be Rescued?

We might question whether Interwoven and Vignette customers need to be rescued.

Vignette’s situation is not quite clear, as the Open Text deal won’t be finalized until the second half of 2009. However, Vignette’s Portal technology is still something that many WCM/ECM customers tend to find compelling. The company is still working on other product lines such as Vignette Media. But none of the above is, by any means, a sign of anything solid. We all must wait until Open Text figures out what to do with Vignette and what direction it will take.

Interwoven, on the other hand, has found a comfortable place under Autonomy’s wing. Autonomy is reporting record revenues, is supporting Interwoven product development, etc. Gartner recently gave Interwoven a nod as the fastest growing ECM vendor based on its performance in document management, web content management, records management, collaboration and workflow.

A quote attributed to Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s, comes to mind: "If any of my competitors were drowning, I'd stick a hose in their mouth.”

Should You Consider?

FatWire refers to Interwoven and Vignette as “legacy vendors” and their customers as constrained by “the rigidity of their current legacy WCM products.” Is that only because both of them pioneered the web content management space? The rescue plan is not new in this business, we've seen it before, including the "legacy" spin.

There are many things to consider before jumping to a new ship. Organizations tend to switch content management systems every so often (usually as a result of bad implementations and poor user experiences). While it may sound tempting, such a major decision as switching platforms shouldn’t rely solely on free licenses and a promise of migration help.

Would you take any offer because it seems to be cheaper at this point in time, or would you do the diligence and select a content management systems that best fits your needs? Hamlet’s poetically painful dilemma seems pale compared to this one. But I think you know the right answer.

Do your homework. FatWire's offer may be worth considering, but first know your stakeholders' true needs and make sure any system you invest in fits those well.