Momentum Barcelona 16
Documentum customers, partners and evangelists gather for a last hurrah at Momentum Barcelona '16 PHOTO: Simona Vellani

User conferences in the tech world are a lot like pep rallies. It's where the geeks, evangelists, enthusiasts, technology partners and customers all gather, hoping to rub elbows and maybe catch a quick word with the host of the party.

The party this week belongs to Rohit Ghai, president of Dell EMC Enterprise Content Division. He and approximately 800 others came together in Barcelona, Spain at Momentum 16, Documentum's user conference, running today through Nov. 3.

It is the last hurrah of its kind. Dell EMC sold its Enterprise Content Division to OpenText last September. The acquisition is expected to close in early 2017.

Ghai's fate has yet to be determined. "We're still working on the transition," he told CMSWire on Friday.

What more could he say? After all, hosting a pep rally with either a resignation letter or a pink slip pinned to your chest is no way to end your reign. Especially when you have a keynote to deliver, new offerings and capabilities to unveil, and hundreds of people who have paid money and traveled from North America and EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Asia) to learn about how ECD’s digital transformation strategy will impact their companies and their careers. (Stay tuned, we'll have news of that here on Tuesday.)

No Specifics to Share Yet

For Ghai, who tends to speak poetically about topics like digital transformation and software eating the world, this may be a tough one. He won't be able to talk about his vision for his primary products DocumentumInfoArchive and LEAP beyond delivering on the road map he laid out at EMC World in May.

Rohit Ghai
Rohit Ghai
"We have been working with OpenText doing a lot of planning, but we have nothing specific to share. There is nothing we can execute on right now," Ghai told CMSWire.

Sure he understands that his community would like to know more. "Customers want to understand the new world," he said. What he was able to offer is this: "They (OpenText) will enhance what they have acquired (meaning EMC ECD's suite of products), protect and grow customer investments."

Ghai does not foresee product growth stagnating.

Playing on 'Fear and Uncertainty'

This directly contradicts what Documentum co-founder John Newton led eWeek to believe (Newton hasn’t been involved in Documentum’s business for more than a decade).  “It’s highly likely the Canadian company (OpenText) will not invest in the company's (ECD’s) products and simply let all that IP stagnate," the article states.

Asked about his reaction to comments made by Newton (who currently acts as founder and CTO of Documentum competitor Alfresco), Ghai told CMSWire he wasn't concerned. Not even about Alfresco's offer to swap Documentum licenses for Alfresco subscriptions.

"Customers are smarter than that," said Ghai, adding that Alfresco was attempting to play on "fear and uncertainty in the market."

Being Part of a Software Company is Better

But there is one place where Newton and Ghai might agree: namely that EMC might not have been the best home for Documentum.

"ECD will now be part of not only a software company, but one that understands content and information management," said Ghai. This will be good for customers, he explained, noting that OpenText offers products for collaboration, customer experience management and analytics which fill in gaps in ECD's portfolio. Ghai would have liked to have acquired or built these capabilities, but EMC CEO Joe Tucci refused to open his purse strings.

"We were focused on profitability," said Ghai.

That being said, Ghai said the future was bright for the new products — InfoArchive and LEAP — that were built under EMC's Content umbrella. "They have been well received," he noted. Not only that, but he also pointed out that LEAP offers strong strategic advantages over newer ECM offerings like Box.

“LEAP is the next generation. It is modular. It deals with bite-sized chunks, not the entire repository (like Box),” he said. There will be more on LEAP tomorrow.

Will We Get a Peek at ECD's Future Tomorrow?

It would have been difficult to end a conversation with Ghai without asking what went wrong with the Syncplicity acquisition.

"It wasn't a mistake," he told CMSWire. "We were able to cut our teeth on SaaS and collaboration," he said. The reason EMC ECD sold Syncplicity, according to Ghai, is that it required investment and EMC wanted to focus on profitability. Besides, the market was becoming commoditized, he said.

And finally, the question remains, why did EMC ECD sell for approximately the same price for which Documentum was acquired almost 13 years ago? Shouldn't it have gained in value? After all, EMC's Content/Information Management group has purchased companies and sold their products over that time period.

"We generated a lot of revenue (for EMC) in the interim," said Ghai, adding that well-established products don't get valued the same way by investors as upstarts do.

Beyond that, Ghai said that Dell EMC ECD's future at OpenText looks bright.

The Momentum audience will get its first hint of what that future might look like tomorrow when Muhi Majzoub, OpenText’s executive vice president of engineering is expected to join Ghai on stage.