This week's announced acquisition of Global 360 by OpenText had me scratching my head. Didn't OpenText only just recently acquire Metastorm? My mom would no doubt disapprove of OpenText's voracious appetite for BPM firms: she always taught me to take at least enough time to put my fork down between bites.
There's plenty of speculation around as to why OpenText would acquire two very different BPM vendors in such a short interval. Perhaps time will clarify everything, though that's certainly not a given: there are plenty of acquisitions that make no sense when they happen, and no sense afterwards either. Still, while I give OpenText the benefit of the doubt, there are a couple of messages in this acquisition I find hard to avoid:
- Notwithstanding OpenText's claims of "complementary" feature sets, the transaction is not a vote of confidence in the Metastorm technology. OpenText is making much of adding Global 360's case management features to its offerings. But if the Metastorm technology were strong enough, is it not probable that OpenText might have used a fraction of the quarter billion dollars they spent on Global 360 to simply add case management functionality?
- Some customers are going to be left behind. Something's gotta give: having chosen not to simply extend Metastorm's product with case management, OpenText is going to have to find some way to package all this "complementary" technology . Packaging is about picking winners: a single architecture, API set, user interface design, etc. Each platform--and don't forget OpenText's own ECM solutions--has existing customers. These folks are going to be awfully nervous until they discover whether the software in which they've invested has a future or not.
- The market isn't counting on SharePoint Workflow Foundation. Nobody's going to spend this kind of dough acquiring BPM vendors if the marketplace is expecting Microsoft to solve their BPM problems. The message seems to be this: We've seen SharePoint 2010, it has many lovely features, and most organizations will and probably should adopt it. But it's not going to address complex business process issues: we still need full-fledged BPM solutions for that.
In the scheme of things, though, OpenText has done us all some good here, adding energy to an already frothing product category. Thanks in part to transactions like these, the BPM market continues to be an exciting and occasionally even surprising place to work.