IBM announced today that it was buying FileNet for approximately $1.6 billion in cash. FileNet, an imaging powerhouse in the 1990s, had lost its darling status a number of years ago and has been lumbering along by offering a mix of content management and business process management (BPM). Last year its sales grew 6.1%. IBM isn't buying a fast mover or secret technological sauce from FileNet; rather, it's buying a large installed base (4,000+ customers) that IBM can sell into.
The timing of this announcement was interesting -- to me at least -- as I received the notice from IBM Analyst Relations just after I'd finished a Burton Group TeleBriefing where I said that the superplatform vendors (IBM, Microsoft) would increasingly prevail in the ECM space, and best-of-breed vendors would become marginalized. I always love it when a vendor accelerates my prognostications.
The number of ECM independents has steadily dwindled over the years: e.g., Hummingbird bought RedDot, Open Text bought IXOS and is attempting to buy Hummingbird, EMC bought Captiva and Documentum, and Vignette bought Tower Technology. This trend will only accelerate: the ECM vendor you buy from today may not be the vendor servicing you three years down the line.