The news last week of Recommind’s acquisition had me singing “It’s a new dawn”. Why?Although the acquisition was undoubtedly motivated first and foremost by Recommind’s e-Discovery technology and business, I think there’s a strong chance this will be good news for their Enterprise Search customers. OpenText has the resources to succeed with search in a commodity market, a market focus that complements Decisiv’s differentiators, and a track record of making acquisitions successful.
Search is a Commodity Market
Enterprise Search commoditized years ago. It’s still an important and fascinating technology, but the reality is that most search engines have had the same basic core functionality for some time. The leading broad-market search engines were acquired between 2008-2010 into Microsoft, Oracle, HP, and IBM. Microsoft, Google, and the rise of open source search drove the prices for search software through the floor. That has been in general good for customers. It has also grown the adoption of search, so that it is broadly deployed and has a bigger ecosystem. But it meant a difficult period for pure-play search vendors. Even Google pulled out of the enterprise search market.
I suspect this had an impact on Recommind and was a factor in their focus on e-Discovery. Some Decisiv customers have voiced concerns about the level of investment Recommind could make in search and the level of love Decisiv was getting. In Gartner’s Magic Quadrants, Recommind stayed in the Leaders’ top right in e-Discovery as it drifted to the Niche Player’s bottom left in Enterprise Search.
Now, Decisiv search could get a slug of new love with OpenText.
There are Still Differentiators for Decisiv Search
Search Engines being commoditized doesn’t mean they are all the same. I know this firsthand because as we’ve built out integrations with different search engines at BA Insight, we REALLY got to know them. We’ve become very intimate with all the flavors of Microsoft enterprise search, with Elasticsearch, with the Google Search Appliance, with Decisiv, and we’ve seen lots of different applications across them all. Many of the functions are equivalent, and we can get the desired results from any of them for more applications. But they are not the same.
There are lots of different features and specific differences, especially because many search vendors specialized in particular applications (such as e-commerce, customer service, or legal research). Oracle’s Endeca Workbench has features important to those doing e-commerce search; Elasticsearch’s real-time indexing is important if you are searching machine data. I’ve met many Decisiv customers who swear by features like Matter Search and Quikfind or the ability for text within documents to trigger security groupings.
When you focus on a specific vertical, you get good at it, and you come up with some great tailored features. Users get used to these features. If you take them away, you can end up with a revolt on your hands.
Doh! It’s About the User, Dummy
Ultimately people are just trying to get their work done, and they mostly don’t understand or care about how search works. Keeping focus on the user experience is what works. From a search perspective, this means taking advantage of the best search engine for the application at hand, sometimes even mixing multiple search engines. Leveraging those beloved special features for specialized stuff.
The crazy thing about search engines is that they look really simple from the outside but are incredibly complicated on the inside. This leads to lots of misconceptions, expectation gaps, and a certain kind of myopia. The search technology has to work, but it has to show up in a portal and the effectiveness of the portal overall is the goal.
In our experience, in law firms that portal/intranet is nearly always in SharePoint. We feel strongly that this is going to continue, especially with Microsoft’s new focus on SharePoint for mobile and intelligent intranets. This was what drove our partnership with Recommind to begin with – a vision of providing native integration of Decisiv search with SharePoint 2013 and 2016. You can drive the SharePoint portals and intranets with Decisiv search, with another search engine, or a combination of search engines, depending on what you have and what you need. SharePoint is going through a big resurgence. Definitely exciting times. And in these times, I think Opentext is a pretty good home for Recommind.
OpenText Knows How to Do Acquisitions
OpenText has acquired a lot of products over the years; M&A is core to their business mode (their investor pitch lays this out pretty clearly). There was an old industry joke that OpenText was “where good software goes to die”. But this doesn’t seem to be the case, at least not in the last 4.5 years under Mark Barrenechea. When I look at all the logos and think of the ones I know well I see quick integration with OpenText’s channel, real investment, and integration with their ‘platform’ without losing the identity of the product or the customer base. Certainly LiveLink has done extraordinarily well as a product, and eDOCS has not only kept its place at law firms, but seems to have gained ground. More recently, Easylink and Actuate seemed to not just keep going but to get new traction and new life. These all have ended up contributing to OpenText in multiple ways.
e-Discovery may be the primary motivation for the acquisition, but Decisiv could have a very useful place within OpenText’s broader content management suite. In the legal market, OpenText reports that they serve 90% of the AmLaw 200. eDocs (which was losing market share before OpenText’s acquisition of Hummingbird in 2006) has about 3,500 customers and seems to be on the upswing. That’s pretty good evidence that OpenText can serve law firms well, and a good reason for them to revitalize Decisiv.
Beyond Legal, I think there are some real synergies to be had between Decisiv and OpenText’s broader portfolio. OpenText reports an impressive 100,000+ customer base, has a salesforce that can already articulate the value of search, and could definitely benefit from Recommind’s technology in this area. There’s a lot of ways OpenText could get renewed traction with Decisiv.
Cooperation Helps Interoperation
A big part of our business at BA Insight is integration across multiple systems, including support of those integrations across multiple vendors. We can always make it work, but it’s certainly easier if the various vendors involved aren’t enemies.
In the legal market, SharePoint is ubiquitous. Which raises a question: to the extent that OpenText is a competitor to SharePoint, will that make things more difficult?
I don’t have a crystal ball, but on this point I’m extremely confident that the answer is no. OpenText has managed to maintain a friendly-ish position with Microsoft. It has enough differentiation in ECM (especially in records management) that many organizations run both, and quite a number of analysts recommend using both. There are still competitive dynamics, as every ECM company wants to hold all of your content and not open it to others. But we’ve got tons of experience working between Microsoft and OpenText and it can work well; the addition of Recommind won’t change that balance.
At the same time, SharePoint is in a new phase of growth and change, as evidenced by all of the “Future of SharePoint” news. There is a lot of innovation coming down the pike in SharePoint. Customers who already use it will want to take advantage of a new wave of improvements in the portal and intranet experience of SharePoint. The ability to ride that wave and use multiple ECM systems behind it is quite valuable – which brings us back to Enterprise Search.
Flexibility in your Choice of Search Engines
At BA Insight, we’re dedicated to making our customers successful with search – through pre-built products rather than heavy services. Picking the right search engine does matter, but whatever you pick has to be made effective for your applications through integration with key content sources, metadata creation and management, ongoing tuning and administration, and an effective user experience – one that meets the user expectations set by internet search applications.
We’ve developed a “search engine agnostic” approach, which lets our customers use the search engine of their choice, and even mix results seamlessly across multiple search engines to leverage the strengths of each one. The UI (which we provide through SharePoint) can be tailored without specialized skills.
We use this to provide a deep integration with Decisiv and SharePoint (it’s described below). It surfaces Decisiv’s distinctive features, as well as the commodity features. It also lets you combine SharePoint search and Decisiv search into one result set if you have a reason to use both.
Our customers have shown us another big benefit of this approach. They use it to make search engine upgrades and migrations simpler and less risky. For example, they can move off Google Search Appliance to another search engine with no change to the UI. This also takes some of the edge out of uncertainty in the market. Perhaps, as I predict, Decisiv will flourish under OpenText. But if it doesn’t, you can switch without disruption.
The commoditization of search engines means that there are multiple affordable choices for nearly every search application. The high rate of innovation in search plus the distinctive features in different search engines means that the best choice for any given application might be different or might change over time. Either way, it’s good to have the flexibility to switch easily.
Integrating Decisiv and SharePoint – with BA Insight
I can’t resist saying a bit more about how we’ve integrated Decisiv and SharePoint; it’s pretty cool and I’m proud of it. We’re deep enough into SharePoint that we can make Decisiv appear just like the native search built into SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint 2016. This lets you use Decisiv or SharePoint search, or use both with a single query. To the user it appears as single search result, complete with top search result items, refiners, query suggestions, filters and controls. Everything in the SharePoint UI works natively, such as Content by Search Web Parts, Display Templates, and Page Templates. If you have people who know how to administer SharePoint, then they’ll know how to administer this.
This integration isn’t custom, it’s standard product, fully supported by us. You can use our Applications (such as Visual Refiners and Smart Previews), and apply our AutoClassifier to create metadata. In addition to being able to use Recommind’s connectors, you can also use any and all of our connectors. This means the Decisiv index can be populated with any and all of the nearly 60 content sources supported by BA Insight.
We’ve also made this work for Office365, which is where a lot of the new SharePoint innovations show up first these days, as well as with SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint 2016. That’s consistent with our themes of working on-prem, in the cloud, or hybrid; using pre-built software to eliminate custom integration work; and helping customers leverage what they have.
If you want to know more, you can read about it on our web site and drop us a line to chat about it.
If You are a Decisiv Search Client – What Should You Do?
Don’t worry about the immediate future. There’s every reason to believe that Decisiv will be maintained and not radically changed in the near term. As the acquisition unfolds, look for opportunities to learn more and for ways you can “future-proof” your IT systems so that you can take advantage of the best options over time without disruption. It’s natural to worry in times of change, but remember that change is an opportunity. So look at how Recommind’s new home within OpenText can improve things for you over time.
And share your perspective. We’d love to hear from you, about your opinions on this acquisition, but also more generally about your experiences, your worries, and your accomplishments as the situation unfolds. We’ll be sure to let you know the trends, issues, and positive surprises we hear about.
Interested in learning more about how to combine Decisiv and SharePoint? Register for this ITLA webinar, coming up on Friday, June 17.