Open Text offers US$7m for collaboration firm

Open Text Corp. Thursday acquired another software firm that the company said would allow customers to get more out of their “”face-to-face”” time.

The Waterloo, Ont.-based firm, which specializes in knowledge sharing, content

management and collaboration applications, said it would spend almost US$7 million to acquire all shares of Eloquent Inc., an eight-year-old software company based in San Mateo, Calif. The acquisition is expected to close within 90 days pending approval by Eloquent stockholders.

Eloquent makes a product called LaunchForce, which speeds the delivery of timely information to companies with complex product lines and a distributed sales organization. Its customers include Kodak and Hewlett-Packard.

Bill Forquer, Open Text’s senior vice-president of business development, said the two companies began talking in earnest about three months ago. He said LaunchForce could substantially enhance the capabilities of Open Text’s flagship products, the collaboration tools Livelink and MeetingZone.

For example, Forquer said, travel restrictions at some companies mean that product managers can’t always fly out of town for the most up-to-date product information that may be required for productivity to improve. Livelink and LearnForce would allow executives to send a rich media file containing a video presentation along with a set of PowerPoint slides. Once delivered to the field sales organization, management would be able to monitor to what extent the presentation is being used.

Some sales people may still need to fly in to other locations, Forquer said, but not for the usual backgrounder.

“”Maybe you spend eight hours discussing the content, instead of just consuming it,”” he said. “”That’s a huge, huge increase in effectiveness and productivity.””

Last September, Open Text acquired Centrinity, which makes the FirstClass groupware and messaging server, after a failed bid for Accelio. Forquer said he expects the company to find other potential acquisition targets in 2003. “”There’s an unprecedented buying opportunity in the market right now,”” he said.

Michael Dortch, an analyst with the Robert Frances Group in Boston, said that some vendors may not see the benefits from the collaboration and content management industry’s consolidation they expect. A corporate focus on security and other issues may have put purchases on the back burner, he said.

“”If you think about it from the perspective of IT executives and their constituents, all of them are already pretty wedded to core collaboration solutions,”” he said. “”Implementations and deployments have often been fraught with peril and challenge. It’s been a big expense, both in terms of cost and time.””

Forquer said Eloquent will be treated as an operating unit of Open Text, though no final decisions have been made about the fate of its 40 employees.

“”Our culture, when we do acquisitions, if there’s a role for everyone to contribute into Open Text, we do that,”” he said. “”Now, the reality is that’s an ambitious goal and is not going to achieved . . . we don’t automatically retain everyone.””

Early adopters for a combined Livelink/LaunchForce solution could include high-tech manufacturers, pharmaceuticals, insurance companies or the federal government, Forquer said.

Comment: [email protected]

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