Google should buy Vignette – but not for the obvious reasons

[Disclaimer: I worked for Vignette, but have no stake in this idea. To me it just makes sense.]

Every time Vignette reports a less than stellar quarter, posts like this appear suggesting Vignette is for sale. I have no insight as to whether they are or not, but I do have ideas of my own on why Google should be interested in parts of Vignette, but it has little to do with the Web and everything to do with documents.

A few years ago, Vignette was a pure-play Web Content Management company. They have since expanded their offerings, including the acquisition of Tower Technology and their document management solutions (now sold under the Transactional Content Management banner as Vignette IDM and Vignette VRD). This was partly to round out their portfolio and partly to meet the clarion call of the analysts who were declaring that Enterprise Content Management was the future and the major players should not be left behind. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons, Vignette never really figured out what to do with the document management solutions and they dropped out of site as far as the market was concerned.

Still, under the radar, look at what emerged with the release of Vignette Case Manager 7.3: a BPM solution to replace simple workflow, configurable interfaces to allow simple configuration, support for federation of repositories, and more. Basically, with little or no fanfare Vignette released a sweet document management solution that adds value to the rock-solid Vignette IDM family.

So what? Google is a Web company and Vignette is a WCM company, so the synergies are right there on the surface, or so everyone keeps saying. But is Google really just a Web company? They are scanning books and documents night and day to put the entirety of human thought online. They have a Web interface to their online office suite…oh, what’s the name…oh, yeah! Google Documents. They have their enterprise solutions that operate inside the firewalls of organizations and mostly discover documents stored in scattered databases and directories.

You get my point. Calling Google a Web company is like saying Google is still a search engine. They evolved to the point where they need to look backwards and take stock of what they need to shore up the foundation of the breadth of their endeavors. I would argue that one of the things they need is a top-notch document management solution more than they need Web content management.

Vignette TCM solutions cover the spectrum from document capture to document delivery. This means a Google appliance could scan, store, and make documents immediately available for viewing or use the BPM components to manage a review process. The Record Manager component is DoD certified, so it can operate within Federal agencies where there is no shortage of physical and electronic documents. In addition, the discovery components of the Google appliances could tie into the ability for Record Manager to apply retention policies so documents and records within an organization are not deleted during litigation or deleted before .

In the case of Google Books, it might be nice to have on-premise solutions to offer to publishers that would allow scanning and indexing of the content using OCR and metadata. (Did you know that today’s OCR is better than 95% accurate? It’s pretty darned good, so the process should not be too interrrupt-driven.)

And what about the newly announced Google Health? Vignette TCM solutions have some of the largest healthcare facilities as customers where the solutions are deployed to create electronic health records. Imagine if Google could have on premise solutions that captured patient records and provided and patient option to export the data to Google Health. (Yeah, it would have to be HIPAA compliant, but this might happen since the rules surrounding patient records are going to change with the push towards eletronic records by the Obama administration. Arizona is already doing this.)

Okay, you get my point. Google is a document company with a strategy that could take adantage of on-premise technologies to feed that strategy. Vignette could divest itself of a line of products that do not fit their core business and get an infustion of cash that would allow them to feed their WCM solutions.

I am not saying they should do this. I am just saying it seems like a good idea after two pots of coffee.

More to the point of the title of this post, why do I say that maybe Google should buy Vignette and not just the line of products I mentioned? Because Vignette’s valuation is roughly the balance of cash in the bank. That is absurd. They have marquis customers and smart people. There is a lot to build upon as long as long as there is a strategy and execution.

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