Vignette: Web Content Management Wackiness

May 9, 2009

Years ago I had to work as a person poking into a content management system that was costing more money than the bean counters had projected. I recall reading documents, looking at the contents of servers, and talking with in house information technology professionals as well as various content management experts. I came away from the task with a sense that CMS was less of a product and more of a work in progress. Because the client had written vague requirements, the vendor was not responsible for cost overruns.

Then on a similar job in another country I learned that the same vendor was getting push back due to unexpected costs. Since the chatter was the type of baloney that gets tossed around the watercooler, I filed the information in the uncertain cabinet in my mind.

Different vendors were involved in these two content management projects but in both cases, the cart carrying apples fell over. Over the last few years, I have watched as content management vendors raced to position themselves as more than a lightweight service to keep a Web site ship shape.

Vignette 2005

One of the companies that moved quickly from hot niche to hot niche was Vignette. I noted that the company was named a “leader” by a research firm that prepares the equivalent of a horse race tip sheet. I wondered how a company could master information domains described in this way here.

Vignette’s software and expertise help organizations harness the power of information and the Web for measurable improvements in business efficiency. As the efficiency experts, Vignette (Nasdaq:VIGN) helps organizations increase productivity, reduce costs, improve user experiences and manage risk. Vignette’s intranet, extranet and Internet solutions incorporate portal, integration, enterprise content management and collaboration capabilities that can rapidly deliver unique advantages through an open, scalable and adaptable architecture that integrates with legacy systems. Vignette is headquartered in Austin, Texas, with local operations worldwide. Visit to see how Vignette customers achieve measurable improvements in business efficiency and to find out why more companies prefer Vignette.

The description carries a strong message that Vignette was into efficiency, various nets (Intra, Extra, and Inter), enterprise content, collaboration, portals, etc.

Vignette 2007

By 2007, Vignette described itself in this way here:

Vignette helps organizations improve interactions with customers and partners by delivering highly personalized, interactive online experiences. Vignette’s early content management and delivery tools laid the groundwork for some of the Web’s most popular sites. Today, Vignette’s award-winning Next-Generation Web solution powers some of the world’s most recognizable online brands and enables organizations to have more meaningful interactions with their customers and associates. Vignette’s Imaging and Workflow solution adds the ability to deliver and manage online and offline document-driven customer transactions. Vignette is headquartered in Austin, Texas with operations worldwide. Visit

The company had added workflow and imaging, tweaked its description of user experience and meaningful interactions.

Vignette 2009

By 2009, Vignette had morphed again here:

Vignette provides software and services that deliver the Web’s most dynamic user experiences. The Vignette Web Experience brings rich media and engaging content to life for the world’s greatest brands. Our Web Experience Management solutions help improve interactions by delivering highly personal, social, and multi-channel online experiences. We help organizations win and retain customers by delivering custom content anytime, anywhere, to any Internet-enabled device.

These descriptions omit Vignette’s push into eDiscovery, one of the hottest sectors for some companies in the content and text processing sector.

In the news release announcing the deal, Open Text specifically refers to Vignette in this way here:

Vignette has an enviable customer base, deep expertise in Web Content Management (WCM) and global distribution capabilities. Vignette customers will benefit from Open Text’s expanded ECM solutions portfolio as well as their Vignette products being supported by the world’s largest independent ECM solutions provider…


Here’s what Vignette’s financial performance looks like from 2005 to 2008:

  • Revenue down from $191 million in FY2005 to $170 million in 2008 here
  • Income down from $22 million pretax in 2005 to a loss of about $4.8 million here
  • Cash down from $197 million in 2005 to $132 in 2008 here.

The downward drift continued in 2009. More detail is here.


My thoughts on the deal are subject to change, of course. As of May 8, 2009, my view is:

  • Vignette had a good day because the trend for the company was downwards, not upwards
  • Open Text has duplicative products and a tough job ahead to deal with revenue and customer issues
  • The repositioning of the company since 2005 underscores the thin ice on which content management companies are skating.

Will Open Text convert its $300 million buy into a home run? Looks like a long shot from where I paddle in my duck pond for these reasons:

  • Duplicative products make it tough to control costs. Open Text may find itself facing a cost ramp that its financial team may not be able to manage
  • The bloom is off the content management rose. Licensees realize the cost and complexity of creating and making effective use of CMS. Consultants make a great living running self-help courses and providing tips on damage control, but the problems are increasing as the financial climate remains gloomy.
  • More than Web sites require digital information. Systems to cope with rich media, real time messaging, and specific demands of litigation highlight the immaturity and crankiness of some of the highest profile CMS brands.

My call. A horse with a penchant for balking is now in the Open Text stable. The fancy wordsmithing has not worked for Vignette perhaps due to deeper technical and managerial weaknesses? Search remains a challenge for Vignette licensees in my experience as well. Wow.

Stephen Arnold, May 9, 2009


One Response to “Vignette: Web Content Management Wackiness”

  1. Clickability shows how not to write a white paper | Digital Asset Management on July 2nd, 2009 1:31 am

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