Documentum will drive Covisint’s communications

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Content management, long considered an internal discipline, is turning outward.

The automotive exchange Covisint L.L.C. last month disclosed that it had selected the 4i eBusiness software platform from Documentum Inc. to create, deliver, publish and personalize any form of communication over its network.

In so doing, the trading exchange made it clear that the ability to control the flow of documents, authorize and verify recipients and track changes is an integral part of b-to-b commerce. Covisint is an independent e-business exchange developed by DaimlerChrysler AG, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., Nissan Motor Corp., Renault, Commerce One Inc. and Oracle Corp.

Sales of software for content management total about $500 million annually, but the market is expected to reach $4.5 billion over the next five years, according to Goldman, Sachs & Co. The Wall Street firm said companies choosing open, extendible content management platforms should enjoy a competitive advantage because it will be easier for them to send and receive e-commerce documents from multiple exchanges.

Trading exchanges could prove ground zero for the projected content management boom. B-to-b e-marketplaces update pricing, availability and part numbers on average four times a year, at a cost of $2.50 to $4.00 per item, according to The Yankee Group.

Documentum will provide Covisint with the architecture for submitting and updating pricing and manage the flow of negotiations from initial talks through the contract. Covisint will purchase the software on behalf of trading companies, which in turn will use 4i eBusiness software to create their own branded environments on the exchange.

"The Covisint deal is the largest opportunity and most visible deal that we could have gotten as we try for traction in the b-to-b space," said Whitney Tidmarsh, VP-product marketing at Documentum. "They aren’t our first b-to-b win and won’t be our last. But they are our biggest and most visible."

Tidmarsh said her company would leverage the Covisint deal in its marketing. She did not disclose specific marketing plans.

David Troung, research director with the e-business tech rankings group of Forrester Research Inc., praised Covisint for making a definitive move early in the document management area. It came just three months after Covisint handled its first transaction and before content on the site became too large and unwieldy to manage, he said.

"A lot of exchanges like Covisint have a reputation for launching first and providing the technology later, but you want to have your content management ducks in a row before launching trading," Troung said.

Make-or-break moment

Mark Baughman, construct team member at Covisint, said contentmanagement could make or break the exchange. "We envision hundreds and perhaps thousands of people having access to each piece of content that goes into our site," he said.

"You need not only a consistent tool to publish, but also a workflow piece. Every buyer, engineer or product-development specialist has to get some piece of content, and each will have to have set rules over what they can control and access. This is not a trivial thing to build."

Covisint, Documentum and database vendor Oracle Corp. created a system that funnels all documents through Documentum for publication by Oracle Web servers. PricewaterhouseCoopers L.L.P. provided systems integration expertise to the system, which was brought live in about two months, Baughman said.

Nick Wilkoff, associate analyst in Forrester’s e-business tech rankings group, said Documentum should prove a solid choice.

In a recent report on content-management companies, Forrester ranked Documentum second, behind Open Market Inc. "Documentum has experience in the core areas of content management, including workflow, version control and administration, but they’ve also partnered with Web companies to provide Web authoring, design tools and support for application servers," Wilkoff said.

Gordon Kent, director of product marketing for content management company eBusiness Technologies, said exchanges are beginning to heat up as solid buyers. Development of extensible markup language templates should allow companies using content-management software to upload press releases, catalogs, requisitions, purchase orders, product fulfillment notices and audit trails to exchanges without much extra work, Kent said.

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