With its acquisition of the Nuxeo digital asset management platform, longstanding enterprise content management vendor Hyland Software builds on its 2020 purchase of Alfresco, another cloud-native ECM vendor.
In this Q&A, Ed McQuiston, Hyland executive vice president and chief commercial officer, discusses the implications of adding Nuxeo's technology to Hyland's healthcare imaging system. Hyland could also use it to strengthen the search capabilities of OnBase Foundation, the platform connecting the company's digital asset management (DAM) system, robotic process automation (RPA) tools and broad bundle of other content management capabilities.
The acquisition was finalized April 8.
You just acquired one of the leading cloud content management vendors. What are you calling the technology you just acquired with your purchase of Nuxeo, as opposed to 'content services'?
Ed McQuiston: The space that Hyland is best known for is now being referred to as 'content services' by the major analysts in our industry. Nuxeo also has a content services product, but they also, through the same platform, have a digital asset management platform, a DAM product they go to market with.
Each of these are really kind of category-level products that are all supplementary and tangential to the content services story.
Hyland has made a lot of key acquisitions, with Nuxeo and Alfresco being the latest in the content services area, and your acquisition of Another Monday giving you a foothold in RPA. What drives your acquisition strategy?
Ed McQuistonExecutive vice president and chief commercial officer, Hyland
McQuiston: We're very much in a mindset of buy versus build as it relates to these sort of category-level offerings, in addition to content services. When we purchased Another Monday, our feeling was that there is a lot of runway in the RPA market. It's a need that's been expressed to us by our customers, which is really what drives our strategy.
Similarly, when we started talking with Nuxeo, the digital asset management technology they employ is something that many of our customers have asked about. It's something that we don't necessarily believe that the best way to bring it to market would be developing from scratch. So you're really looking through the lens of where are our customers leading us.
Where does the Nuxeo acquisition situate you in terms of cloud?
McQuiston: Cloud is the No. 1 thing our customers are talking about. You can't talk to any tech industry expert and not hear about the acceleration of cloud adoption, really resulting from COVID, which kind of accelerated a lot of people's transformation roadmaps.
As for us, that's where we're putting so much of our R&D efforts into offering cloud-native, REST API-based, microservice-based architecture across our portfolio, both for our content services products as well as those other category products. So when we look at Alfresco or Nuxeo, both of those companies really strengthen our cloud-first messaging, and they really offer both to our prospects and customers opportunities to leverage cloud-native.
One of the things that we've also seen with the acquisition of Alfresco -- and that also very much propelled us to do the Nuxeo acquisition -- is this other stripe of the content services market that Hyland wasn't as present in: open source/DIY kind of customer that isn't necessarily looking for a vendor to provide packaged solution that maybe isn't the right fit for their business. They would rather build a solution in that sort of autonomous IT approach. Both Alfresco and Nuxeo lend themselves to that kind of customer. OnBase and Perceptive [a health IT and image capture unit of Lexmark that Hyland acquired in 2017] content products have taken a different approach, which is kind of speed-to-market, speed-to-value, off-the-shelf products.
Are you looking to coax some of your longtime on-premises customers into the cloud, or are you targeting new generations of customers?
McQuiston: We go through a discovery process with the customer or a prospect to understand what the customer needs. The customer will really dictate which way we go, as well as whether they're predisposed to go to [public] cloud or Hyland cloud. We've got the flexibility to be able to answer that. We are definitely proactively talking to our customers about moves to the Hyland cloud, but we aren't forcing our customers there.
We've worked really hard as a company, with our architecture and strategy, to give customers a path forward on the platform they own. And we've created what we call our foundation.
Did you see Alfresco and Nuxeo as competitors? And how is that going to work now?
McQuiston: I think there are similarities between Alfresco and Nuxeo that are much like [Hyland's former relationship with Perceptive], so we'll look to really leverage those. That DAM component within Nuxeo is unique, with a customer base that has different needs. That's where Nuxeo brings tremendous expertise to those customers. We bring to Nuxeo 16,000-plus [Hyland] customers to speak to about whether they have needs around digital asset management that can be met using Nuxeo.
You've kept Alfresco as a separate unit, with its own brand and its own product. Will you do the same with Nuxeo?
McQuiston: It's hard to speak to the content services side until we get under the covers of Nuxeo and really understand the technology in greater depth. You get minimal exposure for any number of reasons -- including legal -- even after you sign a deal. We'll be doing that in the coming weeks and months.
What I can say for certain: We will absolutely be continuing with the Nuxeo products, we'll be continuing with the customers, we'll be continuing to add on to those customers, and we'll absolutely be continuing to grow and expand on the DAM product. We need to look under the hood at the content services piece, much like we did with Alfresco. We've maintained the product and we made it so all our REST API-based components and microservices can now be leveraged by an Alfresco user.
How does AI fit into all this?
McQuiston: One of the things that we're particularly excited about is Nuxeo Insight, an AI/machine learning product that will do a deep dive on content.
One of the use cases they shared with us was around a large clothing manufacturer that they work with, which is storing all of their digital photography in the Nuxeo DAM. Using Nuxeo, they are able to apply a significant amount of metadata to those images to where if they want a picture that contains a specific model, a specific piece of clothing, a specific asset in their library and location data they use the AI/ML engine to do all of that tagging, so that they can get really granular when they're surfacing content. We're extremely excited about looking at how that can play across our portfolio.
Will you look at using Nuxeo technology to enhance search across your content services products?
McQuiston: We really want to roll up our sleeves with this Nuxeo Insight product to see if it can help our customers who have such an incredible amount of content sitting in repositories. Many of those customers would love to be able to see more granularly into that content. We'll look at whether AI and ML can surface 'dark data' that's just sitting there.
I think about healthcare, if somebody has an EMR [electronic medical record], and everything is in OnBase. There's real power there if we were able to surface a lot more data, search the metadata and make it available to their analytics engines for whatever they're doing, from care pathways to population health.
Looking at DAM, which has been around a long time, why is it new again in 2021?
McQuiston: It's really kind of like back to the future. In the case of the DAM piece, everything has to do with the fact that DAM for a very long time was used primarily by marketing departments of the big companies in entertainment industry.
What's happening now is that everything's digital. How many companies have just troves of digital photography? It's exploding, so you have the challenges for customers to apply metadata to it. That's the hardest part, right? That's the manual part. That's the expensive part. When you combine not only that DAM searchability with granular metadata applied through an AI insight tool -- now you've kind of got the 'Holy Grail.'
If you're that customer that I mentioned earlier, if you want to find a particular photoshoot with a specific model with a specific piece of clothing, how hard would that have been? How hard would that have been in the traditional application?
Licensing is such a critical revenue stream in the entertainment business. Being able to find the exact version of a particular character from your movie -- there might be 20 renderings in that version -- [is crucial] because there's different prices for the licenses for those different characters. And so, you're seeing this explosion of digital assets and it's like the old is new again.
Do you anticipate any consolidation or even layoffs as a result of these acquisitions?
McQuiston: Quite the opposite. We're really looking at continuing to grow our headcount. The company has grown tremendously in in the last four years, really more than doubling in size.
Editor's note: This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.