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Hyland execs offer insight into content services roadmap

After an acquisition binge, Hyland Software pauses to discuss its acquisition strategy and future roadmap, which may include more AI/machine learning and vertical-specific features.

The content services business is booming for Hyland Software. The company added 1,800 customers last year -- 750 gained organically, the rest through acquisition, according to senior leadership -- and the acquisition spree is likely to continue.

Hyland's two biggest acquisitions were Nuxeo in April and Alfresco in October 2020. While they were competitors, "they weren't competing as much as you'd think," said Hyland chief commercial officer Ed McQuiston during a briefing ahead of next week's Hyland CommunityLive 2021 virtual user conference.

That's because, with their open source roots, Nuxeo and Alfresco users were more do-it-yourselfers compared to Hyland's enterprise customers in verticals such as healthcare, who sought more turnkey software, McQuiston said. Hyland plans to support Nuxeo and Alfresco's established customers "as far as we can see in the future," he said.

Hyland president and CEO Bill Priemer added that the company increased the percentage of revenue invested in R&D from 15% to 19% in 2021 as they developed the Hyland Experience Platform. So far, the platform includes an application for web-based document scanning, classification and data extraction.

"We aren't resting," Priemer said. "We're working with a sense of urgency. [There are] a lot of areas in which we accelerate and improve."

Bill Priemer, Hyland Software president and CEO
Bill Priemer, Hyland Software president and CEO, addresses last year's CommunityLive virtual user conference.

That also means more acquisitions are likely as Hyland has made it clear that this is their growth plan, said Alan Pelz-Sharpe, founder of Deep Analysis. Hyland will likely make two kinds of acquisitions to meet its growth objectives: Lower-cost deals to quickly add AI, machine learning and automation capabilities to its platform -- such as the Another Monday robotic process automation acquisition in 2020 -- and higher-cost deals to acquire customers.

"These higher-priced deals will likely be focused on verticals where they already have a strong footprint -- such as healthcare and education -- and to take them into new verticals like supply chain and life sciences," Pelz-Sharpe said.

In discussing potential acquisitions, Hyland chief product officer John Phelan didn't identify specific target companies. But he said Hyland may move deeper into medical imaging, add more natural language processing capabilities, and possibly take on new verticals such as real estate, life sciences and transportation logistics.

We don't intend to force migrations. But when they are ready, we will have this next-gen platform for them and -- along the way -- begin to take advantage of microservices.
Ed McQuistonChief commercial officer, Hyland Software

Phelan added that Europe is Hyland's fastest-growing segment, which may lead to the acquisition of a French, German or Nordic company to serve users in those geographies -- which he characterized as "very parochial" markets.

"We've been a little less aggressive in searching for that next one, but as you might imagine, there's a whole variety of companies we're talking to," Phelan said. "We're not acquiring great software companies because they've got a great [profit and loss statement]. While our portfolio is certainly larger and broader today than it's ever been, it still has this incredible focus on solving content and process problems for our customers."

Content services for vertical industries will continue to be a focus, McQuiston said. Specifically, Hyland plans to give customers tools they can rapidly deploy, customized to their industries, as well as draw up a customer-driven product roadmap of cloud-native content services, moving forward. While that might be standard fare for many technology vendors, Hyland's customer base includes many government and educational customers that use its software on premises.

"We don't intend to force migrations. But when they are ready, we will have this next-gen platform for them and -- along the way -- begin to take advantage of microservices," McQuiston said.

Don Fluckinger covers enterprise content management, CRM, marketing automation, e-commerce, customer service and enabling technologies for TechTarget.

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