Ravn acquired by iManage – 2 + 2 should make 5
The announcement today that iManage had acquired Ravn Systems was not a great surprise to me. If ever there was an acquisition where there was a clear benefit from synergy this could be it. The technical competence of the Ravn team is not in doubt. Peter Wallquist and Jan Van Hoeke have been in the business for many years, initially with a focus on supporting Autonomy IDOL customers. They were always regarded as a safe pair of hands and a team that understood the fundamentals of the IDOL application – something that many Autonomy support staff were not always very sure about. With the departure of Autonomy to a world of corporate lawyers and commercial indecision (though of course MicroFocus are soon to pick up the pieces) there was a space in the market which Ravn has filled with distinction. Novel technology that works pretty much out of the box is a rarity in the search business.
Over the last couple of years there has been a substantial interest in technology that can offer serious document management functionality and not just the opportunity to find a folder to hide a document in. In particular this involves comparing and analysing documents to identify differences, entities and topics. The opportunities in the legal sector (both firms and corporate law departments) are substantial and the success stories quoted on the iManage press release represent some significant returns on a Ravn investment. There should be plenty of scope for synergy as iManage introduce Ravn to its quite substantial client base as well as giving iManage to exit from IDOL should it wish to do so, or at least make the best possible use of it.
It’s been a while now since there was the flurry of Big Search Deals, with Microsoft buying FAST, Oracle buying Endeca and IBM buying Vivisimo. In all these (and similar) cases the technology has vanished out of product sight and been incorporated into an enterprise stack. iManage is a small company, with around 320 employees, and RAVN is much smaller still. In this case it is very much in the interests of both teams to work as one larger team to gain the best return from the market opportunity. With the Big Search Deals it was more a question of saving some development time and creating an appearance of a commitment to search.
There are of course many other small companies trying to persuade law firms (a highly conservative species) that banking on high tech innovation and artificial intelligence in particular is the road to improving margins and client satisfaction. The challenge is finding a channel to market that has the level of reputation that law firms insist on. The Ravn – iManage deal delivers high technology through a well-established partner. For once I think that 2+2 really will make 5.