IBM's purchase of electronic forms solution vendor PureEdge Solutions poses a challenge to the dominant players in this space, an analyst says.
The deal, announced Tuesday, "pits [IBM] squarely against potential leaders like Adobe and Microsoft," according to Toby Bell, a research director with Gartner. "It's a good buy; it's not terribly expensive and it locks out another couple of competitors."
Electronic forms developed by PureEdge can be customized and linked with business applications, enabling the capture, process, and display of business data, IBM said in a statement. IBM plans to integrate PureEdge e-forms with its collaboration products, including its IBM Workplace and Lotus offerings.
For IBM, this integration represents a key value proposition. It will enable users across all IBM product lines to capture information in ways that were not possible before, according to Ambuj Goyal, general manager, Workplace, Portal, Lotus and Collaboration Software at IBM.
According to IBM, customers will now have access to a standards-based interface for capturing, accessing and sharing organizational data.
It points out that PureEdge e-forms are XML-based, and can therefore provide a consistent format for sharing documents and transactions between different applications. Support for XML allows users to rapidly create, manage and exchange forms and documents within their business, as well as with partners and customers.
"PureEdge has invested heavily in open, standards-based approaches for electronic forms," said Mark Upson, president and CEO, PureEdge. "We believe this...will not only [improve] our ability to deliver business value to customers, but will also ensure open standards are widely adopted in this critical market." Bell agrees that IBM's emphasis on open standards is a key differentiator.
"IBM is focusing on open standards and the idea that this is pure XML," Bell said. "Some competing players, like Adobe, [only] have flavors of XML. The notion that IBM can take its process and services capabilities and focus on key vertical application development in the forms space has advantages in cutting costs and [providing] better user experiences."
It solidifies IBM's potential as a market leader, he said. "Competitors all have solution sets focused on e-forms but, in each case, [they are not] as comprehensive as what IBM might be able to deliver."
The acquisition complements Big Blue's fast-growing content management business.
It enables IBM to respond to the needs of customers across several verticals -- government, banking, insurance, healthcare and more -- who seek to improve process efficiencies, according to Ken Bisconti, vice-president, Workplace, Portal and Collaboration Products at IBM.
"(When) redesigning and/or automating business processes, electronic forms are commonly the front-end," Bisconti said.