Hummingbird Realigns around Enterprise Portal

Hummingbird Communications Ltd. (www.hummingbird.com) is refocusing its entire operation on the enterprise information portal (EIP) market.

The acquisition-prone, company has been buying and selling properties and shuffling executives to align the company’s disparate business intelligence and back-end connectivity offerings under the hot EIP flag.

With last month’s completion of its acquisition of document management vendor PC Docs Group, Hummingbird officials believe they now have all the pieces to put together an integrated EIP offering.

The EIP subset of knowledge management is about giving general business users the ability to search unstructured data, such as e-mail and documents floating around the corporate intranet, and structured data from data marts, data warehouses and operational systems. "The whole point is giving people enough content from every possible source in their organization, but filtered in context," says Michael O’Connor Clarke, vice president at Hummingbird.

Hummingbird’s plans call for an EIP to be in beta customers’ hands in December, with a product to ship in early 2000. Clients would be browser-based, while the EIP engine would run on Windows NT and Unix servers.

Hummingbird’s traditional base has been network connectivity products, with product families including Exceed, HostExplorer and NFS Maestro. Over the past year, however, the company increasingly focused on its BI Suite, which brought together OLAP, query and reporting and other business intelligence tools.

The PC Docs products can search through and categorize information in documents, Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes, unmanaged file systems and Web content. These capabilities with unstructured data complements the BI Suite’s ability to handle structured data.

Hummingbird formed an alliance in August with Metastorm Inc. (www.metastorm.com) to embed Metastorm’s e-work collaborative workflow software in existing document management applications and in upcoming EIP solutions. The companies say the technology finds and applies enterprise best practices in situation-specific templates, but also tailors information flows on the fly, making it more appropriate for knowledge workers than other workflow products.

The March purchase of extraction, transformation and load (ETL) vendor Leonard’s Logic, just as that company released an upgrade of its Genio ETL tool, gives Hummingbird the ability to transform structured data within a portal context. Hummingbird released a 3.1 version of Genio in late August.

"What other software vendor can put in one room a bunch of employees who understand document management, Web management, ETL, data warehousing, data mining, business intelligence and the connectivity?" O’Conner Clark asks.

Analyst Wayne Eckerson of Patricia Seybold Group (www.psgroup.com) has an answer to that question, though it may not be to O’Conner Clark’s liking. Eckerson says Microsoft Corp. and SAP AG have been moving toward the portal approach, and have the potential to be rivals.

In addition to building up around its new focus, Hummingbird has moved to divest subsidiaries that don’t fit its EIP model. Hummingbird reached an agreement with an Australian company to sell CMS/Data Corp., a time-billing software subsidiary of PC Docs Group, for about $30 million. The company also unloaded its data warehousing consulting subsidiary, Datenrevision, to a German company for $12.4 million. A number of PC Docs Group executives, including CEO and founder Ruben Osten, are leaving the company.

Hummingbird realigned into three operating units: the knowledge portals unit, which includes all PC Docs companies, run by former PC Docs/Fulcrum executive vice president for worldwide sales Fabrizio Mignini; the decision portals unit, with the business intelligence tools and Genio, run by David Young, formerly of Cognos Inc. (www.cognos.com); and the connectivity solutions business unit, which will continue to be run by Julius da Costa.

Barry Litwin, who is in charge of research and development at Hummingbird, says an EIP focus will drive the direction of all the operating units. "It’s an umbrella technology. We want to make sure that all of our products in all of our spaces fit within the portal," Litwin says.