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March 27, 2023

Éric Bergeron explains the MadCap acquisition of IXIASOFT (podcast)

In episode 140 of The Content Strategy Experts Podcast, Sarah O’Keefe and Éric Bergeron, president and CEO of IXIASOFT, share the story behind the MadCap acquisition of IXIASOFT.

“The question that everybody is asking, and we really want the answer to, is this seems like a very sensible combination, but MadCap as an organization has done a really excellent job with their marketing, and much of their marketing has been based on the concept that DITA is not something that you need. Flare is happy and easy and safe and wonderful, and DITA is none of those things. So, when you say this is a bit of an odd combination, I think everybody’s looking at, ‘Well, wait a minute, there’s been a lot of DITA bashing over the past 10 years or so.’ What do you do with that?”

—Sarah O’Keefe

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Sarah O’Keefe: Welcome to the Content Strategy Experts podcast, brought to you by Scriptorium. Since 1997, Scriptorium has helped companies manage, structure, organize, and distribute content in an efficient way.

Hi everyone, I’m Sarah O’Keefe. In this episode we’re talking about MadCap and IXIASOFT with Éric Bergeron, president and CEO of IXIASOFT. 

Éric, welcome to our podcast.

Éric Bergeron: Thank you very much. I’m very happy to be here today.

SO: Well, and we’re excited to talk to you, since I think the entire industry has been talking about nothing but this merger for the past couple of weeks since the news broke. And so I wanted to ask you a couple of questions about what’s happening here and where is it going and what does it mean for those of us that live in the DITA XML world. And I’ll guess I’ll lead with the obvious question, which is why sell IXIASOFT to MadCap?

ÉB: Yeah, very good question. Unfortunately, I will have to give you some background before answering that question, and I will try to do that very quickly. Six years ago, IXIASOFT was a very traditional software publisher. We were selling perpetual licenses with a yearly maintenance plan. We were installing the system on-prem, customer side. And the product was a desktop application connecting with the backend server. So very traditional.

And six years ago, we decided to change the business model and provide to our customers a SaaS solution. So we had to change the business model to provide subscriptions. We had to change the product to move from a desktop application to a web-based application. We also had to put in place a new team to manage the hosting and the management of the solution. And we knew that it would take approximately five years to do all that work. And we were near the end of that five year period.

So the timing was good for us to look, “Okay, what’s next for IXIA? What will be the next growing phase? What should we do to grow, continue to grow?” And at that time, MadCap arrived with Battery and they contacted me. And they had a plan. And we listened to their plan, and we discuss it with them. And finally, we realized that the timing was perfect. I think the story and the plan, the project is great, and that’s why we decided to sell. And also because I will turn 60 very soon and I was starting to think about my retirement. It’s true. But really, the driver was really the plan, the project, I think they had something interesting to propose and that’s why.

SO: So what can you tell us about that plan or that vision? What is the vision for the combined company that you can share?

ÉB: And again, I was a teacher in the past, so I need to explain things. But for me, there’s a spectrum of solutions on the market. And some solutions provide the ability to manage documents, other systems provide the ability to manage more components, and some systems manage components with structure. And I think with the combination of MadCap and IXIA, the last two, we will be able to provide that to the market. We will be able to provide a component system to create unstructured components with MadCap Flare and Central. And with this IXIASOFT CCMS, we will be able to provide the tool that will let our customer manage components and very structured components.

So that’s the goal, I think it’s to have a broader offer and propose to the market a solution that will let them move from unstructured on-component systems like Word and FrameMaker, move them to Flare and Central. And eventually, if they need more structure, they will be able to move to the CCMS. And I think that’s a great project.

And the other reason why I was interested to proceed with that transaction is also because MadCap, they had some big customers that outgrow their solution. And they were looking for a more structured system. And IXIA will be the place they will go. So that will make the IXIA customer base grow. And that was a guarantee for us that we will have more customers, they will keep the product, they will continue to improve the product, and that will also increase the customer base. So that’s also an answer to your first question. But that was also the other reason why I was interested in that transaction. And I think for the market it’s great to have those two products together in the same organization.

SO: So I know that you and Madcap, both IXIA and Madcap have said in the short run, “Nothing is changing. Do not panic. Remain calm.” But looking at this a little bit more long-term, what kinds of changes should IXIA, or for that matter, Flare customers expect in the midterm? Six months, a year, five years, what does that look like?

ÉB: Yeah. For the next six months nothing will change, really. It’ll continue to be the same. However, IXIA for example, we will have a user conference at the end of May in Munich. This year the user conference will be in Europe. And we will have MadCap customers that will come to the IXIASOFT user conference. Because some of the MadCap customers are interested to learn more about DITA and maybe use that eventually. And we will provide to them a path from Flare Central to IXIA CCMS. So those are small changes, but we will start to see MadCap customers maybe more in the IXIASOFT CCMS community. But internally nothing will really change.

Over in the next year, two years, what we want to do is really propose to the market some tool to make the content move more fluently from Flare, Central to the CCMS. So we’ll have an importer, for example, to import Flare content to the CCMS. That will arrive probably after the first six months, but it will be there. And that will clarify the path for customers moving from Word to Flare, and eventually from Flare to the CCMS, to DITA. So that we will see in the future.

And more midterm, long term, I can say that Battery, you mentioned Battery previously, we talked about that, they decided to invest in MadCap and IXIA, but they want to continue to make that combination grow. Maybe eventually there will be other acquisitions to continue to complete the offering and to propose to the market a broader offer for people that want to create and publish content. So that will probably happen eventually.

SO: So what do you think this looks like in sort of in that five years down the road? My track record on five years is not very good, I don’t know about you. But what do you see as the big picture vision in that longer term timeframe?

ÉB: Agree with you, five years in technology is very long. And I’m not the best for visionary things. One thing I really believe is technical documentation, but documentation in general will change a lot. We are moving definitely from books to components. In the past we were providing documentation with books and manuals. Now, for me, documentation is more and more knowledge base. And there will be more and more modern tools to publish that information. ChatBot, for example. ChatBot will ask questions to users. With the answer, they will find the relevant content, then they will push that to the end user. We will have tools like Fluid Topics, Zoom and Congility that will be used more and more. So we need to create content that is compliant or compatible with those tools. And I think component systems are very good systems to create content that can be leveraged by those modern tools.

The other thing is, for sure, in the past there were a lot of text and picture diagrams. I’m pretty sure we’ll have more and more video, audio, augmented reality, virtual reality objects too. So that’s the future of the documentation. And our tools will have to provide the functionality to create those contents, but also to publish those contents. So that’s the future of our world, I think. I don’t know exactly how we will navigate in that evolution, but it’s definitely for me I’m sure it’s going in that direction.

SO: So I guess the question that everybody is asking and we really want the answer to is this seems like a very sensible combination, but MadCap as an organization has done a really, really excellent job with their marketing. And much of their marketing has been based on the concept that DITA is not something that you need. That Flare is happy and easy and safe and wonderful, and DITA is none of those things, right? And you don’t need it and it’s just generally not great. So when you say this is a bit of an odd combination, I mean, I think that’s what everybody’s looking at is that, well, wait a minute, there’s been a lot of DITA bashing over the past 10 years or so. So what do you do with that?

ÉB: Yeah, it’s funny that you mentioned that, because after my first call with Battery and MadCap, I went to the MadCap website. And I look at that saying, “Oh, how can we work together? We’re so different.” But when you are selling a product, you are doing the best marketing pitch to sell it. And not having a DITA tool, they had to do that. And so I fully understand. But we talk about it and you probably realize that all that information was removed from their website after the transaction, because they had to do that to promote their product, but they don’t need that anymore. And it’s the opposite now. They need to embrace DITA and put DITA at the right place. And it’s true. And I still believe that not everybody needs DITA. Some organizations, they don’t need that highly structured content. And so it’s okay to produce content that is not very structured. If it answers your needs, it’s fine.

Maybe eventually they will need more structure, and the good news now they have a solution for that. We can propose to the market the path to move to higher structured content. And what we want to do is provide tools that will let you move from unstructured components to structured components. So yeah, it was funny to see that on their website, it’s funny to see that disappear now. And now we will put on our website content that will explain the new reality. But I fully understand it was… And you’re right, we were a little bit like an odd couple, but we’re learning to live together now and I really believe that it’ll work very well.

SO: I have some questions about who’s the neat one and who’s the not so neat one, but I think we’ll set that aside. Is there anything else that people should know? Things that I haven’t asked you about, but information that you want to make sure is out there about this merger transition?

ÉB: Maybe one thing I would like to share with you is the fact that, for me, it was my first experience selling my company really, and I was really happy to do it with MadCap. And especially because Anthony, the CEO of MadCap and I, we share a lot of values, same values. And when you look at the history of Antony, he founded MadCap 17 years ago with friends. He was working before at eHelp. And they worked together for a long time. They grew organically all those years. And it’s the same for IXIA. If you look at the IXIA team, we are working all together for a long time, very, very long time. And 20 years, 25 years, some of them. And we have the same experience a little bit.

So I think this transaction, this merger was interesting and went very well. Because when Anthony and I, we were talking, we were at the same place. We were able to understand each other. And I believe that that merge will work because of that and because people working on both organizations share the same values. And for me it was really, really important. And that’s another reason why I accepted to enter in that transaction because I wanted to make sure that my team, my customers, and I say my, but IXIA is not a one-man show. It was really the IXIA team, the IXIA customer base. I’m sure they will be respected in that process and they will be happy in the future. So that’s just another thing I wanted to say.

SO: Well, and that’s an interesting point because we always talk about how… I mean, the work that we do and everything else, it’s about people, right? It looks like a technology problem, but it’s always about the people. And I guess here again, we’ve fallen or I’ve at least fallen into that trap of saying, tell us about the technology, tell us about the integration. And you’re saying, well actually, as always, it is about the people. So yeah, that’s a great point. I think I’ll leave it there. So Éric, thank you for being here and sharing this background and this information.

ÉB: I was really happy and thank you for the invitation.

SO: And congratulations to you and the whole team and to the MadCap team and Anthony and all the rest of them.

ÉB: Thank you.

SO: And with that, thank you for listening to the Content Strategy Experts podcast, brought to you by Scriptorium. For more information, visit or check the show notes for relevant links.