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July 17, 2023

Anthony Olivier unpacks the MadCap acquisition of IXIASOFT (podcast)

In episode 148 of The Content Strategy Experts Podcast, Anthony Olivier, founder and CEO of MadCap Software, and Sarah O’Keefe discuss the MadCap acquisition of IXIASOFT, what’s on the horizon for the merged organization, and explore predictions about the impact of AI in the content industry.

“By acquiring a DITA-based CCMS, it allows us to offer not just an unstructured XML-based solution with cloud-based content management, but also offer a structured authoring solution for our customers who want to make that transition.”

Anthony Olivier

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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. Hey, everyone. I’m Sarah O’Keefe, and in this episode, I am joined by the MadCap founder and CEO Anthony Olivier. Welcome, Anthony.

Anthony Olivier: Thank you, Sarah. Happy to be here.

SO: It’s great to have you on board. Tell us a little bit about MadCap and how you made that happen, because I know there’s a fun backstory there.

AO: Yeah, it goes back to when I was CEO of a company. Prior to MadCap, we were called eHelp Corporation. We were the founders and developers of RoboHelp, and at the time it was RoboDemo. We sold the business to, I believe it was the end of 2002, I sold the company to Macromedia, if everybody remembers Macromedia, the creators of Flash. They bought eHelp not necessarily because of RoboHelp, but because of our RoboDemo product at the time. It was a Flash-based product and they were really interested in Flash-based technology. They acquired eHelp for RoboDemo.

Quickly rebranded that as Captivate, and decided at that time that RoboHelp and the technical authoring industry was not core to the strategy. This gave us an opportunity or gave me an opportunity to push the market forward and say, look, if you’re not interested in it, we’re going to create a new technology or a new generation of RoboHelp and create from scratch and develop something that was more future-proof, XML-based, and continued that technology forward under MadCap.

That’s what led to the birth of MadCap in 2005. I’ve been in the industry a long time. A lot longer than MadCap’s been around. This has been now what we live and breathe, technical authoring.

SO: Right. Since all of us are all related in some way, somewhere in the middle of all of that, Macromedia gets acquired by Adobe, and then Flash goes away, but Captivate is still here.

AO: That’s correct. That’s exactly right. Shortly after that acquisition of eHelp and Macromedia, Adobe went and purchased Macromedia. And then the rest is history at that point. I mean, we’re the frame maker of RoboHelp and Captivate. It’s been a definitely interesting journey, but definitely a small industry per se.

SO: Here you are in 2005, you launched MadCap. It’s been, I thought 15 years, but more like 18, right? MadCap’s humming along and you’ve got Flare and all the ecosystem of products that goes with Flare. I mean, I think pretty clearly a happy and fairly passionate Flare user base like some other products I could mention from 20 years ago, but will refrain. And then suddenly one day this past February, there’s this announcement that, oh, by the way, we’ve decided to purchase IXIASOFT and its DITA XML content management system. Please explain.

AO: Absolutely. — We’ve been in the industry long enough, you and I, and we’ve been living and breathing this market for a very long time. I think that we recognize that it’s not a “one size fits all” solution for companies. Some companies want structure. Some companies want unstructured. We’ve recognized that from the beginning, that it’s not a one size fits all. Clearly there’s a market for structured authoring. There’s a lot of companies that do it. There’s a lot of companies that offer DITA-based tools, CCMSs. There’s definitely a market for that and a pretty big market. Taking a little bit of a step back, our retention rates at MadCap prior to IXIASOFT acquisition was about 90%. 90% of our customers stay with MadCap for the long haul.

Now, if you exclude those companies that downsize let’s say because of reduction in force or things like that outside of the control of the organization, those remaining percentage of customers that leave MadCap were typically leaving MadCap, although it was a small percentage, leaving MadCap to go something that’s more structured, more controlled, something that had the benefits that DITA offers as a structured authoring solution and more in line with compliance, larger teams, larger content development teams, large amount of content and needed the CCMS functionality.

If customers are leaving MadCap, that’s where they were going. By us acquiring a DITA-based CCMS allowed us to offer not just an unstructured XML-based solution with cloud-based content management, but also offered a structured authoring solution for our customers who want to make that transition or growing teams. We know that the needs of the organization change to be more compliant. That was the reason behind the acquisition. Acquiring IXIA CCMS allowed us to solve a couple problems or gaps, let’s say.

It allowed us to participate in the structured authoring environment or this authoring market offer a migration part for those MadCap customers that are very happy with MadCap, very happy with the service and support that they’re getting, but needed something a little more powerful, needed the DITA-based structure and needed the CCMS capability. We offer that path for them to move along without having to go to market and shop for a different solution. The third thing is we get to retain those customers. As I mentioned before, we have a retention rate of 90%.

It’s a lot higher if you exclude, as I said, reductions in force, but we get to retain those customers within the MadCap family by having a DITA-based CCMS as one of our offerings. Acquiring IXIA, we provided this almost like a future-proof growth plan for our customers who decide to go with MadCap, whether they decide that they want to go unstructured first, get all their content from Word and other formats into the ecosystem, and then grow with us as they grow, as their needs grow, as they do acquisitions, as their teams grow, and then wanted more of the structure with a DITA solution office. That’s pretty much the evolution of why we decided to purchase a DITA-based CCMS.

SO: When you look at this, that’s sort of the, well, I don’t know about tactical, but sort of the big picture strategic view of how those two product sets can fit together or how you can provide a market fit for your customers. Stepping back from that a little bit, where do you see the industry going?

Where do you see the growth happening and do you see these products, and I don’t mean just MadCap and IXIA specifically, but the various products that cover this marketplace? How do you think they’re going to evolve? Looking at this with 20, 30 years of experience and having seen all the different things that have happened, where do you think this is going in the next five or 10 years?

AO: A couple things. I think that, well, definitely one of the things we’re working on currently and was the first initiatives post the acquisition was how do the products talk to each other? How do they integrate better with each other? How do you move from MadCap solutions to a DITA-based CCMS? How do you leverage all the advantages that a DITA-based CCMS has without having to recreate your content?

How can we make that transfusion for customs a lot easier? That’s our first order of business, is to tackle the movement between the products, and then the strengths and weaknesses of each of the solutions, and how do we use the strength and weaknesses of each solution to fill those gaps. We’ll start seeing this over the short term and longer term, is the products feeling like it’s more of an integrated type workflow.

SO: Do you see people using both, like a single customer that would have instances of both products, or is it going to be a “one or the other”?

AO: I see both. During the due diligence process, in the discussions with IXIA, we looked at the customer base of IXIA. Now, granted, they’re a lot smaller than MadCap in terms of customer base, but we actually saw a fair amount of overlap of customers in very large organizations. IXIA has very, very large customers. I mean, you’re talking about SAP, Siemens, Toyota. I mean, those very, very large organizations with hundreds and hundreds of licenses of the IXIA platform. We actually saw there was actually a fair amount of overlap between our customers and theirs.

Siemens is a perfect example. I’m not sharing anything proprietary, but there’s actually some divisions in Siemens that use MadCap and have been MadCap customers for a very long time. But Siemens is a very large IXIA customer. Coming back to my initial point, there’s not a “one size fits all.” There’s going to be certain divisions that are going to be fine with using MadCap products and having more of this unstructured authoring environment without the CCMS capabilities.

There are going to be certain departments within these very large organizations that are very compliant and need to adhere to very strict guidelines in terms of how they’re authoring the content, how they’re managing that content. There’s definitely going to continue to be this overlap between the customers, and we’re not going to try and push or force anything down the customer’s throat in terms of what they should or shouldn’t be using. It’s really, if you have a problem, we can solve it for you no matter what your needs are.

For example, if Siemens decides, hey, these divisions that are using MadCap want to start looking at moving towards more of a structured authoring environment and having more of the CCMS capabilities, then we can make that transition really easy for them. But if you don’t want to do that, absolutely. They use both. But we want to be able to share the content between both.

Bring the benefits of content reuse no matter what you’re using, if it’s MadCap legacy products, so legacy in the sense that MadCap existing products versus the IXIA CCMS and the DITA-based solution that we have now.

SO: I think I’m not allowed to do podcasts anymore without asking about AI. I’ll ask you, when you look at the trends and where the industry is going, do you have at this point a perspective on what AI is going to do to your business and/or a strategy that you can share in broad strokes as to how you’re going to integrate that?

AO: Yeah. I mean, that’s a really good question, Sarah. AI is definitely becoming more and more prominent. If you’re not thinking about AI and how it could affect or is going to affect the workflow, how you’re creating content, then you’re probably going to be behind the eight-ball pretty quickly. We’re definitely thinking about AI. We’re definitely already working on AI integration into our products in terms of authoring and leveraging, allow the author or content developer to leverage AI in creating content.

I think it’s going to just make the technical author’s job a lot more efficient. They’re going to be able to do more, create more content, which is a good thing for us. We want more content. We want to be able to produce more content. We want customers to be able to create more content more effectively and efficiently and more valuable content more effectively and efficiently. AI is going to allow that. I see it being a positive for technical authors. It’s a matter of embracing it and how do you integrate that with the solutions that we have that are going to make the difference.

If we sit there and try to ignore it, then it’s a problem. We ignore it as a potential risk to the author’s role and function within the organization. I think that we can all end up losing. I think it’s embracing it that’s going to be the important thing. It’s going to change the way we do things, but I think in a positive way.

SO: Looking forward at where this is going, and you’ve obviously got a huge amount of work to do in terms of product integration and alignment and just all the usual things that go with merging to companies, but whether it’s inside the organization, the now combined organization, or broadly in the industry, where do you see the biggest challenges that we’re facing or that you’re facing as you move forward in this space?

AO: I think the biggest challenge is, that I think it’s actually an opportunity, is companies are looking to content development or content in general as becoming more and more valuable to an organization. People are not going out there and making decisions, talking to salespeople as much as they used to. A lot of people want to make decisions on their own, and a lot of that comes down to reading the content, making decisions based on the content that’s out there, whether it be web-based content, instructions, user guides, things like that that make a prospect decide on whether a product is a viable solution for them or not.

That’s where the role of the content plays. I think that for us, bridging that gap between sales and marketing and content development, what we call content development, the traditional technical authoring content development, is going to start blurring. The biggest challenge is getting the technical authors to start embracing and seeing that they actually play a role in the sales and marketing, as well as from a top-down level as well, from a CTO level, from a CIO level, from a CFO level, even CEO level, recognizing that the content that’s being produced by the organization is driving a lot of those decisions on the sales and marketing side.

I think that that’s where we see the industry going a little bit more, the blurring of the lines between sales, marketing, and technical content. That brings an opportunity, but it’s also a challenge because we’ve got to start thinking about things a little bit differently. It’s not about just disseminating information, it’s also about selling the product or the services that we’re documenting. The other challenge, I think this is just generally something that we’ve always faced, is obviously resources. Biggest challenge is hiring quick enough to facilitate the growth and innovate on new ideas.

We’ve always been very good on the innovation side, but keeping pace with that I think is always the challenge. We’ve seen with ChatGPT and AI, it’s very, very fast-paced. We need to be able to keep pace with that, and we need to provide our users, our customers, MadCap customers, IXIA customers with solutions and features and functionality that keep pace with what’s going on on a macroeconomic level.

SO: Yeah, which is interesting because when you look back at, again, 20 years ago, we thought we were going pretty fast. When you compare the velocity from 20 years ago to where we are now, there’s just absolutely no comparison, and it shows no signs of slowing down. I mean, things are just getting faster and faster and faster.

Velocity is an interesting one. With the AI stuff that’s coming out right now, I worry about trust and reputation, because of course, ChatGPT has informed me that I have a PhD, which I appreciate, but. There’s stuff like that happening. What’s that going to look like to produce content and make sure that it’s accurate?

AO: Right, absolutely. And that’s where I think that you cannot replace the human aspect behind the technical author, the content developer’s role, because there’s only so much content. You can get as much content as you want from ChatGPT, but the verification of the accuracy of the content, making sure it makes sense, making sure there is some post editing and review process that goes into it. There’s always going to be that role, right? There’s certain industries that have to make sure that it’s 100% accurate. You just can’t afford to have inaccuracies or misinformation.

SO: I do appreciate my medical devices having accurate documentation.

AO: That’s right.

SO: Well, I appreciate your time. This has been really interesting, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the combined company is going to do. Because of course, you’re coming at the problem or the challenges of technical content from I guess somewhat different perspectives. It’ll just be really interesting to see how those combine and what comes out in the mix when it’s all said and done. Anthony, thank you for coming on and answering all my cheeky questions, and we will look forward to seeing you at the events coming down the pipe.

AO: Great. Thank you, Sarah.

SO: 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.