A New One: GrapeCity and ComponentOne—The Future of Doc-to-Help

On Monday, June 11, 2012 GrapeCity announced the acquisition of Pittsburgh based ComponentOne Software.  While close strategic partners since the 1990s, this announcement nonetheless took many in the industry by surprise.

Looking at the history of two companies, maybe the merger should not have been such a shock.  They formed a strategic partnership in the mid-1990s and have both are Microsoft Gold Certified Partners, with virtually no overlap in their product lines.  ComponentOne, is a market leader in Microsoft Visual Studio developer tools, such Studio components for various platforms, Wijmo, and Doc-To-Help, while GrapeCity tools for Visual Studio focus on reporting, business intelligence and CRM. Geographically, the two companies also complement each other, with GrapeCity’s footprint comprising much of Asia, while ComponentOne counts North America and Europe as their two largest markets.

Speaking with TechWhirl’s Tech Writer Today Magazine earlier this month, Dan Beall, Product Manager for ComponentOne’s Doc-To-Help software, added some detail to the acquisition, how it has affected his team, and what fans of this software should expect in the future.

GrapeCity employees and evangelists celebrating ComponentOne announcement. Photo by Russ Fustino.

“Our team found out on April 1st about the acquisition,” Dan said during our video call, “and to be honest it wasn’t really a surprise since the companies have worked closely together for years.” He went on to say that ComponentOne will now be part of GrapeCity’s PowerTools division but will continue to do business as ComponentOne (C1), but C1 will do business in GrapeCity’s largest markets as PowerTools.  “Our entire team is staying and our headquarters will remain in Pittsburgh.  They’ve done nothing but encourage us to keep moving forward with the product and development.”

“Our team is becoming a lot stronger with the addition of more development resources and support, which will enable us to take Doc-To-Help to the next level.”  Software Product Managers are notoriously tight-lipped about future releases and Dan was no different during our conversation.  He did say to expect a faster development cycle; additional content management features, and a continued move toward more enterprise-level capabilities.

“Our current release, Doc-to-Help 2012 V2, which was the last one completed prior to the acquisition, is just the start of our updates.  We’ve now added DISQUS commenting, support for EPUB3, and server-side search functionality.  It’s nice to be able provide some of the functionality our uses have been requesting for a long time.”

Dan remarked that Doc-To-Help’s increasing market share is partially driven by Human Resource departments that need to develop and maintain procedural manuals.  “We’re seeing referrals coming in from our technical communications customers for their HR departments.  It’s pretty remarkable growth, but we know that managed content isn’t just for a user help guide.”

It doesn’t take a wise Owl to know that acquisitions come in many flavors ranging from acqui-hires to MBA textbook-strategic purchases.  Time, updates to LinkedIn profiles, and Twitter posts will tell the ultimate tale of this acquisition, but nearly 100 days into the new world and so far this marriage seems more academic-text book than acqui-hire.  All in all, this is a good thing for the technical communication industry, and for the thousands of users who rely on Doc-to-Help software every day.

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