There's a new name for an old company in the library automation industry—Extensity Library Solutions. Last November, Geac Computer Corp. reported its acquisition by Golden Gate Capital, a deal worth more than $1Billion (U.S.). Geac included a number of business divisions, including one devoted to library-automation systems. Although the company is in the early reorganization stages, we now know some of the basics about how the library-systems' division fits in its new corporate environment.
At the time of the acquisition, Golden Gate indicated the former Geac would be broken up—some divisions would be merged into companies already owned by Golden Gate and others would be spun off into a new company. (Part of Golden Gate's business strategy involves purchasing companies and reassembling them in ways that will increase their effectiveness, gain operating efficiencies, and increase their value.)
Events since the time of the acquisition have played out much according to the original plan. On March 20, 2006, Golden Gate reported the formation of the new company, Extensity, which was formed out of several of two of the former Geac divisions, Financial Applications and Industry Specific Applications. Geac had grown over time to include a number of different business interests, mostly involving software systems related to financial management. The company's Industry Specific Applications (ISA) division produced automation software designed for various such vertical industries as restaurants, local governments, public safety, and libraries.
The new Extensity Library Solutions resides as a relatively small business unit within the ISA division of Extensity—much the same arrangement as with the former Geac. In its early corporate history, Geac engaged in library automation as one of its principal activities. But as Geac expanded and diversified, its interest in library automation was dwarfed by the company's other interests. Extensity will be headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, but will maintain the offices of the former Geac Library Systems in Markham, Ontario, Canada; Waltham, Massachusetts, U.S.; and Bristol, U.K. Kenneth Walters—formerly the head of Infor, another Golden Gateowned company—serves as president/CEO of Extensity. Eric van Lubeek, continues in the new company as managing director of Extensity Libraries Division (the same position he held under Geac), and Ellen Isaacson continues as the general manager of the North American Region.
The name Extensity comes from a company that Geac acquired in August 2002, but the brand is now associated with a completely different company. The original Extensity developed software to automate employee-based financial processes and was based in Emeryville, California. The new Extensity is a very large company with a large arsenal of products. At its inception, Extensity will have annual revenue of about $325 million, based on the earnings of its constituent divisions. And according to statements given by Walters and published by IDG News Service, Extensity has ambitions to grow into a $1billion company over the next three years.
Over the last decade, the broad trend of Geac Library Solutions involves a shift in business activity from North America to Europe. Through the mid-1990s, Geac played a major role in the North American market with its Advance and PLUS automation systems (not to mention its GLIS family of library-automation systems popular in the 1980s). Based on proprietary hardware, GLIS was phased out in the 1990s. Advance and PLUS relied on architectures now considered outdated, and libraries using them have migrated to newer products, mostly those offered by Geac's competitors. Geac's current offering, Vubis Smart, has gained a strong customer base in Europe and the U.K., but has yet to show strong sales in North America.
The Business Intensity of Extensity
Since the time of the November 2005 acquisition, Extensity Library Solutions has been far from idle. The number of business activities has remained at about the same level as before the acquisition, though many of the announcements reflect processes already in place.
In December 2005, the company reported its Vubis Smart software exceeded 200 sales to date, representing 597 libraries. In the same month, the company released version 2.4.1 of Vubis Smart, incorporating features such as RSS news feeds, a cashless e-commerce system, faster indexing, and a new global-change capability.
Vubis Smart appeals primarily to public libraries; out of the 200 sales, 166 went to public libraries, 13 to academic libraries, and 33 to museums or special libraries. In March 2006, the company announced the Amsterdam Public Library had finished its implementation of Vubis Smart, which includes the city's main facility and 28 branches. Stateside, the Jeffersonville Township Public Library in Indiana selected Vubis Smart in January 2006. This sale marks the third sale of Vubis Smart in North America, following Harnett County in North Carolina and Westmount in Quebec.
In February 2006, Extensity Library Solutions was named by Medialab Solutions as the exclusive distributor of its AquaBrowser Library search product for the United Kingdom and Ireland. The installation of Vubis Smart at the Amsterdam Public Library includes the use of AquaBrowser Library as the search interface.
At this point, only a few months following a major restructuring, we can observe tentatively that Extensity Library Solutions remains on about the same footing as the business unit operating under the former Geac corporate umbrella. The next year will be a critical one. If its ambitions prove true, Extensity will expand significantly over the next few years through mergers and acquisitions.
It's not clear, though, what impact these changes may have for the new Extensity Library Solutions division. As we bid farewell to the Geac brand in the library-automation business arena, we will follow with interest to see how its legacy prospers under a new name and a new corporate structure.