Sharepoint/Documentum: Today and tomorrow…

Its always interesting when a company as big as Microsoft makes it way into a new niche and the leader in that domain accommodates to co-exist. Make no mistake, its a strategic move from both sides but the challenge is to help our customers strategize ECM solutions keeping long-term in mind. This is my $0.02 to understand where we are heading and how to plan for it.

On several fronts we know that Sharepoint today is not a complete ECM solution. Their primary niche is their UI and it especially makes sense if you went through the exercise of helping your users learn Webtop. And Microsoft blew everyone away when they came out with it and, as always, made everything look too simple. There was one project I was working on where we did the pilot using Documentum-Tomcat-MSSQL, we could setup easily and turned around the demo fairly quickly. We then went into the PROD with that same combination, and the system crippled because of the back-end. The database is like the engine of a car and when it sucks it really doesn’t matter how glossy the body looks or how many watts the audio system has. What shocked me was that when you re-index the tables, it freezes the DB causing webtop to freeze!?!? I haven’t heard of such issue using Oracle – its designed to work with process intensive data in big volumes. SQL server was great to setup quick and throw in tables to get the product out, but if you are talking about enterprise solutions, please be sure to make your pick wisely (Don’t get me wrong, if you have the right DBA’s, you can get the SQL server to work effectively for high-volume process-intensive requirements using clustered solutions). And coming back to the point I was trying to make, content management is much more complex than what sharepoint is offering today. And Microsoft is heading in that direction to become the full solution provider. And if that is the case, on long-term, with Magellan in the EMC’s product line, EMC is going to make Magellan more appealing to its customers than Sharepoint. One way to do this is to offer features for free in Magellan which otherwise would have to be developed. Also the compatibility between the products is going to be in the sales pitch as well. If the customer signed up for seat licenses, between Microsoft and EMC, the company could end up shelling out a lot more money in the integrated solution. Today’s appealing UI might not after all be the “dream-solution” on long run. Each of these companies, at that point, might very well return to the customer to use their product as the complete solution.

So, food for thought on the long-term ECM strategies for customers…

Sharepoint and Documentum will essentially be serving the same purpose on a long-term – much like SQL Server and Oracle. Many large organizations could have both for different requirements and sometimes they both come together for one solution.

* For small organizations, Sharepoint will likely serve their purpose as long as there is a process in place to manage the content growth.

* For complex ECM solutions, Documentum with over a decade of expertise leading this niche will rightly serve the purpose. If the requirement encompasses complex ECM architecture, webtop might find its way to solve the problem. While the light users might go with Magellan or Task Space.

* And for enterprise wide solutions for larger organizations, both the products might find their way in for different requirements. The challenge here is to know when to use a hybrid solution and how. As a rule of thumb, light-weight requirements could be quickly made available for users using Sharepoint. Then there is medium-weight which can take advantage of simple Sharepoint UI and interact with Documentum for content management using Content/Archive services (be sure to work out the details on how the users/groups integrate seamlessly from security stand-point between the two products). And there finally is heavy-weight which serves complex ECM requirements using webtop and/or custom front-end.

Bottom line, it is for the ECM architects to design the solutions keeping in mind the big picture to create/distribute/manage/retain content enterprise wide consistently.

Side Note: For those who are wondering why I went missing from the face of earth for the last couple of months – one word my friend, WORK. No kidding, I had been swamped averaging 12 hr days for 2 months straight… still wasn’t as bad as I did with a startup some years ago, where I would sleep under my desk and wakeup to get starbucks and resume working.

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