Collaboration, Portals, Social Networking (SN), Document Management (DM), Content Management (CM), Web Content Management (WCM) and Record Management (RM), Digital Assets Management (DAM) – these are the elements and components of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and we hear these key words day-in-day-out. It’s very incomprehensible to align and prioritize these in proper order for end-user usage, adoption and design enterprise solutions to achieve business goals.
As per Gartner report on “Technologies you can’t ignore”, Unified Communication & Collaboration was in TOP 5 in 2009, but for 2010 the scenario has changed to Social Computing – combination of Collaboration and Content Management. What was seen as 2 distinct areas – Collaboration and Content Management in 2009, have merged into one in 2010 as ECM solution. This scenario may further change in 2011 and beyond (wait for latest 2011 report from Gartner). Now, the attention of every CIO/CTO is diverted towards ECM solutions aligned with Cloud Computing and Green IT initiative.
“SharePoint” from Microsoft is known to us as a Collaboration tool and it has evolved from earlier version of 2001, 2003 to 2007 as Portal solutions and new release of SharePoint (MOSS) 2010 is due in April (subject to change by Microsoft) as a complete ECM solution-based package. Most of the techies (MSDN Members, Partners and others), who have the privilege to get beta version and build some Proof of Concepts (PoCs), touch and feel MOSS2010 have expressed and blogged, what is there in new release, functions and features, sample code, sample applications, do and don’t. It’s anticipated MOSS2010 with 64-Bit architecture will make a major shift in Performance and Scalability. Now it can be re-claimed as Enterprise ECM tool.
Interesting phenomena are evolving here and market scenario is changing rapidly. Microsoft’s baby (SPS2001) has now become a mammoth (MOSS) with giant installation base, competing with old players like Documentum, FileNet, OpenText, Oracle UCM, Alfresco and others. Similar enhancements – features and functions are being released as new upgrades by all these ECM tool providers.
Historically, all the products have evolved from single featured tool to a bundled package as ECM. By watching one-another, new releases are planned by each provider at regular interval; this is of-course a major headache for enterprises to upgrade each time. If not done on time, you will be too late in the game and it will cost you more to switch over. That’s why you will see more of migration and upgrade project and very few fresh installations. (For e.g. Microsoft will stop SPS2003 support after the release of MOSS 2010, so by virtue, its mandate to move to MOSS 2010, soon or later)
The Big Question in front of CIO/CTO and IT– What tools is right and how do I select one? Thereby justify the cost and ROI. SharePoint is top most in the list, as choice of tool. We are seeing similar trends and requests from IT, related to:
Ø Replacing in-house tools with new ECM solutions using SharePoint, Documentum or Oracle UCM
Ø Replacing small/mid-sized 3rd Party tools like Sitecore, Kentico, DotNetNuke, dotCMS and etc.
Ø Migration from Jahia, Plumtree, Coldfusion, LotusNotes to SharePoint
Ø Integrating (LoB) Line-of-Business Applications (including SAP and PeopleSoft) and CMS solutions with SharePoint
Until yesterday, in an Enterprise, IT department was more responsible for providing technical solutions for business needs and major focus was on development, support and maintenance. Each project was looked in isolation, based on the project cost and implementation schedule. In due course, these small projects have grown into desperate systems, therefore integrating with LoB and up-scaling is major challenge. Now, IT needs a one-stop-solution. But there is no “one-fit-for-all” kind of miracle, which can solve all these year’s piled-up issues.
Following are some of the recommendations, can help in resolving the chronic issues related to Collaboration and ECM needs of an enterprise.
· ECM tool selection should be based and aligned to core tool features i.e. use maximum OOB (out-of-box) feature as against custom build. (Pure custom build should be bare minimum otherwise; issues may arise during product upgrades and new releases).
· Interface and integration with LoB (line-of-business) application is must to avoid additional project cost and implementation schedule. The product should have APIs to support all kinds of data exchange.
· ECM tool provider should have a strong roadmap aligned with Technology trends and upgrades like, options for cloud computing and hosting solutions with Green IT. Otherwise, in next coming years, one has to spend again for technology changes.
· ECM Tool selection process should be done with due-diligence and assessment exercise: mapping current and future business needs to available product features. PoC is recommended to test the assumptions related to integration, reliability, performance and scalability.
· Regional / Localization aligned with global setting as single instance (avoid having separate instances for each region or division).
· ECM solutions must be aligned with best practices, standards, guidelines, governance, regulatory and legal compliance.
Today, most of these ECM tool providers trumpet that they support all features and functionality with future roadmap; therefore it has become more difficult to validate and verify them before selecting the right-one.
In summary, when you are planning for ECM solutions, look at Performance, Scalability, Maintainability, Reliability, Security and finally the cost of tool – Licenses, Implementation and Support cost. Prepare a business case, Investment plan and roadmap to implement ECM solutions. Collaboration/ECM is not a single project but a series of small ones rolled out in phased manner thru a single tool as a Platform.