Gartner Report

I’ve recently had the opportunity to read the latest vendor focus on EMC Documentum from Gartner. The key recommendations are around:

- look to EMC Documentum as a strategic partner capable of delivering true enterprise content management
- select your suppliers with care
- long term information management needs could be well addressed through EMC Documentum with their approach to ILM

Nothing startling there then, certainly the second point is one which should be advised of any similar processes.

The meat of the report focusses on areas which EMC Documentum are looking at:

Transactional Content Management – this is a big play into the FileNET area by Documentum and I agree that at first sight it is a credible alternative. My view is that Documentum will need to establish a foothold in this market and look to leverage their position as a true ECM partner with their other offerings to convince customers that their future lies with Documentum.

Collaboration – here the report picks up on one of my biggest bugbears with Documentum….the future of eRoom. Having first worked with the product nearly 3 years ago it was clear from the start that the eRoom product was a problem for Documentum. The technical architecture is vastly different from the core product set and the integration between the two products has been, thus far, poor in terms of end user experience. In fact I would go as far as to say that the recently released Sharepoint Services for Documentum appear to be more powerful than the Documentum/eRoom integrations so far released. Further to this there is my view that eRoom is a poor product for customisation; it is an extremely complex product to unpick and I would advise customers away from too much customisation. In fact this view was reiterated in a conversation with Documentum on a project I worked on 3 years ago. I fully concur with the report’s statement that it is time for EMC to address the confusion that exists with their Collaboration Strategy and how they work with Sharepoint and yet progress the eRoom product.

The report looks at other areas too, notably Interactive Content Management. Despite my comments above the report is generally positive and hits the right note in my opinion; of the vendors in the ECM space EMC/Documentum have the best coverage across the piece. The biggest weak area has been the one which they are addressing with Transactional Content Management.

ECM Standards

The ECM blogosphere is awash with discussions on standards, its a long story but there are interesting posts from James, Laurence and Craig. Looking at these you’ll find links to more posts, I’d encourage you to have a trawl around.

There are a number of interesting ideas, some I do not agree with such as the concept of RSS being the answer, but the one which hits the mark for me is in Craig’s post and in particular the notes about the Basic Content Services noted by Gartner. Whilst this is not the place to argue the merits of what Gartner classify as Basic Content Services it embodies the approach which I support.

The Services which are supplied by the various Content Management Systems in the marketplace do not vary too wildly. By identify these Core Services and starting the standardisation work in this area the ECM marketplace would be taking a big step forward.

What we must not forget in all of this is that ECM is the solution to a business problem, be it managing Regulatory Submissions in the Pharma world, managing Invoices and Contracts in the Financial Services sector or managing Engineering drawings in the Utilities domain. All of these ‘business problems’ have similar requirements which skilled architects can then compose logical services from. Identifying the common logical services such as Check-in, Check-out, Metadata, Content Lifecycle etc… and the behaviour expected of these services should happen long before technical solutions are investigated or designed. If when these are identified the likes of RSS can provide value to these services then lets look at it and put forward a solution based on, other, standards. This should be extended to the security services required of any ECM system, and yes if XACML is an existing standard which provides something which can be used in this area and meets the needs of an ECM system then it should be explored and integrated into the architecture. (Note James had questioned this on an earlier post I had made)

 Sometimes we do jump straight into the technical details too early. Whilst it is our role as technologists to guide the business in these areas and expose them to the benefits of the technologies we have at our disposal we must remain focussed on the business need.

Standards would certainly help ECM especially as we move to the notion of ECM as an infrastructure service, if only the industry would slow down with the rationalisation and allow itself to catch breath and think of some of these things!

Agile Documentum

Due to circumstances beyond my control I’m about to get involved in a small piece of work for a customer with poorly defined requirements, little money to spend and high expectations. Sounds like a recipe for disaster I know. Interestingly they already have a well defined product set, I’m wondering if this was a result of the typical golf course sale!

 Having looked at what has been documented thus far I have proposed a more agile approach to the solution through a series of week long iterations. At the start, and end, of each iteration we will meet with the core customer team and focus on the work completed and the work for the coming iteration. The high-level requirements have been set and it will be a challenge to manage scope. The customer wish to use Webtop so we have an application ready to show and tell and build on the user requirements, during the workshops I will be sure to exercise a strong degree of prioritisation.

I’ve been distantly involved in another project where 7 2-week iterations were used to build a Portal application within IBM Websphere Portal Server and this was an outstanding success; hopefully we’ll achieve something similar.

It is only a small piece of work as the customer initially wants some simple configuration work done.

I’ll post back in a few weeks with a report on progress….

EMC Documentum and MOSS

I’ve just viewed the flash demo of the EMC Documentum services for Sharepoint, available here, and admit to being impressed. As usual with these types of demonstrations the interface is slick and the user experience is excellent. I’m going to need to find out some answers to some questions I have on this new development from Documentum, notably: 

-          how do the two different security models integrate?

-          how does Sharepoint handle the concept of renditions?

-          what customisation options are available for the new interface?

-          how is SSO achieved?

-          how does Documentum stored content successfully navigated alongside Sharepoint located content? 

I’ll be digging round to try and find out some of this information and will keep you posted. I’m also going to try and find out what some of the other ECM vendors are doing about the MOSS threat.