One of TSG’s manufacturing clients is currently evaluating Alfresco for control and management of project related documentation. (Proposals, CAD, Specs….). In working with the client on proof of concept efforts this week, we came across a typical requirement for storing email and attachments easily within Alfresco. In the Documentum world, many of our clients typically choose the Documentum Client for Outlook, Notes or some other 3rd party product that integrate within the email client. For the manufacturing client, the requirements and approach was slightly different.
What about my iPhone?
Blackberry, Palm, Web-based Email, Gmail and iPhone, along with all kinds of other connectivity offerings for this global company, are all part of the equation. It wasn’t really an option to pick one email client and offer integration from only that platform. Also, from an IT perspective, integration into a desktop application like the Documentum Client for Outlook requires additional desktop support (not a positive).
‘Email Mode’ versus ‘Index Mode’
Another point consistent with the different email platforms was that a person in “email mode” was just looking to work through all their emails (first thing in the morning or after lunch) and didn’t really want to stop and index items into Documentum or Alfresco. Notes and Outlook connectors, even with swanky drag and drop, can still require specific attributes (Client) and detail about files (what is that attachment?).
One last point is in regards to the logic/screens behind indexing. Does it make sense to have one indexing applications for emails, another for regular documents and perhaps a third for fax or scanning? This is particularly true when custom lookups (client, job number) might require logic to look up and insure indexing is correct.
Easy Solution – How about the Forward button?
An elegant solution for the client was to leverage the Forward button from whatever email tool (iPhone…) to forward on the email to firstname.lastname@example.org. This way, we could technically say that email integration was available from any email device and kept the user in “Email Mode” rather than jumping into index screens. A back-end process would monitor the email box and, based on the user id, place it in his (or another group/individual) workflow inbox for later indexing. The client also liked the idea of blind copying (BCC) the email@example.com to save content and email threads going out as well.
OpenInterchange was built as an open source tool email tool for Documentum with this approach in mind. By leveraging HPI for consistent indexing and some slight tweaks for Alfresco, the client was able to:
- extend email ingestion to a any email device or platform
- stay in “Email Mode” and save indexing for later
- Avoid desktop integration
- Have one index application
- Save $$$ by leveraging Open Source
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