I was talking to a client yesterday struggling with decisions on upgrading Documentum. Currently the client is on Documentum 5.3 SP5 and is paying EMC for additional support since 5.3 SP5 is no longer supported under standard support. This is not an uncommon situation with many Documentum clients for some of the following reasons:
- Over the history of the Documentum installation, many customizations have been made to the system that would require rework in order to upgrade to Documentum 6.5.
- Other components in the upgrade/stack would require upgrade to Documentum 6.5 as well. This could include annotations, database, server operating system, PDF Watermarks, full text indexing and other difficult to coordinate components.
- Reduced IT budgets have made the cost of the upgrade prohibitive.
- Business users are not sure what benefits they will get for the cost, risk and disruption of the upgrade.
While the answer isn’t easy, I thought I would use this post to highlight some alternative approaches that clients don’t always consider and highlight some of the costs and benefits.
- Never upgrade without a business justification – One major life-sciences client has taken this approach given the huge amount of investment in their current 5.3 implementation. While they are paying for additional support from Documentum now, they are not concerned at being out of support given the knowledge within their team as well as having a support agreement with TSG in place. Another client went from 5.2.5 to 6 (skipping 5.3 entirely) for the same reason. The client estimated they saved at least $1,000,000 by skipping a release without any lost business functionality.
- Make the system more easily upgradable – Another 5.3 client is working on application changes on Documentum to make the system easier to upgrade. This includes removing most of the Custom WDK/Webtop interface components in favor of a consumer driven interface based on HPI and Lucene, as well as a new approval interface with the Active Wizard. The applications work both on the existing Documentum 5.3 instance and Documentum 6.5 and will ease the clients application upgrade effort. Another post for this client is located here.
- Upgrade just the backend – Most clients only consider upgrading ALL of Documentum from 5.3 to 6.5. (Webtop and the Database/Repository). From reading Documentum Upgrade and Migration guide on Powerlink, Documentum does support Webtop 5.3 with a Documentum 6.5 backend with a few tweaks. For certain situations, this approach might make sense including:
- Support – Most of our clients really want Documentum support for the back-end (DB, Repository….) when things go really wrong. Front-end support of Webtop especially given customizations, is difficult for Documentum and not always needed by clients or supported by Documentum.
- Performance – Documentum 6.5 does offer performance improvements providing benefit with the back-end upgrade. Also, clients look to either replace Verity/FAST with Lucene or other performance improvement components associated with the back-end.
- Upgrade Gradually – With the back-end upgraded, clients can pursue a case by case or department by department upgrade rather than a big bang. For our client that had 10 different instances of Webtop, this makes sense as the easier ones can go first and gradually other applications can be upgraded if necessary.
- Move platforms – Unfortunately, the cost of the Documentum upgrade can also result in pursuing a strategy of changing platforms. The argument would follow that “if it is going to cost this much to upgrade Documentum, why not just change to another vendor for the same price”. This can be especially true after a difficult software audit. While we are big fans of Documentum from a software platform and ECM capabilities perspective, we do understand the cost of support/upgrade that can result in a new platform. Look for a later blog post for a client that moved 300 gigabytes from Documentum to Alfresco within the Amazon Cloud.
Please comment below your thoughts/experience in regards to any of the above.