I was at a Documentum client this week that is reviewing their ECM strategy as part of planning for 2012 and 2013. Given a somewhat difficult relationship with EMC due to a contentious software audit, the client wanted to review alternatives and consider a Documentum migration to a new ECM system as an alternative to the Documentum upgrade. For this post I will share some of the discussion of Documentum Alternatives as well as thoughts on ECM disruptors, Alfresco and SharePoint.
Upgrade Documentum or move to a different platform?
Like many other Documentum clients, our client is currently on Documentum 5.3 despite Documentum 6.7 being recently released. The client has delayed the Documentum upgrade due to a number of factors:
- Difficulty of upgrading Webtop – Due to a large number of required business customizations, all of these customizations would have to be redone in the new 6.x environment which would make the effort and risk of the upgrade high.
- Funding of Upgrades – From the business side, the business is not getting any new functionality with a Documentum uprade and views the upgrade as expensive and risky, given the potential to interrupt business. In an environment of “doing more with less”, we have seen many clients skip Documentum releases to save money and reduce risk.
- A smart enhancement approach – Rather than tie any enhancements to the upgrade project, the client has developed multiple business enhancements on the current 5.3 platform that will make either an upgrade or a migration easier including an SOA approach. See related post for additional detail. In this manner, the business users are getting something while IT is gradually reducing the cost while increasing the flexibility of either an upgrade or a migration.
We should note that we have seen many positives with the 6.7 release (specifically better performance with xPlore) but typically business users do not see new or necessary functionality that drives business users to upgrade.
ECM Disruptors – Alfresco or SharePoint – Why not Oracle, IBM…..
The term disruptor comes from the successful business books “The Innovators Dilemma” and the “The Innovators Solution”. In looking at innovation, the book discusses that, most of the time, innovators with one technology, based on the mechanism of profit-maximizing resource allocation, can have a very difficult time moving to the next technology and will be “disrupted” by newcomers. For early ECM, many of us remember FileNet innovation with their image solutions, Optical Jukeboxes and prioritized scanners as the leader in image processing. Documentum innovated around document management with different tools and a different target audience.
As ECM continues to mature and moves to more and more of a commodity, it is difficult to see the enterprise software business model from Oracle, IBM or a host of other solutions as anything that would disrupt Documentum enough to justify a move from the Documentum platform. Approaching a cost-conscious business and saying “I know I just spent X millions on Documentum, but I want to spend another X million on (Oracle, IBM…)” To make the move, clients need to have a true disruptor in regards to either technology or long term cost of ownership.
No Cost of Purchase – Commodity Pricing
SharePoint and Alfresco both have a significant advantage as a disruptor over traditional ECM vendors as commodities in regards to purchase price:
- SharePoint – typically has been purchased already within the organization and can be viewed as a “free” alternative.
- Alfresco Enterprise – has a commercial open source business model and does not charge for software purchase, only for software maintenance.
The business model of bundling (Microsoft) as well as commercial open source (Alfresco) disrupts the traditional software purchasing model of Documentum, Oracle and IBM. You might just say, “Well, Documentum could just price cheaper”. An overall enterprise software business model based on revenue goals, sales commissions, maintenance agreements and previous software sales and relationships with customers would make pricing changes extremely difficult.
While neither Alfresco or SharePoint could really be called “free” software, the biggest disruptor for existing Documentum clients is that the costs can be really compared going forward. Some examples of cost items include:
- Maintenance – Alfresco maintenance costs are less than Documentum. SharePoint purchase and maintenance costs may already be paid for as part of a enterprise agreement.
- Development – for those with significant customizations in Documentum, the cost of redeveloping those functions in a new platform might actually compare favorably with redeveloping those customizations on the new release of Documentum. On a side note from the Documentum roadmap discussion, clients looking to develop on Webtop or other platforms should review the long-term viability of those platforms given announcements at EMC World.
- Hardware – typically hardware is being refreshed as part of the upgrade and would involve a migration to the new hardware or virtual environment removing the cost of procuring new hardware for a new ECM solution.
On the whole, we were advising the client not to “boil the ocean” but to really focus on either Documentum, SharePoint or Alfresco and a long term strategy based on a variety of factors and consider a hybrid solution that gradually evolves over time. Most clients are already running SharePoint. Moving selective content to SharePoint or bringing up an Alfresco repository for other content should be a way to gradually reduce Documentum’s footprint if that is the way the client determines to proceed.
Lastly, we considered sharing a technical evaluation (list requirements, scoring/grading). The results of this type of review can be so biased and subject to interpretation that we decided to hold it for now as this post was already pretty long. If you are interested in some related posts here – view our Documentum to Alfresco Migration series of postings or any of the various SharePoint postings.
Coming Disruptors – Software as a Service and the Cloud
We would predict that SAAS (Software as a Service) will be the next disruptor for the EMC community. Best example right now is Google Docs although many other vendors (Box.net) are making plays but hard to see some of the core ECM users giving up control at this point in time. For traditional ECM clients, the desire (and trust) to have all of their documents stored offsite is a detractor from this type of solution but the cost model that avoids hardware and reduces support is a clear disruptor.
Let me know your thoughts and comments.