This year, for the first time, TSG had a booth at both the San Francisco and London Alfresco Summit events as the 2014 Americas Partner of the Year.
The major announcements included the release of Alfresco 5.0 and the standalone Activiti Designer. We will be reviewing the product updates in an upcoming Alfresco user group meetup on Thursday, November 20. Please join us!
Read on for a recap and our thoughts on San Francisco and London.
Thoughts on Keynote
The first Summit keynote was given by CEO Doug Dennerline. The keynote focused on describing the market and where Alfresco is headed. Alfresco paints its competitors as legacy content management vendors, two decades old, being acquired by large companies who need to rewrite or upgrade their closed systems. Alfresco, as an alternative, is a newer technology that is focused on the following 4 items:
- Driving User Adoption – Make it easy; reduce training; make application usable and engaging. We love this point since this is consistent with what TSG has been preaching since day one. This is where we hope HPI and our other products will assist Alfresco with their vision.
- Enable Mobility – Help users work from anywhere, in a secure way, on any device. While we haven’t seen a high level of mobility demands from our clients, TSG continues to keep our eyes focused on this market.
- Providing Content Insights – Content is growing exponentially (Gartner has been saying this for decades), but mining what content is valuable and can provide insights to clients would be beneficial. These analytics would also be helpful in making migration and storage decisions. We strongly agree this is where the market is heading. We’ve seen pharma companies already request that search results in their quality management systems contain both documents they are searching for as well as all referenced documents. For example, return my SOP, but also the Policy and Forms that are related to it.
- Open, Modern, Hybrid – This has been Alfresco’s mantra since day one. It is in their DNA. Older software is clunky and requires expensive support contracts. Alfresco provides a more modern Java Stack that is both scalable and open.
In summary Alfresco’s Elevator Pitch is “Smart and Simple,” which we like and are excited about. That is exactly what we try to do at TSG, take complex processes and provide a simple, intuitive interface for people to work within.
During the keynote, Alfresco summarized their 2014 product accomplishments and highlighted Alfresco 5.0 in a fictional demo scenario. The significant product updates in 2014 include:
- Outlook Integration – We’ve seen many clients, especially in the insurance space, interested in email integration. We are excited to see Alfresco is focusing on this as well. They have added the ability to set properties and start workflows, among other features.
- Records Management 2.2 – This became a hot topic in the Enron scandal of 2001 and has been an important issue ever since. It is a complex topic that we see many clients discussing, and eventually they will need to implement a solution. There are very few people who really understand it. We are glad to see Alfresco is continuing to invest in it.
- Alfresco Activiti Enterprise – Alfresco has taken the Business Process Management (BPM) components of their solution and is packaging and selling it separately. Clients have talked about this for years and we believe it is a good step for Alfresco to market this product separately. We hope it will turn into more sales for them and additional consulting for us with our diverse experience with Activiti. See detailed information on the updates to Activiti below.
- Alfresco One 5.0 – The upcoming release of Alfresco 5.0 was the highlight of Summit. See details in section below.
Lightning talks are always a fun part of Alfresco Summit. It’s an interesting format: the presenters have only 5 minutes to present their topic, and PowerPoint slides advance automatically, whether the presenter is ready or not. Seven lightning talks were presented this year in a 40 minute time slot, so there was very little time between presentations.
Both Ray and Tony presented lightning talks this year. Ray presented on migration methodologies, focusing on OpenMigrate. Tony presented a lightning talk on OpenAnnotate, focusing on the new text selection features added to the product this year. Despite his video playing too slowly on the presenters laptop, forcing an abrupt end to his talk, the talk was well-received and brought a number of people to the TSG booth.
Alfresco 5.0 – What to Expect
The biggest announcement at Alfresco Summit was the release of Alfresco 5.0 – coming before the end of the year.
Key new features include:
- Outlook Integration
- Microsoft Office Services – existing Office “Edit Online” features are being replaced with a more robust Office integration that started in the Alfresco Workspace interface and is now available in Share.
- Enhanced Mobile apps for iOS and Android
- Graphical reporting and analytics tools
- Content store encryption at rest
- Several enhancements to search, including faceting search, actions from the search results screen, search results as you type, and Solr 4 on the back end (FINALLY!)
- New HTML5 document previewer in Share that replaces the existing Flash viewer
TSG is part of the Alfresco 5.0 Beta evaluation program, so stay tuned for a blog series and demos. It’s also in the roadmap to get HPI and other TSG products humming on Alfresco 5.0 this quarter.
Standalone Activiti Designer
In addition to Alfresco 5.0, major updates to the Activiti platform were announced. Activiti was already offered as a standalone enterprise engine (no Alfresco required), but the new release will offer some additional options, including SaaS, on-premise, and even multi-tenant options.
Presented were a tight integration with Microsoft Office (this got customers excited), and a new BPMN designer. The designer is very slick – built on AngularJS – and provides an interface for business users to design workflows on the fly. Form fields can call REST endpoints for value assistance and users can design the flow quickly. The BPMN template can then be downloaded. Trial accounts to view the new designer are available at http://activiti.alfresco.com.
While the interface demos really well, we wondered how many companies would allow the average Joe to start designing workflows. Regardless, using the interface is much more intuitive than writing the XML or using the outdated Eclipse designer – so we may start using it to design and download our templates.
Thoughts on Summit
Overall, the environment at Summit was upbeat and positive. It reminded us of the early days of Documentum where you are in a cozy room with both Alfresco and other vendors… all getting along and trying to assist the client. The Alfresco reps are highly engaged with partners and clients – the same cannot be said of other conferences today.
One of main goals for Summit 2014 was to increase our presence and visibility. From being in both San Francisco and London, giving lightning talks, and hosting our big evening event with Micro Strategies and Blue Fish, we think we accomplished this. We are interested to see how Alfresco handles their latest venture capital backing and how TSG will fit into their 2015 plans. We look forward to our practice growing in the upcoming year with all the new announcements.