Last week we met with two different companies considering moving from FileNet to a more modern ECM, Alfresco. For both customers, while they liked some of the features and functions of a more modern interface stressed the need to come up with a good business case. This post will discuss the development of a business case with both a hard and soft dollar items for the replacement of FileNet with Alfresco.
FileNet Replacement Business Case – What are hard and software dollars?
Typically hard dollar costs and savings represent the amounts for costs for FileNet infrastructure that no longer need to be paid versus the costs of the new alternative plus costs to move the documents to the new environment. Hard dollar amounts are easy to calculate as they are typically the price of maintaining the old software and supporting environment against the cost of the new software, environment and implementation effort.
Soft dollar are typically associated with savings the new system will bring. These benefits can include user productivity, reduced staff, quicker response times and other amounts that are harder to measure.
FileNet Hard Dollar Business Case
In building the hard dollar portion of the FileNet replacement business case, we would recommend allocating the following areas.
- Cost of the software – In comparing the current FileNet maintenance costs against an annual subscription to Alfresco (there is no purchase price for Alfresco), we have seen the initial cost comparison favor Alfresco. That being said, given that maintenance revenue is often a no-cost item for IBM, it is our understanding that they often adjust their maintenance cost once it is clear they might lose a customer. While both companies will discount the software, it is important to understand that FileNet is not equivalent to Alfresco in terms of capabilities. Some weighting should be given to Alfresco regarding more modern technology and capabilities. Other costs of the software should include the viewing and annotation software. For FileNet we typically see Daeja. We have been able to replace Daeja with OpenAnnotate, a free viewing and annotating solution for our consulting clients.
- Cost of migrating to the new platform – One of the reasons many clients have stayed on legacy tools like FileNet is the cost of moving to a new platform. While not simple, it should be compared against the cost of keeping the legacy system current. Many times clients have “kicked the can down the road” and not upgraded or migrated. Both the cost of upgrading as well as the cost of migrating should be considered in the business case. Leveraging flexible migration frameworks, like OpenMigrate, can provide more options when planning a migration.
- Cost of the supporting software – For most clients, FileNet typically runs on an Oracle Database. Clients should also factor in the cost of the database. For Alfresco, the ability to run on SQL Server, MySQL or even Amazon Aurora can be a substantial cost savings. Other operating environments and add-on software should be considered as well. Alfresco comes with built-in full-text search, something that is typically an add-on cost for legacy vendors. Scanning integrations (Kofax or InputAccel typically) should also be weighed against modern alternatives like Ephesoft or even cloud/digital alternatives that do not involve scanning at all.
- Cost of maintaining the current infrastructure – Often legacy FileNet infrastructures are running on standalone systems that are expensive to maintain. These costs (for example – necessary upgrades due to old versions) should be included with a forecast of costs in the future. Business continuity and hot backups should be considered as well.
- Cloud initiatives – In discussing the replacement of legacy ECM, most clients have initiatives to replace the majority of on-premise infrastructure with cloud hosted solutions. This is an area that favors a modern platform like Alfresco. While IBM will offer cloud hosted FileNet, it is in the IBM cloud and not well supported on better and cheaper alternatives like Amazon Web Services. The total cost of moving to a new Alfresco instance on Amazon would compare very favorably to moving a legacy FileNet system to the IBM cloud.
In reviewing the hard dollar costs, the cheapest alternative will typically be to just keep the legacy ECM system going and invest minimal amounts into the system, something many clients have been doing for years. Unfortunately, maintenance costs for legacy ECM software doesn’t necessarily improve the solution, just gives clients the ability to upgrade to the new version, something that does result in additional costs and risks. Like a car that isn’t well maintained, the legacy ECM system can, and will, eventually start to falter, resulting in expensive or unavoidable expenses with minimal benefits. Clients should carefully consider all hard dollar costs, including the expensive repairs and business interruption in building the business case.
FileNet Soft Dollar Business Case
Lots of items come up to compare on the soft dollar side. Some items we discussed with clients:
- Improved viewing and annotating – Old FileNet systems, to reduce file size, stored pages as separate images making paging a “hit the next button” approach rather than the smooth scrolling of a single document. Add in PDF instead of TIFF and the ability to not only view but annotate with a standard format (XFDF) for export. The ability to quickly scroll or find a later page is a benefit that should be included in the business case.
- Improved navigation – Typical FileNet systems were built with minimal indexing relying on the calling application to maintain the links to specific documents. For Case Management solutions, we have been able to show how users can navigate to a folder of documents with better performance for quickly viewing all documents. The reduction of the document navigation for the calling application maintenance is a benefit as well as the improved navigation.
- Improved capabilities – The ability to quickly combine documents and email them from within the system is something both clients found lacking in their current FileNet systems. What are the productivity savings for users now able to do this function quicker? Other integration to products like DocuSign, ShareFile, Box or other SAAS vendors also can add productivity benefits. The value of these capabilities should be included in the business case.
- Improved support and enhancement – As a modern platform, clients are able to find or hire resources easier to maintain the system. Legacy systems suffer from the inability to quickly fix issues when things go wrong resulting in downtime and unproductive users. These are soft dollar costs that should be included in the business case.
- Product Direction – One item we always quote clients is that they don’t really buy software, you rent it. Understanding if your rent dollars are going to making the product better or funding products or services that aren’t providing any value. With legacy ECM products that are “cash cows”, (see our post on if IBM would ever sell FileNet) it is difficult to see future investments in the software given the disruption it would cause the install base. Alfresco is just about the repository and is investing in the future in areas like Amazon Web Services.
The business case for replacing FileNet can be difficult as, in looking at hard dollar costs, the continued paying of FileNet maintenance can appear cheaper than the migration and implementation of any modern ECM alternative like Alfresco. Unfortunately, maintenance costs for legacy ECM software doesn’t necessarily improve the solution, just gives clients the ability to upgrade to the new version. Like a car that isn’t well maintained, the legacy ECM system can and will eventually start to falter and could result in expensive or unavoidable expenses with minimal benefits.
A better approach is to build a business case that combines both hard and software dollar costs and benefits along with company futures like ECM product direction and the move to the cloud. When factoring in the cost to move a legacy FileNet system to the IBM cloud, the business case for moving to a modern Alfresco instance in the Amazon Cloud becomes very clear, even without the soft dollar benefits.