As part of our recent migration of an over 4 billion document client from FileNet, TSG had the chance to have detailed discussions with multiple clients on the reasons they were moving away from FileNet to a more modern alternative. In this post we will discuss the most pressing reason, the large and growing risk associated with support of FileNet.
FileNet Support – What are the Issues?
FileNet, like other legacy ECM platforms, can often have clients follow a “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy. Unfortunately, after years of neglect, major issues can occur when FileNet does indeed break. In talking with one client, outside of business and usability issues, the client’s biggest concern was, “What if FileNet goes down?”. We often see clients with older FileNet systems have to take a “reboot it” as their only cure-all when faced with FileNet issues, which is an unreliable contingency plan going forward.
In our discussions, we were able to derive a number of different support issues from multiple clients, including:
- Internal Support Resources – Experienced – The most pressing issue typically surrounds internal resources supporting FileNet. Oftentimes the FileNet system was put in place 15+ years ago, and the internal knowledge has moved on to new positions within the company or left the company altogether. While other resources can be brought in to support the system, they often lack the depth of knowledge and experience from all of the decisions that have been made over the 15+ years of FileNet use.
- Internal Support Resources – New – Given historically low unemployment, particularly in the technology sector, finding new resources to train and develop FileNet can be almost impossible. For in-demand technical resources, picking up a technology that is seen as “old” can be a deal breaker, particularly when the resources have alternative choices of assignments and employment.
- External Support Resources – As we discussed in 2017 when Gartner removed IBM/FileNet from the leader quadrant, when Gartner stated that, “Changes in top management and key content services personnel in recent years have had a negative impact on IBM’s content services product development and strategy.” Multiple customers have expressed concerns that the resources available to support FileNet are not competent, despite a high maintenance cost that IBM doesn’t seem to negotiate on. Given that IBM has shifted focus away from content services, we would expect their experienced internal resources to have suffered in a similar way to the clients and have either left the company or moved on to new assignments. From our ex-IBM sources, our understanding is that the majority of resources that formerly supported FileNet for IBM have left or been cut out of the company.
- Risk of Old Platforms/Hardware/Software – With old technology comes old components in the stack. Server components like Solaris and HP-UX operating systems, DB2 and legacy Oracle databases, and optical Jukebox storage are outdated and can’t be easily updated. Operating systems are often on older versions that could be vulnerable to network security threats and also can’t be easily updated without affecting other components of the stack. Older components of FileNet don’t just include the server components but also the client components. For one client, the FileNet Image Services client web viewer required ActiveX, forcing the client to maintain old versions of Internet Explorer just for use with FileNet.
- Risk of Continued User Acceptance – As business users desire additional capabilities, users will be less and less tolerant to accept old systems and the “if it isn’t broke” philosophy. Users who want additional capability or efficiency will continued to be dissatisfied by old browsers and interfaces that do not supply new methods and efficiencies for accessing content. See our related post on adding efficiencies to claim processing for capabilities that are not provided by FileNet but are very important for claim clients.
- Risk of Integration Capabilities – Similar to user acceptance, internal support resources will often lack the ability to offer integration into FileNet given its limited access points, limited knowledge of the API/web Services available, and compatibility with different file types. For example, FileNet does not provide the capability to store and view/annotate video documents. Clients looking for video integration have to look outside of FileNet, despite it being the destination for related documents.
- Risk of Proprietary File Types and Ability to Move in the Future – Related to integration, oftentimes the knowledge and capabilities surrounding FileNet formats like TIFF, DAT/WORM formats, and COLD are being lost as the resources with the knowledge of the formats move on to different roles or opportunities. While TSG has figured out many of these formats, we only developed the ability to understand these formats because we did not find many other options in the marketplace. Clients that stay on FileNet will probably have fewer and more expensive choices in the future.
- Risk of Continued Development Operations Support – As clients move to newer development operations support and the cloud, the ability to lift and shift FileNet and other legacy components will be even more difficult to support. Legacy FileNet stacks lack support for automated installation, containerized deployment, and continuous integrations that most modern architectures demand.
FileNet Migration – Mitigating the Risk of Support
Moving to a modern platform reduces the risks associated with FileNet support by:
- Internal Support Resources – Experienced and New – Modern platforms like NoSQL have a larger appeal and experience base coming even right out of college or other places within the organization. Rather than shun the work of FileNet systems, innovative companies can appeal to resources looking to broaden their experience with the newer technologies or leverage those technology skills for other big data initiatives. As part of the migration effort, the newer resources build up their knowledge to be able to support the system going forward.
- External Support Resources – Modern vendors tend to be more focused on content services rather than having the distraction of other platforms like IBM has with Watson. In picking a new repository vendor, clients can evaluate long-term support and focus on the vendor to best meet their requirements.
- Risk of Old Platforms/Hardware/Software – New software comes with new platforms and hardware, whether on-premise or in the cloud.
- Risk of Continued User Acceptance – New software comes with new interfaces to re-engage clients for increased user acceptance.
- Risk of Integration Capabilities – New software comes with modern integration capabilities out of the box, such as REST web services, without the baggage of old FileNet integrations.
- Risk of Proprietary File Types and Ability to Move in the Future – Part of the migration effort will be moving proprietary file types to more open and embraced file types, such as PDF.
- Risk of Continued Development Operations Support – New software will be built to co-exist with a variety of development operations support, both on-premise and in the cloud.
By freshening-up the content services stack, a majority of support issues around FileNet can be resolved.
FileNet Migration – Why Now?
While many FileNet customers have struggled with an old and outdated system, the desire to properly fund a migration effort can often delay a decision. When looking to justify a move, FileNet customers should evaluate the continued increasing risk of keeping FileNet support including:
- People – whether internal resources that have moved on or don’t want to learn FileNet or IBM external support resources, given a competitive marketplace, keeping and maintaining the appropriate internal and external support resources with FileNet experience is difficult now and will get more difficult in the future.
- Formats – older file formats require transformation to newer formats. The knowledge of the legacy formats is declining as vendors and resources leave the platform and will become more difficult in the future.
- Environment and Integration – Typical hardware and software platforms are out of date and are getting harder and harder to maintain. Corporate decisions and data center moves will make keeping legacy systems more difficult in the future, particularly in the cloud where IBM struggles to compete with Amazon, Microsoft, and Google.
Moving to a modern platform addresses the people, format, and environment problems by providing a fresh and updated take that is more easily supportable than legacy FileNet platforms.
Let us know your thoughts below: