With the Alfresco Content Accelerator available for both Documentum and Alfresco repositories, we have seen a recent surge in modernization and replacement of older interfaces. For this post, we will take a deep-dive into some of the components of older interfaces and contrast those features with modern features from the Alfresco Content Accelerator.
Old ECM Interfaces – the burden of trying to do everything
One of the big issues with older ECM interfaces is the attempt to do too much rather than a simple or structured approach to meeting business requirements. Early interfaces had Windows File Manager look (the initial competition) and while evolving to more web-based solutions that competed against SharePoint or other generic document storage tools, the paradigm of file management continued. Since vendor interfaces needed to “check the box” for the File Manager RFP requirements as well as be simple for sales to explain in a demo for File Manager users, interfaces took a simple File Manager approach but provided added document management and workflow capabilities.
As an example, consider the functions below offered by most older interfaces:
- Ability to browse a folder hierarchy with unlimited subfolders
- The ability to create subfolders within subfolders
- The ability to drag and drop documents from folder to folder
- The ability to search across all folders and subfolders
- The ability to drag and drop documents from a desktop to any folder
- The viewing of only basic document attributes including title, last modified, author
- The ability to add documents without adding all meta-data components
- The ability to add meta-data without looking at the document
- The ability to configure ad-hoc security per folder or document
One of the benefits of TSG providing ECM consulting on older interfaces is the opportunity to see how these functions are used (or misused) in real situations as well as see what customizations clients add to avoid the misuse. For the functions above, all can result in increased errors, inefficiencies, lost content, repository bloat and frustration if used incorrectly including:
- Ability to add unlimited subfolders – With no enforcement of taxonomy, most implementations ended up looking like unstructured network drives or sprawling SharePoint sites as users, without limitation on folder creation, would create different subfolders with different meanings. This unstructured and unlimited creation of folders makes it very difficult to enforce consistency and almost impossible to locate content.
- Drag and Drop to and from folders – Sticking to the File Manager requirement, dragging and dropping, while simple for a user PC, can be very error prone as one folder up or down with a mouse click can result in a document being mis-filed. For many of our early Documentum clients, one of the first changes we would make to the interface was to turn this function off. Modern interfaces offer a large “drop zone” as demonstrated in our Heads Up Indexing functionality.
- Repository Search – We have talked about this since 2011 in regards to how to respond when asked “I just want a Google Search” and highlighted how HPI (now the Alfresco Content Accelerator) focused on a more realistic search. While the capability to search in a “Google Like” way shows great in a vendor demo with a small focused repository, how practical is it with millions or billions of documents?
- Ability to add documents without looking at the document – This was a consistent issue with legacy interfaces as they can turn into a dumping ground of “just put it away” with the only metadata being the filename, date created and creator name. Modern interfaces look to enforce taxonomy requirements in folder and document metadata. The Alfresco Content Accelerator offers Heads Up Indexing to not only enforce meta-data but also reduce errors by having the contributor see the document while indexing.
Modern Interfaces – Structured business solutions
Rather than give flexibility to create unlimited folders and drop documents with some meta-data anywhere, modern interfaces like the Alfresco Content Accelerator provide for a structured and tailored interface to improve efficiencies. Consider the following example of setting up a vendor folder for an accounts payable scenario. In a typical older interface, the user would:
- Navigate to Accounts Payable Cabinet/Folder, browse/search for vendor folder, create if cannot be found
- Put documents in folder
- Put meta-data from ERP system on document
- Access meta-data on documents to create document details (invoice amount, invoice date….)
- Later – have to search – navigate to correct vendor folder to find documents
Modern interfaces like the Alfresco Content Accelerator rely on integration to other data based systems. (See our related article on connecting to anything) to reduce keying and errors while improving efficiencies. Efficiencies include:
- Navigate to vendor folder in ERP system – click “view vendor folder” to launch ACA. If folder already exists, will drop into that folder. If folder does not exist will be created with meta-data from ERP system.
- Add documents to folder – attribute values are automatically brought over from folder/ERP system – index screen allows for viewing of document while adding additional meta-data values. Additionally, the system can take advantage of machine learning to reduce keying (see related article – Machine Learning and Meta-data Extraction)
- Later – access documents from the same ERP link that used to create/navigate to the folder with one click.
Alfresco Content Accelerator – Built by customers for customers
The Alfresco Content Accelerator roots began with an insurance client in 2005 that focused on the requirement of quickly being able to view and annotate documents side by side, something that is not possible in File Manager and still not possible in most “do all” interfaces provided with content services platforms.
From simple beginnings, the Alfresco Content Accelerator (initially called HPI and then OCMS) grew and added functions based on client needs rather than engineering/sales/do all requirements. Initially begun as open source for developers, the Alfresco Content Accelerator evolved over the years to more of a configurable, best practice solution for business analysts to customize through configuration rather than code.
Alfresco Content Accelerator – Interface Comparison Videos
Whether on an old Documentum Webtop, Documentum D2 or Alfresco Share, multiple comparison videos exist. Keep in mind that previous name for the Alfresco Content Accelerator prior to Alfresco acquiring TSG with the OpenContent Management Suite (OCMS) See links below:
- Documentum – Webtop and OpenContent Search Comparison
- Documentum – Webtop and OpenContent Contributor Comparison
- Documentum – Webtop and OpenContent Folder Comparison
- Documentum – Getting more out of D2
- Alfresco Share – Comparison to OpenContent Management Suite Series
Alfresco Content Accelerator – Business Solution Templates
In providing a jump-start for our clients, the Alfresco Content Accelerator comes with multiple free templates – click on the below for additional detail.
- Claims and Policy Management
- Policy and Procedure Management
- Accounts Payable
- Contract Management
- Batch Records
- Corporate Forms
- Construction Management
- Digital Archive
- Human Resources
- Patient Records
Look for more information soon and additional videos soon. Give us your thoughts below.
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