I attended a Capgemini session today at EMC World that looked at when to use SharePoint, when to use Documentum and when to consider a hybrid solution. Jon Ludwig, the speaker, did a really good job of walking through the strengths and weaknesses of each solution, the available options and how to combine the solutions to get a best of breed solution.
Jon opened with a slide that pretty much summed up the key differences in the two company’s approaches, (included with his permission). On the left he had SharePoint which started with a UI focus and worked down to a supported repository. On the right he had Documentum starting with a repository focus and moving down to the UI – he pointed out that the original version of Documentum didn’t even have a UI. He described Documentum’s UIs are being ‘power user’ focused which is probably a fair representation.
This was interesting in itself but when you look at it next to the same comparison from a repository functionality view you really get to the meat of Jon’s key points. SharePoint is certainly making huge gains in the space of UI functionality but there’s still plenty of room at the back-end for add-ons from traditional ECM vendors.
One interesting side note was that Jon suggested that as soon as SharePoint adds specific functionality to SharePoint it then becomes a commodity which other vendors move away from. He quoted the fact that when SharePoint added enhanced WCM to SharePoint in 2010, Documentum partnered with Fatwire to move out of the WCM area and into ‘Web Experience Management’. I’d suggest that this is the only the case when SharePoint gets close to an acceptable level of functionality – take workflow for example, I don’t see vendors moving away from real workflow/BPM/BPA…quite the contrary.
Jon danced around the issues of SharePoint’s ability to scale; he stayed on the fairly safe ground by talking about the fact that you would not want to ingest tens of thousands of images, heterogeneous data types or large objects into SharePoint.
Jon spoke at some length about SharePoint 2010’s RM capabilities. He pointed out that SharePoint 2010 has most of the bits that you need to do records management but that SharePoint assumes that everything that is a record can be moved into SharePoint. This assumes that SharePoint can handle the scale and the types of objects that would need to flow in. He pointed out that SharePoint was not designed to be an enterprise scale repository’ in fact he specifically says “Microsoft will likely never offer full repository functionality; it’s not their focus.”
He went on to talk about federated RM as a potential solution. With federated RM you can leave SharePoint content in SharePoint, leave file system content on the file system and manage it all using your file plan in Documentum. His story here was that you could get content into Documentum when it makes sense and the federate content that is not there. Documentum owns the file plan and the records management features but the content can stay in SharePoint (or elsewhere).
When talking about acting as a trusted advisor he made one interesting comment, he said that customers should not just do a feature/function comparison between SharePoint and the traditional ECM system and act on that alone, they need to also consider what it would cost to move everything into SharePoint. He also advised that he liked federated because he felt that you should give your records admins just one tool to use, keep it simple.
In general I think that Jon really grasped the issue at hand and had real, solid and pragmatic advice for customers. He did not bash SharePoint or Documentum, he pointed out the weaknesses and the strengths of both systems and seemed to focus on why the right solution at the right time would give you more than the sum of the parts.
Jon can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.