Documentum or SharePoint – part deux

8 months after the initial post on this topic… And a few more projects on SharePoint and Documentum alike…

I have 2 big enterprise customers which are both Documentum and SharePoint users. Both got from their CIO the directive: “SharePoint is good, it is fantastic, I want it this year”. Now the year is ending.

It was an year in which my Documentum projects at those customers came almost to a stall. Not completely due to the SP frenzy, but that did indeed factored in heavily. I was also involved in some SharePoint projects (yeah… frenzy mode…) with them, so overall business was ok.

But, what’s the experience at the end? Did the customers go live with SP? Yes. (or else it was their lives 🙂 )

How was it? Ugly. Plain ugly and filling all teams with frustrations, building rivalries and making IT crazy.

Why? Lack of experience.

Deploying something enterprise wide is difficult. SharePoint makes it more challenging because of at least these factors:

  • SP has a totally different architecture and feature set/names/capabilities than traditional ECM and collaboration platforms. You can’t reuse skills or practices. Only the most general knowledge will apply – and that’s not enough.
  • SP is not Enterprise grade. It’s marketing slides and lobby actions are, but deep inside it’s still a departmental tool. The scalability topic and distributed content/installations… the many things under this hat (including best practices) are simply missing or strangely addressed
  • There is a serious lack of true professional expertise in the market. Many can do the talk (eg. MS Services) but can’t do the walk.

And this is normal, don’t get me wrong. All the above are and were very clear to any architect worth his money. But strategies are not done by them, are done by CxOs.

So.. is Documentum better?

For all the above reasons yes. You can count on the old dude to deliver and you can for sure find expertise in the market. Why? Because they walked on this earth longer than the SP specialists. And they have seen many more projects and been through more real life situations.

Is this enough to say Documentum is better? Well… for 2010 yes. Maybe also for 2011. At least in large companies or for non-trivial content management tasks.

I surely trust the MS ecosystem (me included) to learn from current SP experiences, push forward and finally achieve the maturity needed for implementations. My feeling is that it will happen around the end of 2011. So I think Gartner is off by an year when they said in the latest MQ that MS rulez the ECM world. Come on guys, even you don’t believe this… marketing and hearsay is not delivery…

Where will Documentum be at the end of 2011? Not far away unfortunately. Customers need to be conscious that a major evolution awaits in the Documentum landscape. It’s present offering will be completely transformed in the 2-3 years to come (and this is close term in corporate speak). How do i know this? I don’t. I feel it and lie to myslef that I can read between the lines.

Let’s evaluate the main Documentum product roadmap:

–  Content Server  – to be completely transformed (say hello to Information Server). This means DFC should be gone. Big hit. Win or lose on this one for many partners or customers.

– Webtop – ye’ olde’ end user interface is going to retirement house. It will be missed. And nothing mature enough to replace it yet. And EMC proven itself to need 2-3 years at least to mature a UI. An extremely large number of customers use Webtop or a derivative solution which took years to build and mature. What to do with that? Sure… revenue for partners… but who’s willing to pay this?

– TaskSpace (aka. xCP) – based on the Webtop SDK, will need (and will sure have) a rewrite. Oops! That doesn’t sound good. Another 2-3 years to mature. I don’t know what will happen to forms built in Form Builder.

– Centerstage – should have been the new UI. Currently is more of a playground. Plagued by stability and scalability, it needs at least 1-2 more years to reach the needed level.

– Process Server – I always wondered why there is such a product when in fact is the Content Server itself with some 2-3 additions. This will surely need a rewrite once the new Information Server arrives. There goes the core of xCP.

So… Which is better?

Any of them you can make them work in 2-6 months and deliver ROI in 1 year. If not, lay low and let them transform a little bit more.