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A Million Dollar Question

Enterprise Content Management (ECM) in today's world has shaped up into a vast technology domain, which many market players are targeting from different domain and yes, with different platforms too. With these many product offerings in both content and process management, the customer is confused as they all look very "similar". But that's a bird's eye view. Imagine a matrix of challenges posed by domains and the technical offerings provided by these products, you'll see they all have a reason to co-exist.

So that million dollar question is "What and Why" should be procured and implemented by a customer so the end system helps the organization.

It won't be possible to compare each and every product as this discussion will then go on indefinitely, but let's limit ourselves to create that matrix of domain-technology and compare two of the best players, Documentum 6.5 (an EMC product) and FileNet P8 4.0(an IBM product). The domains which I am going to compare are Financial Services and Insurance (FSI) and Manufacturing (MFG).

The Business Problems

Let's compare the two domains to get an understanding of pain points:

Architectural Roadmap: It is very important that the product should fit in the technology roadmap of the organization. A manufacturing company will mostly look for the product that gives out-of-box functionality to integrate with ERP systems or it should provide a connector to work on engineering drawings. FSI companies would like to have integration with legacy systems with minimal effort and capability to design complex business processes.

Content or Process: MFG is more content centric and FSI is more inclined towards process. FSI's process scope expands from Retail Banking, Mortgage, Credit Risk etc. and MFG has an enormous pile of digital data in the form of technical documentation, manuals, engineering drawings etc. The process involved is very linear but the data size and the taxonomy involved are much complex than FSI.

Security: This parameter is more or less of equal importance for both. FSI data needs a highly secured data model with a larger role/group base. MFG on the other hand, has the main segregation as users and suppliers. Users can be categorized mainly as Editors, Reviewers, and Approvers for publishing of digital contents. After publishing, the access to external suppliers is taken care of by transmittal module.

Reporting: Reports are a common requirement across all domains in general. MFG reports mostly comprise inventory status report, labor utilization, productivity etc. Kaizen reports are useful for measuring the improvement by breaking down the process in small chunks. In FSI, reports are required to accumulate process data like number of active applications in a bank, number of applications processed by an employee in a specific duration of time, SLA violations, etc.

The offerings

So let's take the business scenarios sequentially and see what the two products - FileNet (FN) and Documentum (DCTM) - have to offer.

Architectural Roadmap: DCTM provides services/connectors to connect with SAP ERP system. There are third-party tools available to integrate engineering drawings like Oracle AutoVue. It also provides a range of connectors for seamless integration with systems like Adobe LiveCycle, SharePoint and FAST search. FN comes with a powerful tool called Process Designer which is a drag-drop tool to visually represent complex workflows. Apart from similar connectors as provided by DCTM, it also allows to integrate web services to integrate and share the data with workflows. It provides a solid backbone for organization already having SOA platform.

Content or Process: As DCTM emphasis on Content Management features, FN leverages heavily on BPM capabilities. Most of the content administrative sort of capabilities can be achieved in Documentum through Composer or DQL. DQL is a very powerful feature which allows admin to perform CRUD operations on Content Server. On the other hand, FN provides powerful BPM features like subscription, web services integration and import of business modeling files like XPDL. A workflow can incorporate a web service to exchange the data and can even publish itself as a web service.

Security: The security architecture for both FN and DCTM are quite similar. FN leverages on security templates which associate lifecycle and sets of Access Control Entrees (ACEs). There's Association Property where an object can be set as a property value of another object. DCTM uses ACL to provide permissions, whereas FN uses to restrict on the same. FN also provides Marking Sets, which are associated with a property template. Once this template is associated to any class, the security of the class can change based of any particular value of that property. This results in a powerful security mask, much anticipated in a high security application.

Reporting: DCTM comes with a set of services for reporting called Documentum Reporting Services (DRS). It is Crystal Reports Developer based tool to run reports based on size or type of content, or the attributes of the content. It also comes with a set of built-in reports for workflow status and user performances. So if the system is more content-centric, DRS fit the requirement very well. FN offers a tool called Process Analyzer(now Case Analyzer), which fetches the in-process or historical information from its workflow engine and provides some out-of-box reports on workflows, users, queues and workflow steps. Analyzer uses MS Excel pivot chart feature to display information and the information is fetched by using Online Transaction Analysis Processing (OLAP) concept (multi-dimensional reports).

Epilogue

DCTM is a complete ECM system with rich set of content services. With DRS and other components like Media Transformation Services (MTS), Web Content Management (WCM), and re-usable transmittal solutions it is an obviously one of the market leaders. With some enhancements in its workflow capabilities, DCTM can tap the BPM market in more depth than it has today. FN on the other hand, is at par with DCTM with respect to content services, but got some advantages in designing complex business processes and is much recommended for financial applications.

References

P8 Infocenter

http://pic.dhe.ibm.com/infocenter/p8docs/v5r1m0/index.jsp?topic=%2Fcom.ibm.p8toc.doc%2Fic-homepage.html

Documentum Developer Community

https://community.emc.com/community/edn/documentum

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