SharePoint vs eRoom, or Microsoft vs the World?


I’ve been discussing this topic of late. I haven’t been able to dive into SharePoint since my last post, but I have had some rather interesting things come up on this topic and wanted to share.

Josh Maher came up with quite an interesting view in his blog. SharePoint is for Microsoft people, and eRoom is for everyone else. His arguments seem sound until one detail comes forward, eRoom only works on Microsoft platforms. I don’t want to address the future here, just the present. eRoom requires:

  1. A database. SQL Server 2000, SQL Server 2005, or an embedded SQL database that installs onto windows.
  2. Windows Server 2000 or 2003 with Internet Information Services (IIS) installed.

Doesn’t sound very anti-Microsoft to me. The difference here, as Josh points out, is that SharePoint works closely with all the latest Microsoft products. However, the latest SharePoint server also needs those newer products to fully garner all of the benefits. Microsoft wants you to upgrade your Office suite. That is more money in their pocket. When eRoom makes a release, they don’t typically require you to have the latest version of all the integrated products.

Josh does say that eRoom seems to be more aimed at non-Microsoft users. This brings me to another point that a colleague made. eRoom looks last century. The basic user interface hasn’t changed in quite some time. Now I argue that this is because it works very well. I have seen eRoom become viral in an organization. Some of its biggest critics have become some of its biggest users. It grows on you in a good way. Yes it is simple to look at and yes I could create many of its functions in a short period of time. However, to make it as easy to manage, use, and customize could take a while.

SharePoint looks new, because it is. They are still trying to hit their sweet spot. Neither can handle incredibly large volumes of content. SharePoint because they store their content as BLOB objects in their database. eRoom because of self-imposed limits to keep performance quick. However, plugging an ECM system behind it makes it suitable for the Enterprise. SharePoint wins here. Even taking the poor integration with Content Server out of the picture, SharePoint allows you to have Web Parts that work with any ECM system. Documentum already has some, giving SharePoint a better Enterprise story.

What would I do if I had to help a client choose? Well, if they just needed collaboration that could be stood up quickly and not handle massive amounts of content, I’d have them look at eRoom first. If they were using, or were about to use, Office 2007, I’d have them take a close look at SharePoint. If they had a lot of Content, then some ECM, like Documentum, product would have to either be part of the solution, or the whole thing. From there, it all depends. What their plans are in the future? Do they have other ECM needs? How does this fit into their Enterprise Architecture (if they even have one)?

Of course, there is one last point against eRoom right now…A new back-end design is coming out soon. Getting assurances as to the cost and level-of-effort of any migration effort would have to be collected from EMC. While the end point will be a much more robust and Enterprise capable system, if you have to migrate to it and not start from scratch, you have to consider it a negative for now.

For the record, I love eRoom. It is just in a tenuous spot in its life that needs some careful watching from the ECM world and care-taking from its product team. Besides no product is perfect for every situation.

9 thoughts on “SharePoint vs eRoom, or Microsoft vs the World?

  1. The folks at EMC have been working on the new release of eRoom for quite some time and the project is called “Phoenix”. They will continue to support the current release (7.x) of eRoom until 2011 I believe. I have recommended to my clients that they stay with 7.x until the next major release of eRoom. At least for those clients that are using dashboards and don’t care as much about the ECM portion. For those clients going to D6, then the new eRoom may make sense. For standalones, not so much yet.

    BTW, for one of our clients, we use the XML and COM API’s of eRoom 7.x to populate eRoom databases, calendars, attachments, project plans etc with data from an external Oracle Enterprise Database.

    We also are in the midst of integrating it with a different ECM product (not Documentum – Don’t ask) via the API and it works beautifully. (This client also has Documentum for BPM only and that is being integrated via API programming. Content entered into eRoom triggers events that start a business process in Documentum. Similarly, business processes in Documentum will be configured to allow collaboration in eRoom along with programmatic return to the Business Process when certain actions in eRoom are performed.

    I have been and continue to be a big fan of eRoom and will probably be one for quite some time. So, take my ramblings with that in mind.

    One area that I disagree with you on is about the requirement for more or less ECM. Depending on what you want to do with the content, eRoom should handle it just fine. If you need collaboration around that content, eRoom can handle it. If you need workflow, it can do that to an extent as well but more so with the API. I would use the ECM for workflow anyways. Perhaps via the new WEBTOP for transactional content called TAskSpace.

    I think I’ve written enough.

    Take care

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  2. I guess we can agree to disagree. I have had two different clients that quickly pushed through the limits of eRoom and needed the Content Server behind the scenes to beef it up. I will state that those are the exceptions though, and not the rule.

    Not sure if I would use Taskspace. It would depend on the business process and the interactions required. I’d rather have everything inside of one interface, and paying extra for Taskspace when it should be surfaced in eRoom seems excessive.

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  3. I don’t know if we really disagree though. I’m sure it depends on the case, the requirements, etc. I have not encountered a client that had a need for collaboration for which eRoom was insufficient. You clearly have.

    Not trying to get off topic here, but why wouldn’t you use TaskSpace? Our largest Federal client uses eRoom and they want to use WebTop for their Business Processes, bouncing back and forth with eRoom when collaboration was necessary. The interface for WebTop leaves a bit to be desired and is not as friendly as eRoom. They do like TaskSpace though. Do you not like the idea of using different interfaces for different purposes? This particular client has users who have bounced from one interface/application to another to perform their work each day. They’re used to it.

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  4. Definitely off topic. I will have to post on this topic later when I can spend the time to put together a coherent discussion. If you don’t see a post in a week or so on this topic, bug me about it. 🙂

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  6. I first read Josh’ blog where he did try to “generalize” it that SharePoint is for Microsoft users and “eRoom” for non-Microsoft users. Then I read your response here…because I like to try to be partial and hear both sides.

    I am a consultant deploying SharePoint. I did have a very large customer a year ago that used both Documentum and eRoom very heavily only and I got to administer both of those for a year. I like to learn non-Microsoft technologies since most my bread and butter does come from Microsoft. But I got to configure and administer Documentum and eRoom, I learned how to do the customizations I needed to. But you know what…after being back on SharePoint after that, I realized that my difficulty using eRoom was more that I am use to the way Microsoft implements their functionality and therefore intuitively know where to look for something or what to expect (taking Office 2007’s horrible menu structure out of it!). So me, as being a heavily invested Microsoft user, does find SharePoint better primarily by that. But I am at least honest with myself…I know it is not necessarily that SharePoint is a better product, it may be, it probably is not knowing their fast to get it out the door record…but when it comes down to it…I like how it “looks” and navigates better, I like its integration with the very latest Office products…hey you know if Microsoft didn’t require that we would all still be on XP and Office 2000. Sometimes a “push” in the new direction is a good thing. I have been a consultant for over 20 years. Whereas I don’t like to generalize things, I do agree that we have two basic types of users, Microsoft and non-Microsoft. I have many heavy Unix/Linux based customers that don’t even take the time to properly evaluate the new Microsoft products. They glance at it and state “ooh it just wreaks of Microsoft…just look at those menus…”

    I think what we all have to remember in evaluating products, is that, if they weren’t very close in the true functionality, feature set comparisons, and performance…we wouldn’t even be having these conversations 🙂 I think Josh’s statement was meant to be alittle more generalized. When two products are very close to the same functionality and performance, what is best for your customer? Time costing product comparisons at a very detailed level…or looking at their user base to see what the majority of them are use to and will therefore probably adopt easier. I hope the best for both products…if they don’t both stay very close in the running we will just all be stuck with one of them…and then we know we would be more dissatified wouldn’t we.

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  7. I liked the comments regarding the UI of eRoom vs Sharepoint. The scalability argument is always what gets me.
    Being limited in the comments I can make let me just tell you that those who have faith in eRoom now will be very happy to know that EMC has people hard at work following up on this program.
    All of it is pretty hush hush right now but it is very exciting.

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  8. I can say that I am happy to learn that EMC is working hard on eRoom and that you are readers. Looking forward to seeing what comes down the pike in the future.

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