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:
- A database. SQL Server 2000, SQL Server 2005, or an embedded SQL database that installs onto windows.
- 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.