SharePoint and ECM Working Together


Andrew Chapman got a new gig. He is now in charge of SharePoint solutions for EMC. I am assuming that this includes Content Services for SharePoint (notice the old site link still works) as well as any other current and future products. I couldn’t be happier. Andrew knows how to listen and evolve his thoughts based upon new information and experiences.

In many ways, this is an out-growth of his work in the world of compliance and records. He had seen how organizations were having trouble managing their growing SharePoint environments and they were asking him how to get Documentum and SharePoint to work together. Organizations like SharePoint’s user-interface and Documentum’s ability to enforce business rules and manage the large amounts of information being stored. Andrew voiced his opinion one too many times and his new job was born.

Seven Reference Architectures

Andrew has proposed Seven Reference Architectures for using SharePoint and ECM together. I’m going to list them briefly and give my initial thoughts. For the one that he has a detailed, separate, explanation for, I am adding the link. He is still fully defining many of these and filling out his thoughts, so I only have little blurbs to comment upon.

  1. Keep Systems Separate, Restrict Usage: I concur with Andrew’s assessment of this one, It sucks. Two systems, not working together? Bad juju! However, without further investments, there aren’t a lot of options.
  2. Loosely Coupled Solution: Content is moved based upon its status and importance. This process is fairly nice and has rules. Creation through collaboration in SharePoint, final products in the ECM system. Of course, if you don’t duplicate content, search is impinged.
  3. Using SharePoint as a Portal Container: Ah, the introduction of Web Parts. There is nothing that a .NET developer can’t do, with enough time and money. This is a nice step as it allows for content to be accessed and managed through SharePoint even though it doesn’t exist in SharePoint.
  4. Passive Unification in Web Part: I think this one needs a tweak to the name. Not important though. What is important is that content from various sources is available in one consolidated Web Part. Useful for some solutions, but for others we need…
  5. Active Unification in Web Part: This take number four and adds the full complement of standard Library Services to the content.
  6. Passive Back-end Aggregation: I’m not 100% clear, or even 50% for that matter, what this would look like or why anyone would stop here. No comment for now.
  7. Active Back-end Aggregation: Having all objects from all environments addressable within a single space and supporting operations on those objects. This is obviously my favorite. One place, one user experience, information stored in underlying systems where they belong.

There is a lot more meat to be put on these bones. Let me see what I can do to prompt some thoughts that we would all like.

ECM 2.0 and the Seven Seas

I like the Seven Seas (SharePoint Ecm Architectures) better. It has a little more soul to it. My apologies to Andrew and Sinbad the Sailor. But I digress…

Right now, fighting against SharePoint is like the War on Drugs. You may win a lot of battles, but you will lose in the long run. So we need to pick a Sea to sail. The seventh is the most promising, but takes the greatest investment to reach. Your not going to sail that one with a rowboat. You’ll need a nice clipper.

The ECM 2.0 world puts all content into one central repository. It may be behind the scenes and invisible to the user, but it is there. SharePoint, as Andrew rightly points out, has a great UI an tight integration with most users “productivity” applications. It makes for a great Collaborative Content Application.

Now if we can bring in the Content and mash it up with Information from other systems, we can have that Back-end Aggregation. If it is active, then people can get some real work done. We may be talking about effective Information Management even!

Dare to dream…

4 thoughts on “SharePoint and ECM Working Together

  1. Hi Pie. I had seen Andrews posting too, but had not had time to digest, so I will comment on your comments 🙂

    I don’t like the ‘war on drugs’ analogy – in reality we probably have more chance of winning that than the fight against the evil empires Sharepoint monster…… but seriously though, you might not ever win the war on drugs, but it might be morally correct to continue fighting and I am not sure what the techie allegory is for that. I guess I am saying that on one hand not everyone should roll over and stop arguing as soon as someone tries to implement Sharepoint. On the other if its going to be implemented anyway, then decide which of those seven sea’s you want to sail upon. It may well be which sea (scenario) you pick is dependent upon your ECM vendor and what maritime options they provide ! Achieving the nirvana of #7 may not be possible for any particular set of circumstances !

    And Sharepoint = great UI, well its better than Webtop, but thats all I’ll give you 🙂

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  2. I think I followed you Jed. I’m not suggesting to not fight SharePoint, but to try and get to the point where if someone is hooked on it, they can meet their compliance needs.

    As for the UI, I’m not a big fan, but users like it better than most Web interfaces for the same thing, it feels modern, and it works well with Office.

    Remember, a system may be a dog, but most people like dogs.

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  3. Laurence,

    Thanks for the kind words and succinct summary of the architectures – as usual, I agree with your comments. A few points in response…

    1) I tried “SharePoint and the 7 Architectures” but Snow White threatened to sue!
    2) The *real* value to these architectures is when you start to combine them. The whole is much greater than the sum of the parts (should that be Web Parts?) in this case. Once I’ve explained each of the 7 architectures I’ll copy some of the use cases from the book draft that show how to solve problems with composite pieces. Back end aggregation for operational efficiencies is one thing but adding reuse & repurpose to that content starts to get really exciting.
    3) In response to Jed’s comment – I used to see SharePoint as an abomination in the face of true ECM solutions but now I see it as having opened up the biggest ECM for the masses opportunity ever. Maybe that just makes me a dealer or an ECM pimp but I don’t think so.
    4) Oddly, I don’t like dogs either…

    Andrew

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