Migrating Documentum to Alfresco – User Interface Overview

This is the third post in our series on migrating from Documentum to Alfresco.  As we pointed out in our disclaimer in our initial post on this subject, we are not saying Alfresco is better than Documentum, just different.

Which Interface to compare?

The challenge in comparing Documentum to Alfresco interfaces is both solutions offer a variety of interfaces including:

  • Traditional “Library” Interface – For this interface, Documentum has Webtop and Alfresco has Explorer.  This interface can be seen as a “do all” interface with cabinets/folder navigation as well as search, check-in/check-out and all other ECM functionality.
  • Collaborative Interfaces – For this interface, Documentum has CenterStage and Alfresco has Share.  Both interfaces are somewhat “SharePoint” like with the idea that, while still exposing document management functionality, the users can set up sites and collaborate on content.
  • Client-Side Access – Documentum has recently shifted users to the MyDocumentum suite of products to handle interfacing with Microsoft Office products including Outlook. Alfresco offers similar interfaces with Office products as well as you have the ability to interact with your repository as a mapped drive (CIFS). Both of these interface expose the repository to user by enabling the to do common features such as check-in/checkout, search, convert to PDF, etc.
  • Case Management – Documentum is very focused on xCP being the interface for Case Management.  Alfresco relies on third party Open Source vendors to supply this type of solution.
  • Third Party Integrations – Both interfaces have partners that have developed additional interfaces.

Traditional Library Interfaces

Both Documentum and Alfresco have announced they are moving away from these types of interfaces in favor of their collaborative interfaces.  As we pointed out in our EMC World Recap , Documentum has announced that they are no longer “investing” in Webtop or other WDK solutions.  Alfresco, as an Open Source software vendor, is still supporting Explorer but is focusing effort and solutions into their Share interface.

The difficulty in the “do all” interface for both Alfresco and Documentum is how to expose all functionality to users without causing confusion.  The Documentum Webtop can be overwhelming due to the number of actions available, resulting in heavy need for user training or poor user acceptance.  Alfresco Explorer may suffer from that same fate due to reliance on icons and difficulty in folder navigation performance.

As with the Collaborative interfaces, TSG has always recommended limiting exposure to only the necessary functions for end-users.  For example, Webtop search has always received complaints for users having to “build” a search query (choose an attribute àchoose an operation & value, à “and/or” with additional attributes) versus a simple interface with a standard set of search parameters.

TSG has seen both Documentum and Alfresco users succeed by adding a consumer interface to focus on search and retrieval for the bulk of users.  Limiting the traditional interface to just authors and approvers has been a consistent theme on both platforms.

Collaborative Interfaces

Documentum announced CenterStage two years ago at EMC World 2008.  Initially targeted as a “SharePoint Killer”, development on CenterStage has been pretty slow and we have not seen many clients release CenterStage in place of Webtop.

Alfresco has put extensive effort this year in adding core document management functionality to the Share interface.  Initially released with a focus on collaboration,  users can now view the entire repository via Share, create content rules, view custom attributes, essentially perform document management functions previously only available in the Alfresco Explorer Interface (Webtop equivalent).

When discussing Collaboration, we should also mention that many clients are using SharePoint from Microsoft for their collaboration with the idea of including an ECM repository as the back-end for long term controlled storage.

Client-Side Access

In terms of Documentum, we have not seen a lot of success with the previous products offered by Documentum (Application Connectors) and we have yet to have a client (that we are aware of) leverage the MyDocumentum suite of products. Internally we are doing our own analysis on the products – look for an upcoming post on our thoughts. Alfresco, on the other hand, we have seen clients successfully leverage working with the repository outside of the a web client.  Alfresco can provides access to content via CIFS (mapped drive), FTP, and WebDAV.  Alfresco also supports integrations with Outlook & Microsoft Office, including SharePoint Protocol Support.  The most attractive part about the Alfresco integrations is that it is part of the core product, it is not separate licensed software.

Case Management

Documentum’s recent focus for case management is on xCP as presented during EMC World in May.  xCP includes TaskSpace, Forms, BPM and other existing products from Documentum packaged to provide templates as well as configuration/development options to develop custom interfaces.  To date, Alfresco does not have a similar interface.  TSG’s HPI interface is highlighted in the Alfresco partner development site as providing transactional processing.  It is difficult to compare the interfaces directly as both provide for configuration.  xCP provides xCelerators for a few business applications (e.g., courts case management, grants management)  while TSG’s HPI has been used for clients for Claims Processing, Policy Issuance, Third Party Approval and Engineering Documentation.

Third Party Integrations

Both options have extensive partner networks to provide additional solutions.  Please look for additional vendors in the Documentum partner website as well as the Alfresco partner website.  For TSG’s interfaces

  • HPI, OpenMigrate and OpenScan currently run on both Alfresco and Documentum.
  • Active Wizard and OpenAnnotate currently run only Documentum and will run on Alfresco by the end of the year.
  • Active Wizard Lite can run on Alfresco, Documentum or a FileSystem.

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