Alfresco Consulting – Documentum Disruptor #2

We posted an article last week on how Alfresco and SharePoint were Disrupting Documentum.  The term disruptor is from the Innovators Dilemma business book and it relates to how difficult it is for one company to continue technology innovation over time and newcomers disrupt the industry.  In a phone discussion with one of the responders, we discussed how consulting resources (like ourselves) are assisting in that cycle. This post will discuss how TSG and others Alfresco consulting firms are accelerating the disruption of established ECM tools like FileNet or Documentum.


 Integration of open source and commercial tools 

A major differentiator for Alfresco Consulting resources is the integration options surrounding open source. Integration includes the addition of PDF manipulation, annotation, migration, scanning, web services and all of the other common add-ons for ECM that come free with Alfresco. With commercial vendors like Documentum or FileNet, many times a client has to buy these add-on solutions from the commercial vendor as part of a platform or suite offering.

Alfresco Consulting resources aren’t limited to working with the purchased components and instead can use pre-existing integrations from other companies or developed internally. Supporting the open source model, consulting resources can build their own add-ons and contribute them back to the Alfresco source or release and support them (as TSG does) as open source.

Alfresco Migration Utilities

TSG’s most popular open source download is OpenMigrate. Originally developed for and certified by Documentum, OpenMigrate has been added on to over the years to provide the ability to move to and from a variety of ECM tools including FileNet, Documentum, Alfresco and SharePoint. Built as an open source migration framework, OpenMigrate can work either configured “out of the box” or, given access to the source code, tweaked for difficult migration activities.
The ability to move from one repository to another disrupts the established player in that the client isn’t “locked in” to an established solution. Over the years, our most frequent ECM to different ECM migration activity has been migration away from FileNet to Documentum. As discussed in the previous post, Documentum ECM disrupted the image system success from FileNet. For those familiar with the old FileNet systems, many of our migrations have involved OSAR Optical Jukeboxes (built by FileNet) that have been disrupted by the increased performance, speed and price of magnetic. We are seeing a large demand by Alfresco Consulting resources for migration to Alfresco from a variety of established ECM players.

Web Services and third party offerings

One key to our solutions that is common with other third part Alfresco solutions is the ability to isolate the front-end application from the back-end ECM repository. TSG began developing our open source web services for Documentum, OpenContent, before Documentum released the DFS (see related DFS post). OpenContent provides the ability for TSG to develop solutions for EITHER Documentum or Alfresco. Cross-repository open source tools include:

  • High Performance Interface – for search, retrieval and folder transactional systems. Solution has been deployed for a variety of Documentum and Alfresco customers.
  • OpenAnnotate – for annotating PDFs in a web browser
  • ActiveWizard – dynamic Forms and Workflow
  • OpenOverlay  – for dynamic PDF header/footer and signature pages. Based on opensource iText.
  • OpenCapture – not all open source, uses a low cost scanning plugin to provide a more cost effective scanning solution.

Alfresco fully supports CMIS providing for a variety of other interface options as well.

Partnering differences

Open source provides for a community of developers rather than a commercial model that pushes for the solution from a the “suite” of a vendor. Alfresco provides the support for consulting firms that isn’t always there from commercial vendors. Examples include:

  • Alfresco Partners are encouraged to provide additions to the Alfresco product set as well as add-ons.
  • Alfresco Sales Reps are encouraged to understand partner’s offerings to better service the client.
  • No Internal Competition –Alfresco Partners don’t have to compete with a software sales rep that is selling software but also trying to sell consulting services against a partner. A sticking point of relationships with traditional vendors has always been “who gets the consulting work”. This can set up a no-win situation for the Partner who either gets the work (making sales rep mad) or loses the work.

Ex-Factor

As pointed out in our EMC World Recap, many of the stalwarts partners of the Documentum/Momentum vendor exhibit chose not to participate in the expo this year. While all the consulting firms are all still around, a logical question would be “what are they doing instead of Documentum?” During the Alfresco sales kick-off meeting, we were surprised to learn how many (almost 50%) of Alfresco partners were current or past Documentum partners. These partners are in the unique position, if viewed as vendor neutral, to advise clients (and disrupt Documentum) in regards to Documentum versus Alfresco or SharePoint, particularly on the client’s current implementations.
One major benefit of being a consulting firm is the ability to quickly switch or add services or product lines just by adding more people or conducting more research on the products. With Alfresco, we have found:

  • a better consulting sales model (not competing)
  • a better long-term cost of ownership for our clients (from last week’s presentation)
  • a better community of developers (leveraging open source)

In thinking about consulting as a disruptor, SharePoint Consulting has many of the same strengths listed above including

  • they don’t compete for services with their partners (although the partner universe/number of Microsoft partners is huge)
  • long-term cost of ownership (given bundling of Microsoft)
  • community development (not open source but strong amount of developers)

In a quick review of many partners websites, most, if not all, also offer either Alfresco or SharePoint or both.

Summary

In addition to some of the long-term cost of ownership factors discussed in the previous post, Alfresco and SharePoint are also disrupting Documentum with innovative consulting arrangements with their partner and network of development resources. Consultants experienced in Documentum are able to leverage their understanding of other technologies (Alfresco and SharePoint) to advise clients on how to leverage the disruptive nature of these other offerings.

Let me know your thoughts and comments below: