With SharePoint firmly established in the enterprise, and companies looking to deploy an enterprise content management system across the company, many businesses are being forced to answer the question as to whether they should replace their enterprise CMS with SharePoint, or integrate the two.

If SharePoint hadn’t been so widely adopted across the enterprise, this might not have been an issue, but according to other recent Forrester research, some 63% of an enterprise survey group said they were using SharePoint as an enterprise CMS, a figure that is substantiated by studies from others organizations such as Gartner.

To complicate matters, according to the Forrester report Putting Together the SharePoint ECM Puzzle by Alan Weintraub, many enterprise CMS products supplement SharePoint in different ways and there are many products on the market that make enterprise CMS-SharePoint integration easier.

The key, Weintraub says, like many other IT problems, is working out what you want your enterprise CMS to do, what SharePoint functionality covers those needs, where gaps exist in those needs and what vendors best fill in those gaps.

SharePoint in the Enterprise

Needless to say, if SharePoint 2010 users hadn’t been so happy with its functionality and performance, it wouldn’t have been as successful as it has. In a July report by Forrester entitled SharePoint Adoption: Content and Collaboration Is Just the Start? 68% of IT decision makers said they were satisfied with SharePoint’s content management abilities.

However, Weintraub says, it is a disruptive force in enterprise CMS strategies. There are three reasons for this:

  • Packaging and Pricing: Microsoft includes SharePoint in enterprise agreements, which forces enterprises to question the commercial value of having both enterprise CMS and SharePoint and paying maintenance for both.
  • Business Adoption: Because of the relative ease in creating basic sites and content sharing abilities -- the main business reason for investing in enterprise CMS in the first place -- SharePoint adoption by business users has been quick. Collaboration, sites and intranet are consistently the highest-rated feature by business users.
  • SharePoint 2010 Enterprise CMS Functionality: SharePoint 2010 offered major improvements and was identified as a "Leader" in the 2011 Forrester Wave evaluation of enterprise CMS vendors as a result. Improvements included taxonomy management, enterprise deployment and retention policy management. This effectively made it a credible alternative to traditional enterprise CMS vendors.

SharePoint, Enterprise CMS Overlaps

The issue of SharePoint and enterprise CMS overlaps is a fundamental one that needs to be addressed in enterprises that have both SharePoint and enterprise CMS deployments.

Many enterprises already have enterprise content management deployments in place for specific business processes that include specific workflow and tailored interfaces.

SharePoint 2010 also comes with functionality that covers many of these components. By mapping enterprise CMS requirements with SharePoint capabilities, enterprises will be able to determine where SharePoint should fit into their enterprise CMS architecture, as well as offering an idea as to how suitable SharePoint will be for enterprise CMS needs.

At the core of this is considerations around the impact SharePoint will have on business processes, user acceptance levels and migration or integration costs. To illustrate the point, Weintruab cites the case of a company that spent a seven-figure sum in deploying an enterprise CMS tool to find out afterwards that it was unusable by the target audience.

Following an objective assessment, it will become clear where SharePoint can be used on its own and where it needs supplemental functionality provided by an enterprise CMS vendor. Most vendors will supplement SharePoint in one, or more of the following ways:

  • Records management: SharePoint does not meet the DoD 5015.2 specification, which is increasingly used as the industry standard, particularly in the US. There are a number of vendors that add DoD 5015.2 records management to SharePoint .
  • Large file management: SharePoint 2010 enables enterprises to store documents and content outside the SQL Server. Remote blob storage integration with SharePoint enables enterprise CMS systems act as the external repository for SharePoint.
  • Archiving: Offers enterprises the ability to move SharePoint sites, document libraries and documents off the SharePoint SQL infrastructure to the enterprise CMS repository. These integrations also offer the possibility to restore sites, document libraries or individual documents.
  • Business process management: Documents and content moved from SharePoint can be used to trigger business workflows. For example, IBM’s FileNet Content Manager enhances the SharePoint implementation with capabilities such as BPM and records management that are not supported in SharePoint.
  • Digital asset management: While SharePoint 2010 has some basic digital asset management capabilities, for advanced features such as image and video rendering and metadata extraction it requires the integration of a separate DAM tool.
  • Electronic signature: With regulatory demands growing, the ability to sign-off on documents electronically is becoming  fundamental. SharePoint does not currently have electronic signature capabilities. Both ARX and DocuSign provide add-ons to it.
  • Search federation: Federated search offers search across SharePoint and enterprise CMS repositories, enabling the retrieval of documents without having to know in what repository they are stored.
  • Web parts views: Web part integration applies enterprise CMS functionality on a SharePoint page through the use of custom web parts.
  • Document menu integration: Enables the transfer of documents to an enterprise CMS repository. Documents can be copied, moved or optionally moved, leaving a stub in SharePoint. This integration is typically used to move documents declared as records to a system that can provide records management functionality.

Forrester SharePoint gaps.jpg

SharePoint, Enterprise CMS Considerations

There are other functional components too. To carry out an effective assessment of SharePoint functionality, coupled with an enterprise CMS strategy and content management needs, information professionals should:

  • Assess readiness: The application of SharePoint will replace some or all of legacy systems. Enterprises need to assess the impact on the users, enterprise processes and technology adoption. Users must understand the adoption or they will not take to SharePoint.
  • Identity fit: Enterprise CMS requirements should be listed and mapped onto SharePoint functionality. This will provide an idea of whether SharePoint will fulfill all enterprise CMS needs, or whether an enterprise CMS is needed too.
  • SharePoint gaps: The identity fit will also provide an idea of where the gaps in SharePoint lie and what vendors can fill those gaps. Look first at the use of existing enterprise CMS deployments before considering additional enterprise CMSes.
  • Integrations: Enterprise CMS needs should be complemented with search, web part and document management integrations. Select the integration approach that will supplement the SharePoint functionality and complete your enterprise needs.

There is a lot more here in this report and worth a look for those with SharePoint and enterprise CMS deployments, or those that are considering a revision of their enterprise content strategy.