God knows people love SharePoint. In fact, if you Google “love SharePoint,” you’ll get 430,00 results. Among them, you’ll see images of t-shirts, teddy bears, coffee mugs and even a few tattoos emblazoned with the phrase “I ♥ SharePoint.”
In 2012 Microsoft hosted “SharePoint Saturdays” in more than 43 cities worldwide -- from Boston to Belgium, New York to Nairobi, Dayton to Dublin … Enthusiasts gave up a day on the golf course, skiing, shopping, watching a ball game or spending time with the family to attend these events. I think it’s fair to say that SharePoint has a large, passionate group of followers.
According to Wikipedia, 78% of Fortune 500 companies use the platform for things like intranet portals, document and file management, collaboration, social networks, extranets, websites, enterprise search and business intelligence. Simply put, a majority of Information Workers are familiar with SharePoint.
So if you’re a software vendor whose user community deals with documents, offering some sort of SharePoint integration capability is practically a must. That being said, a good number of Enterprise Document and Enterprise Content Management companies choose, or chose, to compete with the Microsoft platform instead.
Box, Alfresco, And Some Other ECM Vendors Initially Combatted SharePoint
Consider what Aaron Levie, founder of cloud content management and file-sharing company Box wrote in the company’s blog in 2009 (we suspect that he’s changed his offer (and viewpoint?) since then):
We want to make sure that people know there are alternatives to SharePoint, so we’re issuing a challenge. Check out Box and see for yourself how easy it is to share files both inside and outside of your company. If you don’t think Box is easier to use, after a free 14-day trial, we’ll provide you three months of SharePoint for free. Yes, you read that correctly. We believe in our product so much that we’ll get you on SharePoint if we’re wrong.”
or what a billboard (April 2010) that Box put up on US 101 between Silicon Valley and San Francisco said:
Box.net is like SharePoint, but without the servers, setup costs, manuals, downtime, firewall restrictions, migraines, permissions issues, three-year development cycles, hardware maintenance, storage limitations, backups, VPN, certification courses, browser incompatibility, set up time, hair loss, Microsoft”
ECM vendor Alfresco chose to take Sharepoint on, too. Here’s what our very own Barb Mosher Zinck wrote on the subject in 2009:
SharePoint, dear SharePoint. We talk about this business collaboration tool -- sometimes called an enterprise content management system -- on almost a daily basis. You either love it, hate it, integrate with it or try to replace it.
Alfresco has chosen the last option.”
EMC Documentum Chose To Play Nice Instead
EMC chose to look at SharePoint in a different light -- they embraced it. I wrote a blog post about it in early 2008. The headline says it all: “Documentum and SharePoint -- it ain't either/or, it's a new game”
At the time, I thought EMC had made a terrible decision; I ranted every time someone at EMC raved about how well SharePoint and Documentum play together -- that it was just peachy-keen when Documentum was the repository and SharePoint was everything else.
I criticized EMC for not taking Microsoft on, lest SharePoint become everything to an Enterprise and Documentum disappear altogether (or on the large part, anyway). And at some of my client sites, this actually happened.
But here’s what I couldn’t see and still don’t know -- how many customers Documentum would have lost if they hadn’t chosen to make SharePoint their friend? After all, Information Workers were, and continue to be, so passionate about SharePoint, and companies are so deeply invested in Microsoft technologies, that vendors who don’t play nice could very well set themselves up to lose.
EMC understood, almost from the start, that they had to side with what Stanford Professor Jim Collins calls “the Genius of AND rather than the Tyranny of OR.”
Box and Alfresco eventually came around to the same conclusion; today they coexist with SharePoint quite well.
EMC Ups Its SharePoint Play - Documentum Solutions Can Now Be Experienced Through A SharePoint Interface
Yesterday EMC IIG (aka Documentum) announced a new Documentum Connector for Microsoft SharePoint -- it extends the SharePoint environment by combining the content management power of Documentum with the familiarity of SharePoint.
“We understand that (Information Workers) want a consistent, familiar interface that they know and love” says Rohit Ghai, Senior Vice President of Products and Solutions at EMC IIG. "And at some companies, where SharePoint sits on thousands of desktops, that interface is Sharepoint," he adds.
But at many of these same companies, Documentum serves as the repository; after all, it provides the required scalability, information governance, process management, security and BYOD compatibility.
Up until now, the Sharepoint front-end/Documentum back-end has been a satisfactory solution, it works well enough; but it’s unlikely that you’d find any end-users or IT managers squealing with delight or evangelizing about it in their free time.
Now that may change.
The new Documentum Connector for SharePoint allows users to continue to use SharePoint for the things they like about it: a familiar interface, collaboration, Microsoft Office integration, and social networking. The Documentum Connector extends that familiar environment with Documentum’s out-of-the-box features for process management and document control, enabling users to complete their tasks more quickly while ensuring compliance with industry and company standards,” explains Ghai.
The real beauty here is that Documentum does its work on the backend. Information users barely know that it’s there.
Documentum on the backend, SharePoint on the front
The Icing On the Cake: The BYOD Experience
If Sharepoint collaboration is criticized for one thing, it’s its UI on Mobile devices, but that no longer needs to be a concern for Information Workers: EMC Syncplicity’s file-sync-share solution is beautiful and it works with almost every mobile device.
And for Documentum users who want to share content outside the firewall, Documentum’s integration with EMC Syncplicity offers secure file sync, sharing and collaboration between employees, customers, partners and suppliers. Users love it.
A Hidden Message for Companies Evaluating ECM Options
It’s worth noting that the Documentum Connector is what Ghai calls a “brown field” solution, meaning that it’s aimed at customers who already have Documentum and Sharepoint, rather that those who are starting with a blank slate. (EMC IIG has great new UI’s and experiences for that crowd.) And while this new offering can be seen as part of EMC’s mission to “delight its customers,” it also gives those same customers a good reason to stick with Documentum.
And from where we sit, it’s an idea that should be given plenty of consideration because IIG Chief Rick Devenuti keeps making Documentum better and better for the people who matter most -- the end users.
Image courtesy of 2jenn (Shutterstock)