exit sign
Enterprises on traditional ECM platforms find themselves in the same boat: how to plan an exit strategy PHOTO: Braden Hopkins

We covered a general, strategic approach to exiting Documentum in my last post, some flavor of which many of the Documentum customers I speak with are considering. Their reasons for planning an exit are twofold: First, the lack of customer focus these organizations have gotten from the Documentum sales and product development teams over the last 10 years. Second, their concerns about the future of the platform given the recent acquisitions: first by Dell, then by OpenText.

Rather than speculate on what OpenText might or might not do with its acquisition (something no practitioners, analysts, journalists or pundits like me can know), I want to share some tactics Documentum clients are already adopting to make a successful move off of Documentum and on to their next 10-year platform. In most cases, this won't be a single solution, but rather a coordinated portfolio of solutions.

The High Level ECM View

Before we get into the specifics of how to back out of Documentum, I️ think it would be helpful to look at how a typical organization’s footprint will shift overall. Figure one below shows where most firms are today: some blend of big enterprise content management (ECM), shared drives and SharePoint. Figure two shows where I️ think most firms will be in three to five years.

Figure 1 – Current State ECM System Landscape
Figure 1 – Current State ECM System Landscape

For most organizations, the future state ECM landscape will 1) rely less on big ECM and 2) have more complexity, spread across not only multiple vendors but multiple categories of solutions. All of which is OK, once you let go of the need to have one system to rule them all.

Figure 2 – Likely Future State ECM System Landscape
Figure 2 – Likely Future State ECM System Landscape

With the high level view in place, let’s drill down into what a move off of Documentum can look like.

Office 365 Is Your Friend

No matter how you feel about it, Office 365 is here to stay. The vast majority of Fortune 1000 firms will have some level of Office 365 in place within the next three years, in most cases, “all in” — in other words, using Office 365 Exchange, SharePoint, OneDrive and much of the associated functionality Microsoft delivers with them.

Given that, the first step in your Documentum exit should be to determine what content is currently in Documentum (or other “big” ECM systems, business process management solutions or business systems) that you could store in Office 365. This would typically include work in progress, non-records and non-business-critical-records, or other lightweight content.

Most organizations will find this is a significant portion of overall content volume, which means it's possible to shift a huge portion of content from high overhead systems into Office 365, which has much lower overhead. Of course planning and governance will be part of this migration, but such a shift comes with a greater chance of success than would be possible if moving to newer versions of old systems.

Focus on the Business

After you address the obvious, low hanging fruit content, the next step is to find out how the business is using the rest of its content. This encompasses everything from core repository services (i.e., purely a filing cabinet), to line of business applications (i.e., workflow enabled, transactional services). A good practice is to create an inventory of business applications and score them across a range of dimensions, such as:

  • Workflow/process complexity
  • Compliance risk
  • Operational importance
  • IT resource requirements

Once you do so, you can structure your replacement efforts to include all the relevant solutions, “established” and otherwise, in your future state plans. And you can use this to segment your replacement systems to address specific business needs, rather than trying to find the “one system to rule them all.”

A Challenging Landscape With No Good Choices

The bad news in all of this is the current enterprise ECM landscape is a hot mess. IBM/FileNet is in turmoil with their focus on artificial intelligence and Watson and the OpenText/Documentum products are non-starters for the foreseeable future due to the acquisition. Firms are left with very few choices in selecting an enterprise ECM platform. They can go with established tier two players, such as Hyland, Perceptive or Alfresco — all of which are solid choices, but not yet proven in large scale, enterprise deployments — or they can go with newcomers, like Newgen, Everteam, Veeva for non-Pharma, etc. In either case, the way forward is uncertain and fraught with difficulties and risk: vendor and product most of all.

The sliver of good news in all this is that both the tier two solutions and the newcomers, rather than the established “big” ECM vendors, are, to my mind, the vendors best poised to meet market needs and overcome the difficulties traditional ECM vendors have faced (and failed to meet) around basic end user requirements. Given their level of investment and motivation to succeed, most of these vendors will be enterprise-ready in five or so years — about the time frame for a reasonable exit from Documentum or any other big ECM platform.

Moving on From Traditional ECM

Although we framed this discussion around Documentum users, any firm currently relying on traditional ECM faces the same dilemma: what should my 10-year platform be? And although the answer will change from firm to firm, the contours I’ve sketched here will be relevant for most organizations. Hopefully this has given you food for thought and at least a glimmer of a way forward in the challenging ECM vendor marketplace.