The dust hasn’t completely settled on the OpenText Documentum acquisition, but the initial shock has worn off. 

Any of my clients currently on Documentum are now focusing on their go-forward strategy for the platform. For most of them, this means an exit strategy, because none of them view Documentum as a platform worth investing in for the long haul — which, anyone who’s followed my writing about the acquisition knows, is what I would recommend.

But deciding to develop an exit strategy and actually having one are two very different things. And for all of my clients, building out the details and specifics of their exit from Documentum is proving very difficult. Yet despite the challenges, I’ve noticed a few guiding principles framing their work. The following principles are far from codified, but hopefully will give anyone out there in the same position some food for thought to build their own Documentum exit strategies.

Assess You’re Current Documentum State

Step one is to assess the current state of your organization's Documentum implementation. In other words, modules in use, versions, total cost of ownership (TCO, i.e., software maintenance, hardware it’s on, support staff, upcoming renewals, etc.), use cases it supports (e.g., account opening, records management, e-discovery, etc.), capabilities in use (e.g., basic repository services, workflow, application archiving, file analytics), as well as current political/cultural attitudes towards the platform. 

Without knowing all this, it’s going to be highly unlikely that you can formulate a viable, actionable exit strategy. After all, you need to know what Documentum you have, what you’re using it for, what it costs, and how the wider organization feels about it before you can figure out an exit strategy and find a suitable replacement or replacements.

Define Sunset and Migration Opportunities

At most large organizations, an enterprise platform like Documentum isn’t a unified, single system, but rather a conglomeration of applications, sometimes tightly coordinated, sometimes loosely (or not at all). Given that, the right exist strategy won’t be a one and done, but rather a multi-year, multi-work-stream effort that will more resemble an ERP migration than a simple system cut over.

In approaching your Documentum exit strategy, it’s important to consider at a minimum the following when deciding how to sunset it and migrate to new applications:

  • Complexity — how much configuration or customization does each Documentum application have? How integrated is it with other systems or applications?
  • Business criticality — how integral to day-to-day business is each Documentum application? For example, is it handling real-time transactions or simply archiving old documents?
  • Age of the application — how old is each Documentum application? Which versions are you running? 
  • Health of the application — how well is each Documentum application running currently? Humming along or duct tape and bailing wire?
  • TCO — what does it cost to maintain each Documentum application (see above for factors to include in TCO calculations)? Pay close attention to the last time you spent money to upgrade (last year versus five or more years ago) as well as how soon you need to upgrade
  • Information risk — what is the risk level of the information in each Documentum application? Make sure you consider the typical variety of information risk, i.e., sensitive Customer/partner data (PHI, PII, PCI), intellectual property and business critical information
  • Options for replacement — what are the viable alternatives to Documentum for each application? Are there readily available commercial off the shelf solutions, or will you have to build something from scratch (or engage a software vendor or system integrator to do so)?

Once you score each Documentum application across all criteria, you can then begin to prioritize which applications are the best candidates for replacement and lay them against a three, five, seven or 10 year timeline for sunsetting.

Evaluate and Select Future State Systems

With not only a view into what Documentum applications you have, but also detailed information about each application, you can begin to evaluate possible replacements.

Learning Opportunities

As I said earlier, in the vast majority of cases, this won’t be a one to one replacement for all applications with a single platform, but rather a case by case replacement, likely using multiple systems. In making this determination, you should give first consideration to systems you already own, preferably in production today. All things being equal, these will represent your path of least resistance because 1) you already own them (so low/moderate incremental spend) and 2) you already have some experience using them.

If there’s no suitable replacement option in your current portfolio, you’ll need to look outside for one. In the next step, you’ll lay these choices against a roadmap to determine the order in which you’ll proceed. But for now, focus on finding good enough replacements and scoring them along the criteria you use for evaluating new software acquisitions.

Create a Roadmap and Execute 

Once you've completed the previous steps, you can now marry your schedule for sunsetting Documentum applications with your candidates for replacement and create your roadmap. Think of this as a three, five, seven and 10 year program roadmap, with top level work-streams for each application and second level work-streams for the projects required to effect the replacement. Consider not only resource and budget constraints, but also the other projects going on at the organization. For example, if you’re going to Office365 or rolling out ERP modules in 2018, this will impact how much additional change your organization can handle for Documentum replacement.

Once you have the roadmap done, you can transition to execution, whether that means getting buy in, budget and resources, or simply spending the funds you already have.

A Roadmap to a Documentum Exit

Although the approach to exiting Documentum will look different at each organization, some flavor of what I’ve outlined here is what 95 percent of the people I've spoken to are doing. 

In the next post, I’ll dig in to more specifics of what a successful exit strategy looks like in detail, i.e., what guiding principles you should use to wind down Documentum and spin up replacements. But hopefully this helps you wrap your head around how to even get going.

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