Interesting things about ECM

2010/02/04

Q&A discussion around SharePoint and Oracle UCM posted to the Nexus 2009 Group.

Filed under: Oracle UCM, Sharepoint — Tags: , , — Anthony Fast @ 10:15 pm

Source: http://www.sharepointgovernance.org/peers/PublishedPeerDocuments/SharePoint%20versus%20Oracle%20UCM%20LInkedIN%20Discussion%20Thread.docx

LinkedIN question dated May 12, 2009:

I would like your feedback ‘technically’ speaking on this question…

Should we migrate all Oracle UCM content to Microsoft SharePoint and why?

Email responses May 12 – July 14th, 2009:

Response

I think we should migration all UCM content to SharePoint.

From an end-user’s perspective:

1) Searching for content in UCM is painful. The indexing process is slow, and the search results are terrible.

2) The UI in UCM is dated, not very modular, configurable or extensible.

3) It is harder to expose content in UCM to other consumers.

From a Developers perspective:

1) SharePoint is built on top of Microsoft .NET.

2) SharePoint is integrated Microsoft Visual Studio, one of the best development tool in the industry.

3) Extensions on SharePoint can be written in any .NET languages.

4) SharePoint uses modern technologies/tools.

5) It is much easier to write and debug code in SharePoint.

That said, the learning curve is definitely much steeper in SharePoint since you would have to know the entire web related technologies including Windows Server, IIS, MS SQL, and .NET.

Response

I would suggest moving non-web content to SharePoint but only if we can use with the KnowledgeLake Imaging Server. The maturity of web content management features in UCM beat SharePoint. Having said that there are a host of reasons why SharePoint should be considered for library content services.

This would get all technical and non-technical staff more familiar with SharePoint.

We have already found benefits of locating multi-user spreadsheet access in SharePoint. We inevitably will find other organizations that may want help to migrate UCM to SharePoint. This would be good experience for our technical staff.

I still have difficulty locating information in UCM; however w/o KnowledgeLake search we would be in the same boat with SharePoint. Overall I find the SharePoint GUI to be far more intuitive and we would likely get better user adoption.

Response

SharePoint seems to be a good choice for document collaboration.

However, to answer the question in a larger context of where SharePoint might “fit” in our business and what our peers, customers and competitors are articulating in the marketplace is also a good question.

SharePoint shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for Oracle (or IBM, EMC). So far, here are the following reasons:

1.) Records management – although there is some records management capability in SharePoint, the feature set it a bit “underwhelming”.

2.) Workflow – Oracle has a superior workflow capability.

3.) Storage – there is no native support (in SharePoint) for comprehensive storage technologies (like WORM) or any other “write once read many” technologies. (and the marketplace seems a little wary about Microsoft controlling all aspects of their document lifecycle).

These three things basically relegate SharePoint to the “tip of the spear” as far as document management, business process and storage is concerned. Anyof these could change rapidly in the future, but it seems there is more integration development between SharePoint and Exchange and MS Office Suite than for an expanded feature set along these lines. If this is true, it will push SharePoint even closer to the document origination function, and away from a document storage function (ie… greater than 5 year retention and storage).

I think I finally understand that this is what people mean by collaboration.

It seems that asking a company to standardize on any one document management system is like expecting them to buy just one type of file cabinet, and then storing all documents in one single place. For large fortune 1000 companies this isn’t reality. For small companies, this may be just fine…SharePoint may be all they need (so I don’t see much of a future for products like DocuShare)

Maybe we should see the product suite as a document technology “stack” that begins with document origination in SharePoint and ends with Oracle.

Response

For many of our purposes, the shortcoming(s) of our existing UCM system focus on unsatisfactory search results. I assume this could be resolved if we were to rely on UCM for dynamic (changeable) content (and we should do this if we retain UCM). However, from a strictly content management standpoint, I see no dramatic difference between UCM and SharePoint’s potential using the current versions (MOSS 2007 & UCM 7.5.2) of both products. Anytime we rely only on text string queries, we are going to frequently get more in the result set than what is desired.

If we use SharePoint, we need to be able to use metadata in our queries and I understand that the current SharePoint is inadequate unless fortified by something like the KnowledgeLake enhancement for query.

As important as content management is our need to have effective collaborative tools which are substantial even though incomplete in SharePoint (these can be augmented by products such as Oracle Autovue, WebEx, etc.). The development staff seems to prefer the SharePoint characteristics.

It is highly probable that long term product growth and enhancement will be more active in the SharePoint product line vs. Oracle UCM. Likely both products will advance in capabilities over time, but SharePoint seems to have the momentum. In addition, add on enhancement product selection looks to provide a wealth of focused vertical market solutions in the SharePoint environment. SharePoint looks to be more pervasive in the marketplace than Oracle UCM.

If we have the resources to do so, I suggest that our long term internal requirements and our product marketing/sales objectives would likely be more thoroughly served by a migration of the information in UCM to a well governed SharePoint system.

Response

We use SharePoint & UCM in IT help desk support for many of the reasons listed we have gravitated to SharePoint for our KB, Support Portal and Content Repository. Because it is very easy to post information in SharePoint our usefulness of UCM has been declining rapidly. I have not seen or researched 10gR3 UCM and it may be worth looking at before we pull the plug on UCM. As one of the others said the searching for records in UCM is very difficult but SharePoint brings you back a lot of information you don’t want or need.

Technically they do a lot of the same functions but I think that our teams and departments needs more collaboration based application software for staff working remotely more than we they need Information Lifecycle Management. I would like to see an examination of how we currently access content and what types of information we commonly use. This would help us to decide if we migrate to SharePoint or upgrade/repair UCM and/or use a product like the ILINX connector to SharePoint for a combination of the two.

Response

There are couple interesting links regarding the two:

http://www.cmswire.com/cms/enterprise-cms/does-oracle-ucm-standup-to-sharepoint-002989.php

This is the somewhat Oracle-centric article referenced in the above:

http://www.oracle.com/products/middleware/content-management/docs/gilbane-workplace.pdf

I personally would bet on SharePoint simply because I prefer, and am more experienced in c# and .net versus java, and also find Microsoft’s interfaces much cleaner and intuitive.

Response

I felt the following was an informative article on this subject (link to actual document follows at bottom)

Does Oracle UCM Standup to SharePoint?
By Barb Mosher | Aug 8. 2008

Gilbane recently produced a research paper entitled: Information Workplace Platforms: Oracle vs SharePoint which has some interesting findings on which of these two ECM platforms is the best choice for an organizations information lifecycle.

The report findings are based on research on a number of companies who reviewed both platforms for their Information Management needs and what their final decisions turned out to be.

The report, authored by Tony White, Lead Analyst, Web Content Management at the Gilbane Group isn’t a long read, but takes us into the world of information workplace platforms and the pain points they address.

Defining Information Workplaces

This paper is more about educating us on what Information Workplace Platforms are and why they are needed then about the actual technical solution that Oracle or SharePoint plays. Which is a little disappointing because the title would lead one to expect something totally different.

As for a definition then, the paper defines an Information Workplace Platform to include: federated search, portal, content management, records management, document management, rights management, retention management, imaging, Web 2.0, e-discovery, and workflow.

Choosing Between Oracle UCM and SharePoint The research covers three specific customer examples where both Oracle and SharePoint were considered as Information Workplace Solutions. In most cases, Oracle was selected as the solution of choice. Of course, that solution didn’t just include Oracle UCM — it also included the Oracle Fusion Middleware of which UCM is only a part. Does that make it a fair comparison to SharePoint? Not sure.

One point that was discussed was the lack of SharePoint federated search. This is something that has since been resolved with SharePoint. Microsoft also received their U.S. Department of Defense 5015.2 Certification in May of last year, so the report is a little out of date in some respects.

CMSWire asked Tony Byrne of CMS Watch what his take was on Oracle UCM vs SharePoint. “The contrast between the two is a bit more nuanced than departmental vs. enterprise and collaboration vs. ILM. Generally speaking, yes, SharePoint is better suited to the former and Oracle the latter, but the story gets murkier when you dig into the details of each product.”

And it’s the details that we lack in this report.

Alan Pelze-Sharpe of CMS Watch agrees saying, “the thing is to see UCM as part of the Fusion platform, in that context it is a true ECM linking into BPM and a whole array of web services (identity management etc) and importantly supports ILM thoroughly.”

If that is the case, then should we not also include BizTalk Server — Microsoft’s middleware solution — and other MS solutions in the context of a decision on which platform is the better choice.

Aside from that, Microsoft has acknowledged it needs to do some work with SharePoint and associated solutions to provide true ILM.

Final Thoughts

The report concludes with Gilbane’s own views on which platform is the better solution and it’s obvious they are very pro Oracle — both UCM and Fusion Middleware combined. They do acknowledge that both solutions have their strengths and weaknesses and that they have based their conclusions on the platforms value for ILM.

That being said, SharePoint should not be considered only a “point-solution” for collaboration and basic team workspaces based on this research alone. In the right context it can be the right solution for the right organization. It’s all in the requirements and a full review of the platform’s capabilities — maybe even — shock — piloting or prototyping.

THE ABOVE MENTIONED DOCUMENT CAN BE FOUND AT:

http://www.oracle.com/products/middleware/content-management/docs/gilbane-workplace.pdf

Response

Right now we are using UCM for two purposes, to store some of our active content and host our public facing websites.

I don’t have extensive experience with MOSS Content Management, but what I have seen is that it is in practice not much different from UCM. Technically I don’t see any glaring problems other than getting over the MOSS learning curve. Both technologies have the problem of needing a well defined metadata model to support searching of our content. The one UCM feature we might miss is the conversion of documents from Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc to PDF.

I have never seen MOSS do web content management, but I have read that the feature exists. We need to do more research into this feature to make sure it meets our requirements.

As a developer I would much rather develop in MOSS. If we are going to be doing more MOSS products and projects in the future, and then migrating our own systems to MOSS would provide us with much needed experience.

Response

It would depend on what our future considerations are for the use of the products.

If the intent is clearly just to be used for collaboration purposes then I think SharePoint is the better product. Why?

I have recently been using SharePoint for multi-user spreadsheet access and used it more extensively on a recent project because that is where they stored all the project information that we needed to access. I find the user interface in SharePoint to be much easier to use and more pleasurable to use. UCM is clunky and outdated. In SharePoint, searching for documents is easier, although the volume of documents was low in both my use cases. In UCM I can search using more of a “google” search for known items that exist in the system and still not get a hit back when I search for it. I have to sometimes use just capital letters, lower case for others, or combinations of both for others to get hits back. So, on paper it is supposed to have better search capabilities but they really stink. I find that I either get nothing back or too much back with UCM when I search.

If our plans are to grow the system and get into more sophisticated workflows, records management, etc. then we should either stay and “suffer” along with UCM (and its clunky UI) or look at using SharePoint with an ILINX connector that could promote the content from SharePoint into IPM, UCM or other document management systems for archiving, BPM/workflow, records management, etc. Use the power of the document management system we have to provide the true ECM capabilities but utilize the easier to use interface of the SharePoint product.

I don’t believe that Microsoft will ever get the product to be an enterprise level product. They have gotten it out there but I don’t think it will evolve into a true ECM product. It will remain a good department level collaboration tool but not go much beyond that. They seem to be able to get products out in high volume to the lower and mid level clients but never seem to really break into the larger higher end customers like an Oracle does. They have tried to do this in the database space and the ERP space but never seem to be able to overcome the hurdles to really get the largest of the customers. Except for those who hate Oracle!

In the case of the project I referenced earlier. Now that the project is over they should be moving the important project documentation to an archive. The project team has been disbanded but the information needs to be stored for long term and then records and retention managed yet easily retrievable. They need a document management system for that. Not SharePoint.

Response

There are many valid points that are raised in these responses. I think one important consideration for this dialogue is ‘context’. The individuals responding to this query all have unique perspectives that are largely shaped on their functional role in the company and their direct experience with clients. At times, we tend to look at things only through our own perspective and not in the broader context. Industry trends and technological limitations can’t be ignored, but again, let’s consider context.

First, regarding the challenges that we face surrounding searching in UCM. We have to consider that the original metadata model that was developed for our Content Server was developed as a prototype when the platform was relatively new. It was then put into production and remained there. The metadata architecture model for Content Server is fundamentally different than the IPM platform which is where our core competency and extensive experience base was rooted. At this point in time, we have a much more mature understanding of the differences in those metadata models, why they matter and how that would play into a design and implementation. It is likely that if we were implementing that whole solution today, the metadata model might look very different, which in turn could significantly impact the quality of the user experience. Secondly, some of the metadata (e.g. author) was complicated because of the content review process that was put in place. If we tried to search for content based on who we naturally thought the author would be (i.e. a Program Manager for project management, etc…), we couldn’t necessarily do that because someone else (admin staff) ultimately would up being the ‘author of record’ because they approved and did the final checkin. Again, all of these things impact the ability to search, and the end users are unaware of the details, only that they are having a hard time finding their content. The question this poses is this; “Is that a function of the system, or a metadata model and review process that could have been refined to make for more effective search capability?”

Second, the ways that we use Content Server (and all of its associated modules) is extremely limited. We’re only using basic document storage and WCM functionality for our websites. There are myriad components used by other customers (i.e. Collaboration Management, Digital Asset Management, Records Management, customized applications) that significantly enhance the value of the platform to any given organization relative to their needs. We’re only going just below the surface. When you combine the ability to customize the interface, leverage the content repository, and include additional database support, and creative design, some very valuable and meaningful applications can be produced that add significant value to a business. The training application that we developed for medical sector client in 2007 is a perfect example of that.

Third, from a WCM perspective, as mentioned above, there is no contest that Content Server is still more mature than SharePoint.

Fourth, all of the comments above about the flexibility and ease of development (for skilled developers) in the SharePoint environment is true.

In Summary, SharePoint will likely go the way that Windows did back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. It won’t be able to be ignored forever. When Windows first came out, it was going head to head with IBM’s OS/2 operating system, a clearly technically superior product. Through some very brilliant marketing strategies, the Windows OS started showing up on the “new computers” (IBM clones). People started using the clones because of the lower cost and Windows came with it. Subsequently, applications started being developed for it, and over time, it became a defacto standard. Over the years, it matured and eventually became a stable, meaningful and valuable player in the market place and technical space. That was then, this is now and Microsoft is now the largest software company in the world with vast resources for development. SharePoint is not going away. It will grow, mature and a large application base will be developed for it. We have embraced it, learned it, and are developing in the environment to push the envelope for it the same way we do for other platforms to fully realize the possibilities. That being said, it should be considered in the broader context of content management, all content management. It is a tool that is part of a larger tool bag. Our model and methodology has always been to use the ‘best of breed’ for any given situation or solution. I don’t think this discussion is any different. We should leverage the right tools for the right job(s). We’re starting to do that as our knowledge and skills with SharePoint evolve, I think we just need to be thoughtful when approaching decisions to eliminate entire platforms and ensure that the decisions we are making are informed decisions and that we are considering things in the broader context.

Disclaimer

The information contained in this document does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the company. Individual names have been removed. The intent is to share the thought process that may be going on in many organizations that are grappling with the same decision being discussed in this document.

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2 Comments »

  1. Interesting mashup but it does not seem to really due true justice to UCM. UCM can really shine on some things.

    Comment by Dan — 2010/10/23 @ 9:09 pm

  2. my file cabinets are made of recycled fiber, they are great for holding large file folders “.:

    Comment by Shower Radio · — 2010/11/14 @ 5:23 am


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