If you had been hiding under a rock for the past few years and were just starting to search for a collaborative content management system, you may get the impression that SharePoint is the only product on the market. But after looking at the literature, blogs, tweets, and webinars, and being a good scout, you decide to search around and see what else is out there. SharePoint may work, but you would like to measure it against other products and ensure that the “due diligence” is done.
The first consideration is getting a handle on the variables so that you are not comparing two dissimilar products. While there is a lot going on in this type of study, there are fundamentally three areas that have to sync-up in order to have a head-to-head comparison.
The first is what are your own business, functional, and technical requirements? This has to be the starting place otherwise you will be looking at products that may or may not actually do what is needed to be accomplished. Developing these requirements allows you to start on a solid footing when speaking to vendors because (1) you now know what you are trying to accomplish, and (2) the vendors have less wiggle room when given the list.
The second is to properly size the opportunity so that you are not wasting time speaking to the wrong set of vendors. For example, if you were considering a SharePoint-type system, you could also look for SaaS-type vendors (Box, Dropbox, Igloo) or the big three ECM vendors: OpenText, FileNet, Documentum. Chances are that after looking at a SaaS-type vendor, like Box, you would quickly see that they do not have all the functionality that is needed for areas like records management, workflow, compliance, and maybe others. On the other hand, looking at OpenText, they most likely can meet all of your requirements and more but at a cost (actual $$, time, and resources) that is not in your budget.
The third is your own in-house IT resources and capabilities. Does your company, and I encourage you take a “hard” look at the IT department, have the IT depth and knowledge to build and maintain, for example, a SharePoint system? If you are reading the literature you will quickly see a number of reports and comments that point to how difficult is it to build and maintain SharePoint and that is because it is considered a “platform” to build from, not a “product” to implement. SaaS and ECM systems are products – SaaS products are generally fixed and not customizable while ECM systems are fixed but are highly customizable. But at least you have a good starting place with SaaS or ECM-type systems. The point is that part of your decision should include an honest assessment of your own capabilities and your depth of resources for a long-haul effort. I’ve known several companies that have shied away from SharePoint, not because of the product functionality, but because of the work to develop, build, and maintain it.
I want to make a point that if your requirements truly point you in the direction a SharePoint-type system, you most likely will not go with a SaaS-cloud based content management system or an established ECM vendor because SharePoint fills a hole between those two types of systems. So, what are some comparable SharePoint-like alternative systems that you could review? Here is a short pick list to get your started:
Xerox DocuShare: DocuShare is an enterprise scalable content management system and includes records management, workflow, advanced search capabilities and compliance modules. DocuShare also includes imaging features for scanning document into DocuShare. DocuShare is not a cloud/SaaS but like SharePoint is a “product” that you can configure, customize, and implement according to your needs. http://docushare.xerox.com/
Alfresco: Alfresco is an open source ECM platform that you can use in the cloud or on premise. It includes digital content management, capture/imaging, records management, workflow, advanced search, and compliance modules. http://www.alfresco.com/
SpringCM: SpringCM is a cloud-based enterprise content management system that includes records management, workflow, and compliance modules. http://www.springcm.com/
NuxeoDM: NuxeoDM is an open source document management software platform that can be implemented on premise or in the cloud and includes records management, workflow, and compliance modules. http://www.nuxeo.com/en
The above vendors are, in my opinion, close in overall features and capabilities to SharePoint and would be solid alternatives to include in your review. You should also consider that Alfresco and NuxeoDM are open source versus DocuShare and SpringCM which are not open source. Generally speaking, you may expect the above four products to be able to handle all of the general requirements that you may have and may be customizable for the more unique requirements.
The benefit of doing this type of comparison is that you will begin to more fully understand and better define your own requirements by closely looking at what other systems can do and how they do it. While the requirements that you gathered define what work you need to do, looking at the vendors will help you to define how to do the work. A simple and obvious example may be the benefits of “automated workflow” over manual workflow processes – an automated workflow process may save you several FTEs, reduce the overall cost of processing “items,” and allow you to process items faster.
In many cases you will find that that some vendors who claim to be SharePoint alternatives are basing that judgment on a less then fully realized features comparison. Many of the SaaS vendors claim to be SharePoint alternatives based solely on their ability to do document management activities (check in/out, version control, security, etc.) but that is far less than the overall capability of SharePoint and the above four companies.
The above four companies should be considered a starting place for your journey – there are many companies that claim to be a SharePoint alternative – try searching on “SharePoint Alternatives” and be prepared to be bowled over with results. However I caution you to keep your requirements list close at hand and to use it to separate vendors into viable candidates and those who simply cannot make the cut. The end result of this journey is that whoever you decide is the correct solution for your project, you will know that you explored all of the possibilities and are confident of your choice based on (1) your understanding of your requirements, and (2) your leveling of the playing field.
Finally, let’s hear from you! Have you a SharePoint alternative to suggest? Have you done a SharePoint comparison that you would like to share? Did you look at other vendors but ultimately decide on SharePoint? Why?