I started a conversation with my friend and ECM expert Chris Riley a few months back (Is SharePoint 2010 Really Ready for ECM?) in which we explored some of the enterprise content management capabilities of SharePoint, cutting through the competitor semantics and FUD, to agree or disagree with Microsoft's claims that the platform was now ready. Our conclusion was that yes, it is not only ready, but in some areas is clearly moving the needle for the industry, raising the bar, shuffling the deck, pinning the tail on the donkey, and dozens of other obscure but possibly relevant cliché linguistic expressions.
When it comes to the great SharePoint ECM debate, most experts will agree that there is too much focus on technology rather than the underlying business processes. At the end of the day, its not so much the grace (or lack thereof) of the solution as it is about delivering core functionality that may be essential to the organization. Let's be honest -- there are third-party solutions that offer the same level of granularity and comprehensive features as the leading ECM solutions.
As Mr. Riley pointed out, imaging is an interesting example. While most other ECM solutions do have a capture component, the most successful companies on these ECM platforms do not use them. The reason for this discrepancy is that capture is not the core competency of any ECM vendor, and contrary to popular belief, most capture technology is not easy. There are, however, a handful of third-party solution providers who do have expertise in this area. Rather than build out a complete ECM solution around their competency, they instead look to ways that they can integrate with the leaders in other categories.
Companies trying to build a best-of-breed application will typically look to leverage a capture system that integrates with their ECM rather than buy an all-in-one solution. In fact, it seems kind of silly to buy an entire ECM platform based on the strength of a capture solution. And yet isn't that how many organizations approach whatever pain point they're facing today, making a short-sighted decision based on one area rather than making a decision for their long-term needs?
One reason SharePoint has been so versatile for many organizations is its ability to integrate with so many partner solutions. Microsoft is known for that -- from a business perspective, Microsoft's partner ecosystem is often what pushes it to the leading position in any category in which it competes. For ECM, SharePoint offers a number of features, such as document sets and content organizer, making it a reasonably comprehensive solution. And any organization requiring an industry-specific solution can tap into the 640,000+ worldwide partner ecosystem and likely find the add-on or integration expertise they need. What other serious competitors can tout that?
So when you ask whether SharePoint is ready for ECM, its not just about functionality -- it really comes down to an argument around the amount of effort, cost, and integration to accomplish the business requirements.
Again back to Chris: "My feeling is that when you look at the amount of effort and cost in delivering an end-to-end solution, SharePoint has the top five ECM solutions beat."
I'd have to agree with Chris on this one.
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