This post originally appeared on the ASPE-IT Blog.
As an enterprise content management (ECM) consultant, I see a lot of SharePoint out there. It’s by far the most widely-used content management platform (95 percent of the organizations I come across have it in place) and, whether it was intentional on Microsoft’s part or not, it has completely changed the way organizations and ECM practitioners approach content management.
Given the increasing importance of SharePoint for document management at many organizations, I want to kick off a series of posts on the topic, to give folks my perspective on what you can do (and what you can avoid) to make your organization successful with SharePoint document management.
A Little Background
Pre-2007, ECM was dominated by full-featured platforms aimed at delivering the complete stack of ECM capabilities, from basic managed document storage to imaging, workflow, collaboration, digital asset management, web content management, e-discovery—you name it. And “big ECM” platforms like Documentum and FileNet did a good job overall addressing these areas.
But “big ECM” had some challenges:
- EC what? – Almost no business users know what ECM is, let alone care about it once they do…hard, then, to get business support for a tool to enable it.
- Implementation complexity – These platforms tended to be difficult to implement properly, and many organizations struggled to do so.
- Adoption – Complex functionality combined with generally poor user interfaces led to a lack of ECM awareness/interest.
- “The last five pounds” – By 2007, those organizations that had core business processes that could benefit from the application of ECM tools (banks, financial services organizations, insurance companies, pharmas, etc.) had already done so, or had at least started doing so because the hard-dollar ROI was there. But for other ECM areas in these organizations, or for organizations outside these verticals, finding a plausible and compelling ROI for ECM was as difficult as figuring out how to lose those last five pounds.
In 2007, with Microsoft’s release of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS), all this began to change. MOSS targeted “good enough” ECM, which at the time meant dynamic desktop management—i.e., creating, collaborating on, sharing, and retrieving Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, Power Point presentations, PDFs, etc., and ignored all the advanced capabilities that “big ECM” had been founded on.
At the time, “big ECM” wrote off MOSS as toy ECM or ECM lite—they were certain that organizations wouldn’t choose a lightweight tool like MOSS over their own full-featured solutions. After Microsoft realized something like $1 billion in first-year sales, though, it was clear that at least some organizations were definitely going to choose MOSS.
Which Brings Us to Now
In the 6 years since 2007, particularly after the release of SharePoint 2010, it’s become clear that Microsoft’s “good enough” approach has been wildly successful, to the point where, as we all line up for SharePoint 2013, SharePoint stands side by side with “big ECM” in the marketplace—not because it offers all the functionality of these other platforms, but because it offers the basic ECM functionality users need, with reduced levels of complexity and a more familiar interface.
I bump into a lot of large organizations every year, whether because they’re a client or just through industry events and marketing outreach. And I would say that at least half of them are seriously considering going all-in on SharePoint for dynamic document management, using “big ECM” for the bucket in the background that performs some of the more advanced ECM tasks. None of them are yet considering SharePoint for things like transactional workflow or high-volume image management, but at many organizations, the face of ECM is SharePoint and increasing volumes of documents are being funneled into it.
The Final Word
So much for the preliminaries. In the next post, we’ll begin looking at SharePoint document management in detail, beginning with an overview of some key concepts, like information management, content management, and document management (and how the heck they all relate to each other, at least in my mind), to level set for the rest of the posts.
In the meantime, feel free to jump in and get the conversation about SharePoint and document management going!