Almost all of my current discussions with clients find their way to SharePoint and ECM. Many times I am presenting to a group that included the SharePoint advocates on one side of the room and ECM advocates on the other. Depending who you are listening to in the industry will lead you to sit on one side of the table or the other. The industry analysts, i.e. Forrester or Gartner, will point out that SharePoint is not an ‘Enterprise’ Content Management solution as it lacks Records Management and Workflow functionality as well as its scalability limitations to meet an enterprise’s needs. On the other side of the table, Microsoft is whispering in the user’s ear that SharePoint is an ECM solution and provides all the functionality to meet their needs. So who is right. On the surface, SharePoint does provide a core set of functionality to meet the ECM requirements, but lacks some of the flexility and robust capabilities of the leading traditional ECM solutions. When you dig in deeper into the SharePoint capabilities you do find some holes that are better filled by the traditional ECM vendors. These include:
- A performance limitation of being able to store and manage only 2000 documents in a Document Library or Folder. This limitation requires a Information Architecture design that may need to contain many levels to accomodate the storage of all the documents.
- A records management functionality that does not manage the records in place, but requires the final document/record to be moved or copied to the Records Center. Best practices for records management is to manage the record in its primary location and wrap it with the retention policy.
- The workflow capability requires that a workflow be created in either Visual Studio or SharePoint designer. This will typically require an IT resource to create a workflow. Most ECM solutions have a graphical workflow designer that could be utilized by a business person who has an IT flair.
So what is the right answer. My approach is to marry the 2 capabilities together, segment SharePoint to the Collaborative Content Management functionality and the ECM solution will manage the content once it has been approved and declared a corporate asset. Using the ECM’s vendors Webpart integration, the documents that are being managed in the ECM solution can be surfaced through the SharePoint UI to the user. In that way, the user has the same experience if they are accessing documents stored in SharePoint or the ECM solution. Also, most of the ECM vendors are now providing the capability to move or copy a document from SharePoint to the ECM solution once the document has been approved or has met a set of defined criteria. This will provide the ability to declare a document a record and move it into the ECM records management solution for retention management. So you can see, by combining the 2 systems together, a more powerful complete solution can be provided to the users.