I read an interesting (albeit not too surprising) article by Alan Pelz-Sharpe from CMS Watch entitled "Three continents, one SharePoint story" which claims that customers are not looking at SharePoint as a direct replacement for their ECM systems. His global research suggests that in the main customers are delineating between SharePoint as a collaboration tool and SharePoint as a true enterprise content management system. While I agree with Alan in general I have a few random thoughts...
- In the past, when I spoke to customers about SharePoint and Documentum integrations I used to always hear the question - "Why do I need both?". I'd agree that I am almost never asked that question anymore so maybe customers now have a better understanding of the symbiotic relationship between the solutions.
- One thing that bothers me in Alan's assessment is that he is talking to existing ECM customers which skews the results IMHO.
- Existing ECM customers have an investment in their ECM solution of choice - the cost of moving existing content and processes may be a major factor in maintaining both systems. He mentions this in his 'rip and replace' comments.
- Existing ECM customers tend to be medium-large companies - I wonder what the results would be if the same question was asked of smaller companies.
- I think that just because companies are not dumping their ECM systems doesn't mean that SharePoint is not being used for ECM alongside those formal ECM solutions. Many customers with whom I speak are doing uncontrolled, informal, collaborative content management in SharePoint and then want the documents to 'move' over in to the ECM system at a certain point in their lifecycles.
Of course the real point here is that SharePoint may not really provide good enough ECM capabilities today but what's to come? I still struggle to see how SharePoint could support some of the mandatory ECM-related functionality with their current architecture but it would be naive to think that Microsoft would not go after that space in future releases.
If anyone from Microsoft would like to tell us the 5 year strategy for SharePoint I promise that I'll keep it a secret. Just post it here as a comment.