This is a brief posting on the above AIIM seminar held in the Metro Convention Centre downtown today, Toronto being the last city on the north-american 'tour' for this year.
The general opening session by Peggy from AIIM concentrated on definitions of ECM and BPM and questions about how many people in the room (which was pretty full) were already using, or planning on using Sharepoint, and what for. Oh yes, I should explain, Sharepoint and BPM were the twin themes of the day, the reason for this, as Peggy explained, is that while in real life Sharepoint might not do everything MS tells us, or as easily as they would have us beleive, it has changed the market place and it certainly is the 800lb guerilla in the ECM room.
We then had a guy from OpenText do a brief, and generic presentation on educating users, as OpenText were the 'education' sponsor of the event, and if you have ever read my blog before you will know I am big on the concept of educating users in information management (as opposed to 'training' them on a specific solution), and I am also a big fan of AIIM training courses.
The day then split into two tracks, so you had to make a decision on which session you were going to attend.
My first session was one by SpringCM (the SaaS CM provider) entitled: 'Extending Sharepoint beyond collaboration'. An interesting session contrasting what an in house Sharepoint installation might be good for, versus a SaaS offering like Spring. Also noted that the current sweet spot for SaaS is the Small to Medium Business space, and also more or less autonomous departments of larger enterprises. The speaker also had some intereting points on 'configuration versus customisation' (he is preaching to the converted with me.....) and on how with a SaaS offering like SpringCM if you want to add Records Management to your content management they just 'flick the switch' - Mmmm' I doubt its really that easy, retention policies anyone.... ? All in all an interesting session.
Next up was EMC with 'Got Sharepoint, get control!". Again, with this session EMC were pretty much preaching to the converted. You can sum up this session by a qoute from towards the end of it; "its not a competition, this is not about Documentum versus Sharpoint. If it was a competition then with millions of seats deployed, Sharepoint has already won".
While I question exactly how many of the millions of the MOSS licences are actually in use, we understand the point. So, its not a simple or direct competition, which allows EMC to say that Sharepoint is great for 'basic content services' and its a great User Experience (UI), but it does not do BPM (only document routing workflow), its not a sophisticated RM solution, it does not fit particularily well with birth to death content lifecycles and HSM / tiered storage. All what you would expect from EMC of course, and personally I agree with much of it, but you may not.
However they also got onto the Sharepoint governance track, and noted that Microsoft themselves apparently have over 100,000 Sharepoint sites - nightmare ! Finally for the content management geeks out there, they gave the 'storing data as BLOBS in SQL Server' architecture a good kicking - and this I completely agree with. All in all, another good session.
Next up was Clearview with 'Transcending Federated Search: unifying and managing multiple repositories such as Sharepoint with robust ECM services". Blimey, could they have come up with a longer title ?
A very entertaining speaker who dealt very well with his frozen Powerpoint slides that would not keep up with him. Nicely started with pointing out the differences between WSS and MOSS, and had a truly excellent set of one liners under the heading of "order from chaos". So in turn, this is his take on Microsofts progression;
1. we started with 'creative' use of file shares
2. we progressed to 'extended' use of Outlook (.pst as filing cabinet ?)
3. we are now in 'ill guided' proliferation of Sharepoint
I love that, I think its a great continuum. He went on to discuss the CMIS standard and 'virtual domains' i.e. federated managment of multiple repositories, and finished with a small amount of Clearview specific stuff.
Final session was Hyland Software "ECM vendors should practice what they preach". An excellent session which can be summed up easily in one sentence - "ECM is a strategy, not a single product". Some very cogent arguements against trying to do everything within a single 'suite' from a single vendor. I like that point that even if you have 40,000 seat deployment, in a 200,000 global enterprise, thats a 'point solution' - a nice observation. He also noted that due to growth by acquistion, even the really big vendors have product sets that are better at some things than others. In the Sharepoint context he was noting its strength in the 'basic content services' space; "most of us need something better than file shares and Outlook, we need ECM for the little guy".
Unfortunately due to returning to the office early for other committments I missed ABBYY's after lunch keynote on "Bridging the gap between ECM and BPM".
Overall a good and interesting seminar, with the vendors sticking true to AIIM's desire to present 25 mintues of generic content or case studies, but not product sales pitch. Although one person I spoke to found this a tad frustrating as he wanted to know more about each vendors capabilities, oh well, you can't have it both ways.
Another interesting thing was the amount of Records Managers who put up their hands (every time someone asked them to) - does this mean they were all looking for something other than Sharepoint for RM , well thats a bit of a leap on my par. Overall the message I got from the whole thing, but one that was not said in these exact words was: "Sharepoint, its a freakin portal, OK ?"