Month: January 2009

Forrester finds that integration, better interfaces key to improving WCM

Forrester’s Stephen Powers has released a report that finds that companies are still investing in WCM even in tough times. The report is a survey of 261 information and knowledge management professionals across all verticals. According to the report, released on January 12, nearly three quarters of respondents said they would do more WCM in the coming year and only about one-third said they had rolled out WCM enterprise-wide already.

So what improvements do people want out of their WCM system? The top three, according to the report, are “Integration with other enterprise applications or content repositories”, “interfaces for content contributors”, and “management of multiple sites and/or environments” which is tied for third with “workflow”.

The “workflow” one is a bit of a surprise to me. In my experience WCM workflows have been much more straightforward than workflows we’ve seen in document management or other content-centric applications. The report doesn’t include a breakdown of the incumbent WCM vendors used by the respondents, and, unfortunately, doesn’t get more specific so it is uncertain exactly what about “workflow” the respondents found lacking.

“Integration with other repositories” and “management of multiple sites” aren’t surprising. We’ve been seeing a lot of interest from clients with a “multi-site” problem. The problem might be one around operational efficiency or it can be about moving content around, finding content, or potentially reusing content across heterogeneous platforms. I think the proposed CMIS standard will help out a lot here but more vendors will have to roll out their implementation and tools based on CMIS will have to become available before we will feel the full impact.

“Better interfaces for contributors” is another one that makes sense. As technology like flash, flex, and AJAX continue to be deployed in consumer applications and across the enterprise, it is natural that users are demanding similar enhancements to their WCM systems. It seems like in a lot of cases, the original goal of WCM–“remove the webmaster bottleneck”–has failed. We’ve simply moved the work “up the stack”. Now the inefficiency is around content owners, who are largely business users, that struggle with difficult-to-use tools.

Powers tries to make the case that Enterprises “fear upgrades” citing that 57% want upgrades kept to a maximum of one-per-year. This is an important stat, particularly for open source WCM, which prides itself on being able to innovate faster than its legacy cousins. I would imagine that if upgrades were entirely painless, this number would drop significantly. Customers want to roll out new features to content contributors and content consumers–they just can’t afford to do it frequently if upgrades are huge ordeals. (I recently spoke to an enterprise that was going to pay their incumbent legacy vendor over half a million dollars in services alone just to get their installation current).

Enjoyed the Code Camp in Munich last week

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Germany last week. In addition to presenting the details around Alfresco’s web application framework, Surf, I met lots of great people, ate some outstanding food, and drank plenty of German beer. Out of the three Code Camps we conducted, this location had the most character. Check out the pics to see what I mean.

About 30 people from around Europe spent the day learning Alfresco Surf. We then finished up with a round table discussion. One of the campers, Gabriele Columbro, posted a great recap of the Code Camp if you want a taste of what we covered. Gabriele has a few screenshots of the slides. We’ll be posting all of the materials and labs in full soon.

Alfresco ECM is 96% cheaper than legacy ECM vendors?

If you are evaluating ECM solutions, particularly if you are interested in cost, you need to take a look at Alfresco’s TCO Whitepaper. In it, Alfresco uses licensing numbers they snagged from the United States government to compare the first year costs of their solution with EMC/Documentum, OpenText, and Sharepoint.

When the whitepaper came to my attention, I expected it to be Marketing hype, full of soft numbers and exaggerated claims. While readers must take the paper with a grain of salt considering the obvious bias of the source, Alfresco does a good job of avoiding Marketing speak for the most part and simply laying out the facts. The whitepaper shows line item detail for licensing and support for the first year. If you want to include supporting infrastructure (OS, application server, database) in your analysis those are provided for you as well.

The paper shows that for document management plus collaboration and integration with SharePoint, you’d have to pay EMC/Documentum $863,937.98 for a 1000 user configuration as opposed to $318,738 for SharePoint and $33,500 for Alfresco for similarly-sized systems with equivalent functionality. Those numbers exclude the supporting infrastructure software.

So what’s the fine print? Here are some considerations…

The numbers Alfresco used are from a government price list. It isn’t clear to me whether those numbers are “list” or are a negotiated, reduced rate, but from my past experience with Documentum, I’d say they are closer to list. I don’t think it is likely that anyone would actually pay $800k for a 1000-user Documentum system. Even if you were to negotiate 50% off of those numbers, though, the difference is still significant.

A portion of the “first year’s cost” is maintenance and that recurs every year. For Alfresco you are only paying for maintenance, so the entire $33.5k will be due every year. Using the numbers from the whitepaper your Documentum maintenance bill would be about $115k every year. I think in all cases, the maintenance is probably understated for what typical clients will pay because most will want “top shelf” SLA’s. The numbers used here are for lower levels of service.

The legacy vendors have 1000’s of product configuration options. The line items Alfresco chose to include for the Documentum configuration look roughly right, but with so many options you can’t say with certainty that what’s listed is what everyone who needs a 1000-user document management system built with Documentum will use. So tweak the table using the quote your vendor gave you and come to your own conclusions.

Alfresco showed a 2-CPU configuration for their 1000-user config priced at $33,500 which included a test server. Then they showed a “high availability” config with a $9,250 up-charge. But they didn’t double the procs. If you’re going to be HA, you’ll need at least two of everything. While they did double the test server procs, they didn’t double the production server procs so the HA version of the 1000-user config should be more like $76,250, in my opinion. Incidentally, it isn’t clear to me what you get for that extra $9,250. I have an open question with the Alfresco folks to clarify both issues.

What about services? Honestly, it’s usually a wash. There are things you can get done faster because you can see the source code but there are other things you may end up spending more time on. When it comes to services, the primary value of open source is in the ability to spend less on the software and still end up getting something closer to what you actually need through customizations (See “Why Open Source?”).

Obviously, big decisions like this should never be made on cost alone. Documentum, FileNet, SharePoint, and Alfresco aren’t perfectly interchangeable. You still have to figure out which one is a better fit for you along all sorts of dimensions. But the stark analysis Alfresco is providing is likely to get a lot of attention from buyers who are particularly price-sensitive in today’s market.

Alfresco Surf overview: Recorded webinar available online

I’m looking forward to the Surf Code Camp we’re conducting on Tuesday in Munich. If you’re attending and you want a little taste of the framework, Alfresco has a one hour recorded webinar available. If you don’t get a chance to watch it prior to the Code Camp, that’s okay. We’re covering everything that’s discussed in that webinar and more. Some people have said that they would rather not come in cold, so this is for those folks.

I know not everyone’s been able to get to a Code Camp. We’re going to work with Alfresco to get the presentations, labs, code samples, and maybe even the VMWare image posted at some point this quarter in case people want to go through the material on their own.