IBM ECM Review

It provides structure and metadata for our documents. I'd have to say scalability is the most valuable feature.


What is most valuable?

I'd have to say scalability is the most valuable feature. I know there are vendors out there that have products that are really good at collaboration and good at project work, but FileNet/IBM really excels when you get into the hundreds of thousands – the millions – of documents, and having some structure and some metadata on those documents.

Usability is pretty good, especially with Navigator. What I saw at a recent conference was a lot of people engaging the user experience people; usability testing. I think Content Navigator gives you the flexibility to do so much stuff with the layout that we can probably just push that to some team to figure out, and I don't have to worry about where some text box goes or some masking of a field or something. We can leave that to people for whom it’s their bread and butter.

How has it helped my organization?

I'm still a little new to this organization, but I think forcing users to use some sort of taxonomy, having users understand their data better, so they can classify it and retrieve it has improved this organization. The old way would be storing documents in a file system, in folders, and that's just chaos. It’s probably a little generic, but the big driver is having more control over that data.

We are considering employing IBM on cloud, hybrid or box solutions. I think we have resource constraints. We have some people that might be retiring, so I'm looking toward augmenting our team in whatever ways we can, including cloud, hybrid cloud, and so on.

We're still working on providing analytics and reporting services for my organization. Reporting is one of the areas that we've fallen a little bit behind in ECM. We're just not there yet, but we're definitely looking at that.

We're now able to provide better content management services than had existed before.

I think a lot of the internal and external customer experiences have gotten better, just at a high level, due to our implementation of FileNet, going from a bunch of weird VB6 and PowerBuilder client server apps to something that is distributed computing and can scale out, scale up, etc.

I think performance has improved, and then also that relates to supportability. If you have a bunch of client server apps, you have a lot of people that need to work on a desktop team to support them. I think there's some value there.

I think we're looking at including mobile. I honestly don't know the business side a whole lot. I'm more involved with the infrastructure, but I know we're looking at mobile. We've played around with ICN Mobile. I know we'll probably be doing Datacap at some point.

What needs improvement?

We would like to see some more basic reporting built into the core, such as content engine and so on. I know there's some stuff around reporting based on Case Analyzer, which used to be Process Analyzer; stuff with workflow. I would like to see more content reporting baked into the product.

Also, this might be coming, but it seems like five years ago, somebody did a session at a conference on security proxies. I saw the same session again at a recent conference. Somebody else found out how to do it; it's really kind of an obscure workaround. I would like to see IBM bake that into the content platform engine. It would allow dynamic security updates of millions of objects with a click of a button rather than actually hitting each individual object.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Stability is another area where it shines. You can install it on Linux, WebSphere, J2EE. You can scale it really hardcore. If you do it right, it's pretty solid.

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support is pretty good. It's a crap shoot. It depends on the engineer that you get. Some of them are really good and go above and beyond. For some of them, it's actually more like training; they're helping you with implementation. The other ones delineate the work. One of the frustrations that everybody has is, if they want to delay you, they just keep asking for additional logs: "Can you give me your logs? I want logs from this, this, this. Turn on tracing. Do this." They kind of nickel-and-dime you to death. It really does depend on the engineer that you get in support.

It’s something I want to see improved. I would like to see the engineers that do go above and beyond rewarded for that. I think, back in the FileNet days, all the surveys just went back to a big pool; individual engineers weren't rated on their individual performance. I'm not sure if that's the case anymore. This was 10 years ago. I hope that is the case, so when I fill out those surveys, I hope that goes back to reflect on the engineers themselves.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I was not involved in the decision process to invest in FileNet. I was in the private sector for 10 years, and two-and-a-half years in the public sector, and they've always had FileNet. I would be a supporter of it, but I'd definitely push for the Linux platform, Linux WebSphere. I'll go with SQL Server; I don't like Oracle that much, but people seem to like it.

How was the initial setup?

Initial setup is fairly straightforward, if you're familiar with the J2EE world. It's gotten a lot better over the years. We're not even talking about 3.5, but 4.5, 5.2, 5.2.1 were pretty easy to install. Oracle's always a nightmare. I think the IBM ECM suite is pretty easy to install.

What other advice do I have?

Look at the cloud and hybrid cloud. I don't know a whole lot about other solutions such as OnBase or Documentum. I've heard things, but I can't really evaluate. Look at the cloud; whatever you can offload, be it storage or whatever and so on, to save money, would be cool.

I have rated it to reflect where it excels, such as scalability.

There was a quote from one of the sessions at a recent conference. I think it was IBM's CEO. “Where you invest the money, your house is in order,” or something like that. I think that is how I look at FileNet. You use SharePoint for project content that's around for a short period of time, but for your system of record, your system of authority, that’s where you spend the money. It's where you force users to properly classify things, so it's not a garbage-in, garbage-out situation.

The most important criteria for me when selecting a vendor to work with, if we're just talking about vendors that help out doing migrations and so on, I like case references. Generally, I'm pretty familiar with people I've worked with in the past. When I was in the private sector, I talked to some people at Fairfax. They helped us out. They did a great job. I would use them in the future.

I saw something at a recent conference that used Imagine Solutions. It looks like they had a really good experience. That, to me, means everything; just that reference account, essentially.

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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