IBM FileNet Review

It supplies us with a system of record that's well supported. We're applying a real taxonomy to our environment.


What is most valuable?

The most valuable features of FileNet are the document management, records management, and integration with other solutions. We want a system of record and that's what it supplies us with, a system of record that's well supported.

How has it helped my organization?

It's given us the ability to organize and apply an actual system of record to it, so that we're tracking and making sure that things are disposed of when they need to be. We know where things are. We're applying a real taxonomy to our environment. We're taking many disparate systems and merging them all into one system, and it's now our system of record.

What needs improvement?

I would like to see more integration with other solutions, such as SharePoint; that would be a key one. IBM knows that we want that. Integrations with that and other solutions, in general – other records management solutions, other document management solutions, including those from competitors; that is key for us. While we're trying to coalesce everybody into one system, for the most part, there are other systems that we still have. We still need the connectors to go out to them and connect up everything.

Also, their integration between their own products, such as Watson; things like the Content Collectors and so forth. It would be much better if they made all that work seamlessly together. We've had some troubles with FileNet working with Content Collector, working with Watson and working with Classification. You would think that these things would work seamlessly together but the bridges aren't there. All of the connections aren't in place. It's taking time for that to happen.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

One of the key reasons why we went with FileNet is how stable it was. We're very happy with the stability of it.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability-wise, we're really happy with that, as well. It's a system that we built with scalability in mind. We went highly available with it and we know exactly how to branch out for every single node that we want, every component that we've got.

How are customer service and technical support?

We have used technical support quite a bit. We're heavily engaged with the Lab Services on a regular basis. We have a lot of enhancement requests that are going out and so forth, and IBM has been very responsive to us.

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

We had a lot of different systems. We wanted an industry leader. At that point in time, they were one of the top ones in the Magic Quadrant from Gartner or Forrester. We did look into this with Gartner and Forrester. We tried to stay as neutral as possible in this decision, and we were looking at several different companies. They just worked their way up to the top, eventually.

We were a very siloed organization. We had different systems in different regions and so forth. It was very difficult to find information, so we knew we needed one. We also knew that there were new government regulations on how we handled our records, and we needed to have something that we could really leverage to facilitate all of that.

The most important criteria for me when selecting a vendor to work with has to do with the size of the organization; what they're able to bring to the table, as far as the number of people and so on. We've dealt with small groups, where there's 1-2 people working for a company. That can make it difficult for us. It's the personnel, the power of the people that they can bring. That's really critical for us.

Also, experience, obviously; that they know what they're doing. I've also dealt with vendors where they come in and they learn with us. When we started with our implementation, ICM was brand new. When we were sitting down with our vendor, we realized quickly the vendor was learning it as we went. So, having some experience with the product is obviously key.

We're a pseudo-governmental organization and that means that we're a slow ship to turn. The decision-making progress takes a long time. There are a lot of different policies and procedures that are in place to gate us as we go through that process. It just naturally takes us a long time to get through it. From strategy, through an RFP, to getting to the point where we made a purchase, it probably took two years.

We did not really think about building an in-house solution. There are components of this that you could probably do on your own. We looked at things like platforms such as SharePoint and so on, and realized that there were limitations. That's why we wanted an enterprise leader; something that's already pre-built that we didn't have to build from the ground up and support. That's not to say that we won't build certain things going out. We've looked at connectors and what we want out of those connector products and we've toiled with the idea of actually building it from the ground up ourselves.

How was the initial setup?

In addition to myself, we also brought in others who have consultant experience, so we knew how to do this from the ground up. If you threw someone new into it, it's very complex, very difficult to do, but since we had lots of experience, we knew what we were doing. It was still complex; not an easy thing to do. You have to have some people with some pretty decent experience to build it up; not only that, but also understand how your customers are actually going to use it. It's one thing to build up a foundation that they can use, it's another thing to make sure it actually does what their business needs.

What other advice do I have?

Really listen to your customer, your users, and what they need. Understand what they need from a records management perspective and what they're going to be migrating from and coming into this with. With these solutions, there are a lot of dials to play with and some of them handle that better than others.

It's a very stable platform. It's obviously a leader. When used properly and the customers understand what it's to be used for, it's an excellent product. Whether or not it's as customizable and user friendly, that's where it starts to drop a little bit as far as I'm concerned. When you compare it to the flexibility and what users can do with SharePoint or some of the competing products like OpenText and so on, it seems like there's a little bit more flexibility on the user side for them to do more with those than what you can with FileNet when it comes out of the box. Now, I do understand, IBM is changing that. That's the reason behind my rating.

We are considering employing IBM on cloud, hybrid or box solutions; a little bit of everything. The box solution is a nice way for us to work with outside agencies such as banks and so on, when we do reviews of them and so forth. We would look at the cloud for development systems and things of that nature. I don't see us moving any of our production-level data out to the cloud at this point in time. An in-house cloud, that's different, perhaps.

We’re now able to provide analytics and content management services for my organization that we weren’t able to provide before, because we didn't really have a complete system before we had this system. We're now a records management system for a central bank.

Document management is probably the key existing service that we're now able to provide better than before. As I’ve mentioned, we had disparate systems, many different search engines to find all that data and now we're all kind of coalescing into one.

We have plans to include mobile. It's a little bit further out and, being a central bank, we have some restrictions as far as what we can do on mobile devices and what they can do to access their network. That makes mobile difficult.

The experiences of our internal customers have changed quite a bit since implementing FileNet. As I’ve mentioned, they've got one area to go to find all their data. For the customers that are using it, they like that quite a bit. Being able to leverage new workflows to improve their business processes is fantastic. As far as external customers, we haven't allowed anybody external. We have no external access to it. That's where we might use something like box down the road.

There's an ebb and flow to usability, as far as what you're willing to customize on the user front end. Coming out of the box, it's difficult to say that it's very usable for customers until you get in and really start customizing it for their needs and understanding how they're going to use it in their day-to-day practice. ICM out of the box is OK from a document management perspective, but it's very generic and it needs to be ironed out and customized. I'm not referring to custom coding, but really going in and tweaking the settings to facilitate what the customers want.

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