IBM FileNet Review

The APIs IBM provides for FileNet are elastic and powerful.

What is most valuable?

FileNet is a really robust and powerful tool for document management environments. It's very well designed, especially on the storage side, and also on the application server side. It's really powerful, robust, and highly available. In our environment, we store more than six billion documents. Some of these documents are more than 1,000 pages.

We also have other FileNet environments – FileNet Image Services environments – and we have federated these image services to a FileNet P8 environment, first as a federation. Then, we have successfully migrated all our old documents to the FileNet P8 environment without any demolition of the documents. It was a nice project.
Also, the elasticity of the APIs IBM provides us is powerful. We are also using IBM WebSphere as the application server. We are hosting our FileNet P8 services on top of WebSphere. It serves as a powerful tool.

Troubleshooting is very proactive. We can easily monitor the system, and we can easily define the problem and take action on it.

ECM is our heart on branches, for example if you cannot check the id and signature of the customer, you can do nothing. Also it’s very vital for us to predict how long does the the operation take for each customer. These makes stability as one of our major concerns Based on 9 years of experience with IBM ECM solutions; I can say that, the power of IBM products comes from stability predominantly. Both FileNet Image services and FileNet P8 are five-nines percent successful on this manner.

How has it helped my organization?

Document management is a new concept for some managers, and some kind of innovative concept, also. When you have content, when you get the documents, then you can fetch the data from that document. You can do analysis, business analysis, predictions with that data, especially in banks, mostly because of regulations.

We have buildings we use for physical documents. Some of them are photographs, images; some of them are computer output data; some formatted, some non-formatted. With FileNet, especially by creating our services for capturing solutions, we can easily store and analyze these documents through the FileNet environment. It's a huge benefit to us. Our response times are no more than 300 milliseconds. We have so many branches all around Turkey. Some of them are more than 500 kilometers away, and we have this response time also in those locations. It's also very fast, and for customer satisfaction, it's a nice feature for us.

What needs improvement?

It's a big tool. It's heavy, really heavy. Because of this, and with it being highly available and robust, it's not so easy to manage. It's not like the new, light technologies. You cannot stop it in seconds, stop and restart it in seconds. That takes minutes. This can be improved, I think.

For example, WebSphere has a new application server named Liberty, especially in the front-end layer, with so many new technologies. IBM is construing it with Content Navigator, but we might not use it. Both parts have options that can be developed.
Management is an issue because the tools are so complex.

For how long have I used the solution?

We moved to P8 six years ago.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It's very stable; no downtime, especially in the daytime because there were some. Think about if you are in a branch, you're an officer, and there's a queue; they're waiting; and the system is down. That was happening beforehand, but now, it is available five-nines percentage, almost no downtime. Response times are very fast, and we are keeping track of the number of operations the clients have done, and those numbers have significantly increased.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Actually, high availability and scalability are related.

There is no longer a document limit. We can easily scale both the systems and storage areas, no problem, without any performance degradation, without any high-availability degradation. We can easily scale.

How are customer service and technical support?

We have the AVP premium support. They are very fast for first response, and they are very productive providing right solution in the right time.

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

We were previously using FileNet Image Services. It was a natural progression to move to FileNet P8. It has direct interaction, with a CFS tool, content federation services tool. We can easily integrate it and migrate our documents without any problem.

How was the initial setup?

We did the initial setup because we have experience, but we worked with IBM and our local partner on the design. For a WebSphere-experienced application administrator, initial setup is very straightforward and very fast; we did it without any issues.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We considered other vendors. There are two factors for us. We have so many documents, billions of documents. Performance is one of the hot topics; fitting into our environment, fitting into our architecture because our architecture is generally based on WebSphere. Also, it was easy to integrate with FileNet Image Services. These were our major concerns. On top of that, high availability is a really important feature for us. These were the reasons we chose FileNet P8.

The decision-making process took more than 3-4 months because we did all the PoCs. We did a stress test; we set up a small environment. It took more than 3-4 months.

We also considered building the whole solution in-house, and we are doing it for some type of documents; non-critical, but agile documents. Performance is the first concern for that. We are only using disk storage, and then a single interface before the storage. Without any sub-tiers, we can directly reach the document, but there are some concerns about security, backup, and high availability.

We are not considering replacing FileNet P8, but using that for different use cases.

The most important criteria for me when selecting a vendor to work with are adapting new technologies, and being the leader. IBM is the leader in this area.

What other advice do I have?

See the product on the road, so to speak. Set it up and do a PoC and see the architecture; see the design.

My rating for this product is because of the high availability, scalability, robustness, adaptability, being the leader in the sector. These are the major reasons. I have not given it a perfect rating because it is not suitable for smaller environments and it could offer more features for different use cases. Consider, for example, on the database side, there are non-SQL databases and SQL databases. The big one would be providing both SQL and non-SQL together in the same environment. P8 is robust and for the heavy side, that is OK, but for the light side, it is not. Maybe they can add a light environment; work in it can be better.

We are considering employing IBM in cloud, hybrid, or box solutions, but in Turkey, using cloud, especially if there is customer data in the environment, is restricted by regulations. It's not clear. If this issue is solved, we will seriously consider it, including in the document management environment; not a public cloud, but maybe a private cloud, also. We are waiting for these regulations for it, but we are considering the technology, so that we do not fall behind.

We have some mobile applications; we are also providing documents to mobile applications. Our clients can also scan and submit some types of documents. They are inserting some type of forms, for example, credit card application forms, through mobile devices, but it's our own solution, not IBM's Content Navigator or other solutions. Nonetheless, in the back end, we are using FileNet. For the front end, our architecture decision is to use our own native applications because it's easy to build and customize. For our needs now, it's the best solution. Maybe in the future, we don't know. Technology is rapidly changing. Maybe we won’t have to create everything ourselves or invent everything from scratch. Maybe a surprise will occur in technology and we can use it, but now, we are using our own solution.

There are new analytics and content management services that we are able to provide for our organization. We have our own solution on the content analysis side also. Our R&D department have developed a project. They are doing human-made documents. These are unformatted documents and free texts, sometimes handwritten; especially faxes, for example. They are fetching the data, doing ICR on faxes. With an NLP-like algorithm, they are deciding which document it is, which department should be responsible for it, and sending a task to that department. The analytic operation is done in our own environment.

Since we implemented FileNet, there are services that we're now able to provide better. Before FileNet P8, we had another document management system, FileNet Image Services. It had some pitfalls, including, for example, a number of documents limit. We have overcome this after implementing FileNet P8. Also, the response times severely decreased. There was no high availability; it was an active-passive cluster on Image Services. After FileNet P8, it is an active-active configuration. These are huge benefits in terms of high availability, and customer satisfaction, also.

The experiences of our internal and or external customers both have changed because we implemented FileNet. External customers generally use internet banking, mobile devices, etc. Before making the document management environment highly available, we couldn't provide, for example, credit card statements as a document to the clients. We were only providing data, and they could see their statements, for example, for only the previous six months, not earlier. They were only seeing the data, not the exact statement I sent them. Now, we are providing exact statements. They see everything in it. They see the benefits we provide with this statement also. Yeah, that's a huge benefit for the clients. Even if it's more than 10 years ago, they can see that statement. For example, sometimes they can need it for legal issues.
Also, for our internal clients, there is no downtime and fast response.

As far as the usability of FileNet, our customers don't have any direct interaction with FileNet. We have our own applications. They don't see FileNet; any FileNet screens. They only see the document.

The people actually using FileNet, they only feel the response time and availability. That's easy and strong for them.

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