IBM FileNet Review

With FileNet, you can design high-capacity object stores and search across object stores.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable features of FileNet are business process automation, and providing our business users access to all of the documents they need and when they need it, and having that ready access to all of the documents that they need to reference to complete their job functions.

How has it helped my organization?

There are a lot of processes that our business users were handling either manually or in less-than-efficient ways. We were able to optimize those processes for them through FileNet P8 workflows. That's probably the best way IBM ECM platforms help them.

Our legacy platform wasn't necessarily sustainable. It wasn't designed to handle the volume of documents, hundreds of millions of documents, that need to be managed through our enterprise content management platform. One of the main services or benefits that we're providing is a stable enterprise tool that they can rely on to handle that sheer volume of documents.

The front ends and the intelligence that we can build into them are leaps and bounds better than the service that they were being provided previously.

What needs improvement?

It's a very good tool. The one feature or direction I would like to see IBM move the tools, is to make them more tolerant for or lend itself more to continuous integration, continuous delivery; the DevOps model that most organizations are adopting.

We're on a lower version and we need to upgrade our platform, but there is still a lot of configuration that somebody such as a system engineer has to do by hand that isn't easily scriptable. It's done through configuration consoles such as FEM. That might make it difficult to deploy, for example, once an hour, like Amazon does, or every five minutes, or whatever their continuous delivery model is. We're still only deploying the production once every 10 weeks. We could deliver a lot more features to the business if we had the capability to deliver new features to them on a daily basis. That's kind of the holy grail of continuous delivery and DevOps. As of today, I don't know that we could really accomplish that with P8.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Stability’s been pretty good. We're maturing in terms of our monitoring and automation of FileNet services. When there are crashes, we're still responding to those pretty manually. That’s on our end and on IBM's end, a little bit of both.

The one area where we've had stability issues is when we're doing large-volume document ingestion. Part of this is related to the fact that we have regulatory requirements that require us to store documents on a WORM device, which stands for Write Once Read Many. There's just more overhead in doing that. There are times where we have flooded the system with documents, which has affected end-user experience. Those are the most high-impact stability issues that we've experienced, when a flood of documents comes into the system and Content Engine threads get buried.

There is definitely the potential for some improvements there. Although, we're at a point now, in our life cycle, that we're beyond a lot of those large-scale document migrations. For any newer customers that have that WORM requirement, it's definitely something that they need to take into consideration and have some defensive guards against flooding the system in that way.

You could consider it a scalability issue, I suppose. It might be a limitation of the way Content Engine is designed. There could be some more automated guards that are just built into the tool to turn off that ingestion if the system is starting to get flooded. We've instrumented some monitors to do exactly that on our side with custom coding. If IBM had a feature to protect against that, that's something that should definitely be looked at.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

My overall impression of scalability is great. The way IBM allows you to design object stores, and have cross-object store searches, and the quantity of documents that are supported per object store or within FileNet P8, far exceeds what we had with our previous vendor, with the legacy system.

The scalability is great, it's just there are a couple of places, and some of it is specific to features that aren't used by every customer, but there are certain features that, if it's not a scalability issue, it might be a monitoring issue, and taking action against a potential negative impact to the system.

How is customer service and technical support?

We've been pretty successful with the PMR process. I don't have any real negative or positive feedback exactly; it serves its purpose.

How was the initial setup?

I came in towards the end of our first phase. The initial install of the software I wasn't there for, but I was there for the initial migration of documents from the legacy system. It was fairly straightforward. We definitely leaned on consulting from some IBM partners such as Perficient, and from IBM themselves for a few different things. We set up Datacap five years ago, and there were some issues with performance across a wide geography; my organization has 500 branches across the country. There were some issues there that IBM was able to give us a patch to correct those problems. Overall, it's been pretty good.

What other advice do I have?

If you have a very large-scale ECM system, then I think it's the best tool available, based on my limited exposure. I've been working in a P8 shop for the last four years. It’s my first ECM shop, so I don't necessarily have a lot of experience directly with some of the other tools. For a large-scale solution, like what we needed at my employer, it was great. To my knowledge, for a large-scale ECM system, it's one of the best tools available.

Employing IBM on cloud, hybrid or box solutions is definitely a consideration, although my company is only just starting to get into moving our on-prem solutions to cloud. We have to understand a little bit better what the broad-view cloud strategy is from the entire IT organization standpoint before we get to that point.

The experiences for our customers, both internal and external, have changed by implementing FileNet. They're using a different tool set, so that's changed. With our scanning solutions and indexing, and especially from a data perspective, we can better cater to their needs, because of those features that are available through P8.
I don't have a great use case for mobile at this time. Most of the end users that we are providing services to are either physically located inside of a branch or located in our home office, performing more operations functions. They are not necessarily out in the field capturing documents in real-time from customers. It's just not the business case that we're servicing.

The usability is pretty good. There are a lot of great features in the upgraded platform, 5.2 and above, that we're not yet taking advantage of; we're still in 5.1. The Content Navigator, front ends and consolidation of the administration to Content Navigator consoles definitely are benefits. End users definitely benefit from that tool. It's been pretty good for us, even in 5.1.

When selecting a vendor to work with, the most important criteria for me is having somebody that can really demonstrate the tool, has the technical knowledge and can speak to the capabilities; preparedness for the presentation. With the RFPI, I wasn't there, but when we were first looking at vendors for ECM, IBM was certainly the most prepared and had a demo-able platform, as opposed to just something like a PowerPoint presentation. Being able to really demonstrate in real-time what your tools can do is the number one thing that any vendor can do to win over a customer.

Which version of this solution are you currently using?

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