IBM FileNet Review

The flexibility with which it can store metadata and with which you can search on that metadata are important.


What is most valuable?

FileNet P8 Content Manager is the primary platform we use. We use it essentially just as a document repository. We don't currently do any business process with it. We use it purely for storing and retrieving documents. The most important features would be the flexibility in which it can store the metadata, the flexibility in which you can search on the metadata and the scalability.

How has it helped my organization?

We have millions and millions and millions of documents and we have to put them somewhere. That is where they get put. A user can go to the FileNet system and pull up a document within a matter of seconds. Rather than, if you had no ECM system, you would send a request somewhere, someone would walk through old paper files somewhere and you would get your file in a day. That was thirty years ago. I don't think anyone does that now.

What needs improvement?

The particular aspect that I would like for us to improve on is the ingestion of new documents to data capture. We're looking at ways to more automate our document capture, more automated categorization of documents.

We were looking at the Datacap product. We're currently using Kofax. We're looking at Datacap to see if that might do it better. We don't know the answer to that yet.

It does what it's supposed to do well: you start a document on it; it pulls the document back; it displays the document. For what we use it for, I can't think of features that it's lacking. Now, there are other aspects of it that we don't use. There's a whole BPM system that's tied into it that we've never used.

Going back to data capture, that is not part of the FileNet P8 system. You have to have something to pull the documents in. IBM’s solution is called Datacap. Cofax is another company who we've been using. I went to a recent IBM conference hoping that they had the Datacap products smarter; all the talk there was about Watson and how smart it is. They have a new version of Datacap called Datacap Insight Edition. I was hoping that it was actually really smart; you could give it a bunch of documents, it could understand what the documents are, sort them out for us and extract relevant information. It's not there yet. The hype exceeds the reality.

What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

At first, the customer experience was pretty rocky. A lot of that is just because when you give them something new, they liked the old thing. You give them something new and there's some good features and some bad features, but they're only going to complain about the bad stuff.

From an internal point of view, we had some big improvements in maintenance. The access management – the customer account management – moved from being entirely separate management on the old system to something that was integrated with our Active Directory system. Requests for passive resets and so on went from 100 per day down to zero.

We've standardized on an HTML 5-based viewer. We’ve gotten over some of the problems with being reliant on Java installed in all the various browsers. Functionally, the end customer experience is about the same. It looks a little bit different but there have been a lot of improvements in reduced maintenance costs and trouble.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It's been rock solid. Once you get it going and you get over the initial hump of the initial installation, it's solid.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability is good.

How is customer service and technical support?

FileNet tech support is wonderful. Sometimes, they prioritize according to whether the issue is a casual question or an emergency? If it's an emergency, they're right there; they'll have somebody there. They will get it fixed. If you ask them a low-priority question, it might take a while, but it's a low-priority question.

Also, once you find a document on their website, it's generally very good. The problem I've always had is that their website is sometimes horrible to find things on.

Which solutions did we use previously?

Our FileNet P8 system is an upgrade from an older FileNet Image Services system, which we've had for 14 years, I think. We're trying to obsolete that. Everything we're doing on the P8 system is really a mirror of the old Image Services system. We really haven't got around to trying implementing anything new yet.

I was involved in the decision to upgrade to the FileNet P8 system; I've been pushing for ten years.

How was the initial setup?

FileNet P8 system installation is complex. I don't know how complex it is to similar products but it is definitely complex. It's not something you want to do unless you're an expert in it. You want to make sure you have somebody that knows how to do it.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I was not involved in any comparison to any other system. I don't know exactly what was done. I'm a lowly developer. I can't really compare the FileNet P8 system against any of its competitors.

When I’m selecting a vendor to work with, the most important criteria for me are: that they're going to exist in the future; their product is good; and their documentation is good. I like to be able to go out, find the documentation, and have it be nicely organized; I can find what I want; I can read about what I need to read about and do a deep dive into the nitty gritty details.

What other advice do I have?

It is not my position to consider employing IBM on cloud, hybrid or Box solutions. There's been some conversation about what would be the economic benefit of having stuff moved to the cloud versus hosting it internally. The conversation has only been, “I wonder what the numbers are.” We don't know.

There are no plans of doing mobile in relation to the FileNet P8 system. The FileNet P8 system we use is entirely internal. There are no external, customer-facing applications. There are other departments that do mobile applications. We're a bank, so they have the bank mobile application. They do some FileNet documents but they call an ESB service, which then calls FileNet. We don't do anything directly with it.

I have no complaints regarding the usability of FileNet. I've seen other similar systems and it's comparable. It's kind of boring stuff: you pull up a screen; you put in some query conditions; you find some documents and you look at your documents. It's nothing exciting.

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