IBM FileNet Review

Automation and workflow save our clients significant time every day

What is our primary use case?

We used it to develop document-management solutions for various public sectors, in India. We also use IBM BPM on top of it, which is primarily used for Workflow, with FileNet as the repository in the backend for document storage. Our solutions manage the entire lifecycle of content, right from creation to disposal.

For example, when organizations receive invoices or proposals, using FileNet we have a solution which allows users to create the content, upload the content, manage the content, and it moves through the workflow.

Our solution is called E-Office is, which handles the entire file movement, correspondence, file creation, committee meetings, etc. Wherever content is involved, the solution is involved. All day-to-day, paper-based activities have been automated using the help of BPM and FileNet.

It's deployed as a hybrid. It's mostly on-premise but some of our customers have part of it on cloud.

How has it helped my organization?

It's not only about productivity but utilizing resources effectively. Because of the automation, they use a lot less paper for printing. And on top of the resource benefits, there are also a lot of cost-savings as a result.

In addition, because offices are located in different locations, they now work together virtually. It is very difficult to transfer this kind of data through emails. Our solution has really helped with that. Productivity is a primary focus for every automation we implement. And our client companies have seen that as a result.

Our clients are saving a minimum of two hours a day in work time. They no longer depend on couriers or whatever they were using to dispatch and move files. Everything happens in the solution.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature is the suite of IBM products. It's a packaged solution. We have IBM Datacap which is used for the OCR capabilities. FileNet is the repository for document management. BPM is primarily used for workflow. Then we have Red Hat Linux or AIX, which is an OS from IBM. There is also Db2 which is a database, again from IBM. We get all these products straight from IBM. We don't have to rely on different vendors or products when there is an integration issue.

The FileNet Navigator, which came out four or five years ago, was really a major upgrade from IBM in terms of the UI. Users are happy with that.

FileNet has the capabilities to meet compliance and regulatory requirements. It is very secure. That is also one of the key requirements of any automation that we do.

What needs improvement?

There is some confusion with FileNet workflow. It's not really going into the next level. They are probably replacing it with BPM's workflow. So there's an issue of clarity, the vision for going forward. There are a lot of tools and a lot of features, but which one is really going to stay and which one is going away. When they make that vision public it will be good.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using this solution for about 12 years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

FileNet is stable. A lot of our customers are actually on older versions, so we've been upgrading their systems recently. The current version is really stable because it has been rewritten. Since IBM acquired this product — FileNet is not an original IBM product — they have rewritten certain engines in it. The more they release new versions, the more the product is stable, especially in the "five-dot" series. They are really stable. We are encouraging customers to upgrade to the latest version. That is what is happening now.

I don't remember any stability issues recently. Maybe a long time ago, with certain limitations, there were a couple of issues. But we don't have them now. There is a resolution for everything in the current versions.

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

We were using products like Documentum and OpenText, and we used to rely on different vendors for the database, etc., and we had certain challenges. But the IBM products come as an entire package for us, which is really helping.

How was the initial setup?

The setup is going to be complex but we put the right people on the job. In the older versions, it was much more complex. Slowly it is improving. They started releasing container stuff, recently, which we like. 

I would say it is not too complex or too easy. It's somewhere in the middle. Hopefully, the coming versions will simplify the FileNet setup to help it go more quickly. Currently, it takes at least a day to set up a basic environment.

What was our ROI?

Our clients have definitely benefitted from FileNet but they don't disclose the numbers.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Some people say it is costly, but when they negotiate with IBM it is sold for somewhat less. IBM gives discounts depending on the customer base. We don't have complaints about it from customers.

What other advice do I have?

FileNet is at the top of our list of referred content management solutions. It ranks well in industry reviews. FileNet has a customer base in different domains and different business areas. If somebody wants to implement it, they should look at the case studies and see how it is being implemented and what the benefits are.

In terms of its usability, we mostly use the out-of-the-box capabilities of FileNet, such as the Content Navigator. BPM has built-in capabilities to communicate with FileNet and we also develop certain Java-based GUIs.

With the new version, the UI has been improved as has the performance. There is also a distributed enrollment that FileNet allows. There is something Cache Service Manager so you can have this service set up and distributed so that people can access it locally.

I would rate FileNet at nine out of ten. IBM needs to clarify the vision, the roadmap of what is expected for it. How they want to take this product to the next level, that is what is missing.

Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner.
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