AIIM ‘Sharepoint Meets ECM’ sessions reviewed

Greg Clark of C3 associates has been attending the ‘AIIM Sharepoint Meets ECM’ sessions in Chicago and has written a couple of excellent blogs about Sharepoint as an ECM platform. The blog covers different opinions on the richness of MOSS as an ECM system. I recommend reading them if you are into ECM.

Liveblogging AIIM SharePoint Meets ECM Session (1 of 5)

SharePoint Meets ECM: Doculabs Summary (2 of 5)

SharePoint Meets ECM: Document Imaging Breakout Sessions (3 of 5)

SharePoint Meets ECM: SharePoint as an ECM Platform (4 of 5)

SharePoint Meets ECM: Doculabs on the Positioning of SharePoint and Traditional ECM Tools (5 of 5)

External storage API for WSS, opening the door for CAS and HSM storage?

In my ECM article I mentioned that WSS didn’t provide support external storage for files and documents. However, Microsoft has recently released new functionality in an API trough a hotfix (which is probably why I didn’t notice it before. Who puts new functionality in a hotfix?) . I didn’t have any time yet to investigate further in this API, but sounding from the description it looks promising when there is an requirement for CAS & HSM storage of Sharepoint documents.

“An external storage API is available for Microsoft Windows Sharepoint Services 3.0. The external storage API lets you store documents or files on an external storage device other than Microsoft SQL Server. This API also lets you upgrade existing Windows Sharepoint Services 3.0 sites to point to an external storage device.”

It could be a very powerful feature in the records center in combination with the DoD-5015.2 that should be released fall 2007. Too bad that  there isn’t any documentation available yet.

You can find information on the hotfix here:
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/938499/en-us

Getting started with WCM (Part 1) – WCM Introduction

Before you you can start building an WCM Internet presence site. You need to know WCM. Its capabilities and limitations. If you are new MOSS WCM i would recommend reading every part of MOSS WCM you can find on the Internet. For now, I will post a couple of good resources here which should get you started immediately. I highly recommend starting with the videos to get the general idea.

Understand WCM core concepts

Get right to the action with 2007 Office System Video: Enterprise Content Management. Follow up with Customizing and Branding Web Content Management-Enabled Sharepoint Sites (Part 1 of 3): Understanding Web Content Management and the Default Features series.

Read the Microsoft’s excellent resources Managing Web Content and the conceptual WCM and branding – How do I…. If you get the overall idea you can start reading the planning documentation with Plan Web site structure and publishing (Office Sharepoint Server)

The latter includes a reference to some good whitepapers: ‘Building Multilingual Solutions by Using Sharepoint Products and Technologies’  (also covers localization of custom webparts), ‘Information architecture in Office Sharepoint Server‘ and the excellent Web Publishing and Planning Guide with Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server book

Know what consequences an moss presence site has for security environment and what to do about it here: How to lockdown an Internet facing MOSS-based web site and Planning, Designing & Securing an Extranet and Internet Facing WSSv3 and Sharepoint Server 2007 Environments

You are probably going to use content deployment, and you might have some troubles with it. There is an excellent blog post that referers to situations regarding content deployment check it out here.

While you are at it, check out the hardware requirements for an WCM configuration at Estimate performance and capacity requirements for Internet environments (Office Sharepoint Server)

Master Sharepoint designer

Sharepoint designer is your sidekick in MOSS WCM world.  So make sure SPD becomes second nature.

WS313 – Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007: Building No-Code Sharepoint Solutions (WS313_Mauceri.wmv)
Also get the 40 application templates under the hood for some general Sharepoint Designer patterns and practices.

Get in-depth

As you build an WCM presence site you might run into several requirements that WCM doesn’t cover out of the box. It is key to know how to extend MOSS WCM. MOSS uses the ASP.NET 2.0 provider model extensively. The two most frequent custom implemented providers are the SiteMapProvider and the MemberShipProvider.

Learn from others’ experiences

There are a couple of good tutorials on how other companies incorporated WCM.  See the How we did it.. – SPS Blog series. This blog references to real world implementations which covered implications like Search Engine Rankings & SEO, reducing page size , hybrid authentication providers (#Authentication) and ‘friendly URLs‘.

More resources

Basically your one stop shop for all other WCM resources, purposely put it as last so it doesn’t confuse with it sheer amount of information.
http://www.andrewconnell.com/blog/articles/MossWcmResources.aspx

Microsoft Enterprise Content Management Team blog (Includes WCM)
http://blogs.msdn.com/ecm/

Microsoft Sharepoint Blog
http://blogs.msdn.com/sharepoint/

Upcoming WCM series

Recently, I’ve been contracted for building and configuring an presence site for an Dutch company with multiple offices across Europe . I will dedicate some of my upcoming posts to the process that involves creating an multinational site.

If you are into WCM, watch this space.

The role of MOSS in an large scale ECM environment (Part 2)

In this series

Part one
Part two

Introduction

In the previous post I gave an introduction what it takes to be an ECM enterprise. At this point any Sharepoint professional can already detect what functional requirements lack in the current MOSS implementation. However, be aware that only a relatively small portion of companies will actually need all the requirements of an such an ECM enterprise. So you want to review whether the standard MOSS ECM features provide enough functionality for your company. In this post I will dig deeper on the matter, and where to draw the line in the gray area of MOSS only or extending MOSS with third party ECM tooling. In many situations it is  unclear for both parties. The ECM party knows what it means to be an ‘true’ ECM but doesn’t seem have enough Sharepoint knowledge or experience to make a comprehensive decision. On the other hand, the overall Sharepoint party is new to ECM and has none to limited ECM field experience.

Its not really a matter whether the full ECM functionality is possible in Sharepoint since the foundation of MOSS is excellent and every ECM requirement can be custom build on top of MOSS. But more whether it is out-of the-box available, and ready for the real world.  For instance, if you want to store millions of files you can easily develop logic that distribute the files over different document libraries and folders. Single instance archiving and CAS can be achieved custom policy development. So you can basically bend Sharepoint enough to be full ECM compliant. However, custom development is costly and it is your responsibility to maintain the code throughout your enterprise existence. You also want to incorporate more tooling and content services to manage your content on an overall basis. You also need to keep in mind to keep the code working with every iteration of MOSS.

Is MOSS out-of-the-box ECM enterprise ready?

As an independent Sharepoint consultant I feel to obliged to advise clients on whether to use Sharepoint standalone or consider augmenting Sharepoint with third party ECM tooling. So is the current version of MOSS out-of-the-box ECM enterprise ready? Well, it really depends on your company requirements. As it comes to the features, MOSS has a wide range of ECM capabilities that would cover most companies’ needs. However, its not as specialized or out-of-the-box ready as the older ECM players of this world like OpenText, Interwoven or EMC2. MOSS has very good and tight office integration and user experience for creation of documents and supersedes other players in this area. But lacks the out-of-the box ECM features like document imaging, single instance archiving and hierarchical storage management that other vendors provide.

MOSS is very good for the ‘active’ part of document management like ad-hoc document creation, collaboration, basic approval workflows and sorts. But for more complex services one might rely on other vendor’s products or custom development. As for record management MOSS is certainly going in the right direction, but at this iteration of MOSS there is no information on the amount of data the record center can handle. Also the current out-of-the-box functionality is rather limited. However, the 5015.2-STD add-on pack which will be released later this year (Fall 2007) will increase the amount of functionality, and will cover probably enough of the record management requirements for most companies. There is however no detailed information available on what this record management pack will include, or whether it supports CAS or HSM.

Common ECM scenarios when one might consider the use third party add-ons or custom development

I’ve created an basic ECM requirement list that can be used to identify whether one might want to extend MOSS with third party tooling. Keep in mind that this is just a very limited set of requirements. At the moment I am building an extensive requirement list that can act as a guide when making a choice.

ECM requirement
Need for a single instance archiving
Need for hierarchical storage management or content addressed storage
Need for complex workflows, that need to be globally monitored
Need for high volume batch import & export of large quantities of files
Need for multiple classifications of files
Need for meta-data inheritance
Need for digital imaging
Need for extensive reporting over content
Need for rich content services like case management
Need for extremely large storage (Dozens of TBS)

The role of MOSS in an ECM enterprise

Depending on the amount of content and the level of ECM complexity your company requires, one could go for an MOSS only solution or augment MOSS. If the content management complexity is fairly limited, no rich content services required and the amount of content doesn’t fall in the range of HSM you could configure MOSS as your central record system. I do recommend to configure a very hard and explicit line between what is active and what is passive and can be declared as an record. Without such a explicit architecture you are risking fragmentation of your information.

Personally, I think that an augmentation or an co-existence of both ECM systems would create the ideal solution for a large full fledged ECM enterprise. This way one can use MOSS for the active in-flight part of document management such as ad-hoc creation and management of content and basic workflow. Use sites for showing context related files from external repositories. Use the CAS and HSM, DIS, case management functionality provided by third party tooling. When information is solid enough to be of critical value and can be defined as a record, it can be transparently transferred from MOSS to a more advanced ECM system. Also from my point of view, Sharepoint should not be bothered with the high speed import of large quantities of files. After classification only the files that need to be processed by humans should be promoted to the Sharepoint environment to be augmented. The others can go to the advanced ECM system directly.

However the tooling nowadays  provided by the leading ECM parties create an overlap of functionality which you might not want to pay for. The whitepaper of Doculabs describes more on this issue. Personally, I think its a matter of time before ECM vendors start building software solely for bridging the gap without the functional overlap. Microsoft surely provides enough extension points and documentation in its MOSS & WSS foundation to enable this.

What others say

Gartner has written an couple of good documents on MOSS regarding to its ECM capabilities and its position in the ECM world. Unfortunately, since these require you to be a member of Gartner, I can’t go in detail. Make sure to get them if you are.

Doculabs provides an excellent (free) whitepaper regarding the coexistence of MOSS in an ECM environment.

AIIM has an (free) seminar dedicated solely on how to efficiently let MOSS2007 and core ECM systems coexist in the same environment. If you live in the US I would recommend visiting. You can find the link below. I would highly recommend reading this. 

There are more resources available in the section ‘Recommended Reading’.

What’s next

My upcoming project will be a WCM one, so I probably won’t be blogging too much these two months about this topic. However, I am scheduled for another ECM project which involves integrating MOSS with an external ECM system later this year.

Recommended reading

Gartner:
 – Microsoft’s 2007 Sharepoint Products and Technologies in Action (June 2007) – (Excellent)
 – Q&A: Microsoft’s Content Management Software and Strategy (September 2006) 

Doculabs:
 – Analyst Report: Doculabs: The Coexistence of Sharepoint and Advanced ECM platforms ? What You Need to Know  (See the solution information bar)
 – Microsoft Sharepoint 2007 and Your Existing ECM Solution: Which Should Be the System of Record?

AIIM:
 – Free seminar by AIIM  ‘Sharepoint meets ECM’ 

Misc:
 – Office 2007, Records Management, and ECM

Blogs:
 – Sharepoint meets ECM  (AIIM)
 – Better ECM
 – So is MOSS an ECM tool or not? (C3 Associates)
 – EMC Industry Watch

Back from France! And back for business!

Well, I’m back from my holiday in beautiful France. Now plowing trough all the posts in my RSS reader. Some interesting things you probably already know, nevertheless I’ll blog them here. These nifty updates make my social life disappear once again.

The new Moss2007 SDK 2.1 & WSS 3.0 SDK 2.1

You can download the MOSS SDK here and the WSS SDK here at microsoft.com.

Here’s an excerpt of some of the new tools (from the link below):

Business data catalog samples and utilities

  • Microsoft business data catalog definition Editor
    (No more XML writing for BDC) And free too. More on this tool here (SPS Teamblog)
  • WSHelloWorld web service
  • Excel services user defined function sample
  • WSOrders custom proxy sample
  • SAP sample

Document management and content processing samples

  • Comment scrub document converter
  • Term replacement document inspector

Search samples

  • Sample protocol handler
  • Custom content source

For a full description on the contents of this SDK will refer to this nice post.  (SPS Teamblog)

Visual Studio Extensions for Sharepoint development CTP

Glad to see that the SPS team is still building more tools to aid Sharepoint development. The Sharepoint designer team released an new version of the VSeWSS kit that extends visual studio to help the developer create Sharepoint solutions. Personally, I really like the WSP view. It nicely abstracts all the files needed for an WSP solution and shows the developer the Sharepoint extension points only (like libraries, webparts etc). One could consider it as an functional view on your Sharepoint solution. Although I miss the functionality to add new functional components in the WSP tree, it is still pretty interesting. I’m also wondering why the team doesn’t use the Guidance Automation Toolkit for building such a factory tool.

You can find more on the VSeWSS here.