In-Depth

SharePoint vs. OpenText for Enterprise Content Management

While both will get the job done, one is better suited for those doing some heavy duty content management.

SharePoint and OpenText both can be used by organizations as enterprise content management (ECM) systems, but the comparison is an unequal one.

SharePoint may be good enough for the basics, but OpenText is more of the tool that would be used for heavy-lifting-type ECM operations in organizations, especially when strict compliance standards need to be met. That view was outlined by Darin Stewart, a research director with Gartner Inc., who spoke at this month's Gartner Catalyst event in San Diego. Making the choice between SharePoint and OpenText isn't always an either/or kind of decision, he argued in his talk, "SharePoint vs. OpenText: Comparing Apples to Oranges in ECM."

Stewart said that making a decision on an ECM solution can be difficult in a crowded ECM marketplace. Typically, an ECM platform gets entrenched in the organization and the user interfaces (UIs) can be convoluted. Because of that, at some point organizations start eyeing SharePoint because, even if it doesn't have an optimal UI, it at least has a familiar one.

Gartner has published evaluation criteria to help with the decision making, with 177 functional criteria in the case of ECM systems. The criteria are classified into "required," "preferred" and "optional" features. According to this analysis, OpenText scored 98 percent in the required category, while SharePoint scored just 65 percent in that category. Required-category ECM examples include architecture and integration, library services, record services, and content creation and capture features.

SharePoint Strengths and Weaknesses
Organizations sometimes just need ECM systems for light duty, and in that case, SharePoint fits in the category well, Stewart said. The user experience with SharePoint is quite good and is a painless way to introduce basic ECM capabilities, he added. Microsoft bought the company FAST for its enterprise search product and its technology was bundled into SharePoint and completely integrated into SharePoint 2013. It's a very good search engine but only in the Microsoft context, Stewart explained. Another plus for SharePoint is it's handling of managed metadata, with good and robust basic functionality.

SharePoint is weak in terms of records management where it is not doing a stellar job, Stewart said. If an organization has to meet a standard, SharePoint can't do it, at least out of the box, he added. It's just not targeted for hardcore records management and compliance officers. Some companies have moved from OpenText to SharePoint to make users happy, but they also have kept one instance of OpenText for compliance reasons, he said.

The capture and imaging feature is missing in action in SharePoint. Workflow Foundation comes with five workflows out of the box and that's it. It's possible to extend SharePoint's Workflow Foundation with solutions from Nintex, but organizations just get more complexity from that approach, Stewart said.

He clarified that Gartner was just considering the on-premises version of SharePoint for ECM. The SharePoint Online version isn't there yet, Stewart said.

OpenText Strengths and Weaknesses
OpenText is an expensive ride, Stewart said, but it can cover the full range of compliance. It's compliant out of the box. Document and records classification is very detailed. OpenText takes extensive advantage of facets for filtering. It has a nine-level permissions model for access control.

However, OpenText has overwhelming architectural complexity, Stewart said. Getting the exact combination of modules can be difficult. In addition, the UI is confusing. Stewart said that "every user I've encountered hates the OpenText experience," although he added that it's a truism with all of the big vendors, as "they're all awful." He added that OpenText has told him that the company is planning on introducing a new user experience somewhere down the line. Stewart said that some organizations have experienced inconsistent postsale support with OpenText.

The bottom line for OpenText is that it is complex and robust and best for organizations that need to meet a high compliance standard. However, the user experience and complexity can be a leap, according to Stewart.

He added that the trump card in making a decision really comes back to compliance issues. If an organization is in a highly regulated industry, some standards will have to be met. He particularly cited DoD 5015.02-STD, ISO 15489, VERS and MoReq. Stewart also mentioned that a future U.S. federal compliance obligation for e-mail content, called M-12-18 (PDF), may be coming to fruition starting next year

Recommendations
Organizations may face a quandary in deciding between ECM systems. They seemingly face a choice of either pleasing users or compliance managers. Gartner prefers a third option of using both systems, as represented by SharePoint and OpenText. Stewart commented that CIOs hate it when Gartner offers that option because they are generally trying to get rid of their software licenses.

One of the ways that ECM integration is possible is via the Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) standard. It's an OASIS standard defining a domain model plus bindings that can be used by apps to manipulate content stored in a repository, Stewart said. SharePoint 2013 is compliant with CMIS 1.0. OpenText is capable of extending record management policies to SharePoint and it can synchronize SharePoint documents.

Organizations should determine their required level of document and records management capabilities. If they are considering consolidation on SharePoint for ECM, then they should also evaluate and plan for migration. Gartner recommends adopting an integrated two-tier ECM architecture, one for users and one for compliance officers. Organizations should leverage CMIS and plan for a three-tier infrastructure, Stewart said.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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