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SharePoint and Philosophy 101

A basic rule in critical thinking – You can’t prove a negative. You can not say that something does not exist simply because you have not seen it. You can also collect all of the evidence to the contrary you want but you will always be forced into an assumption if your premise is a negative.

Andrew Chapman wrote a brief critique of an article by Alan Pelz-Sharpe’s on the changing view of SharePoint as a viable ECM option. Admittedly both of the accounts are a bit anecdotal but I share Andrew’s  concerns with the article.  Put simply, we find ourselves all to often preaching to the choir.  Both posts thought seem to have taken the position that the world has seen the light and is no longer being pushed to replace traditional ECM with SharePoint. I’ve come to quite a differnt conclusion.

Andrew remarks that he doesn’t get asked the “why do I need Documentum and SharePoint” question anymore. As I learned all those years ago in Phil 101 – You can’t prove a negative – so not hearing the question doesn’t mean it’s not being asked. I would suggest that one reason he’s not hearing the question anymore is that the existing customers were the one’s asking and they have their answer.  I can assure you that I continue to hear that the aforementioned “can it be an ECM” with great regularity.

For Andrew’s case, I believe that Microsoft is simply getting to answer it first – and I can assure you that they aren’t passing out EMC’s phone number to their ECM prospects. There are a great many installations that SharePoint can accommodate that were heretofore captured by EMC, IBM  It is this new license growth, in the coveted mid-market that is driving Microsoft uptown in the Gartner Magic Quadrant.

What we experts – if I may be so bold – often fail to realize is that the general population has not spent the time understand all of the strengths and weaknesses of the tools. They have lives – and content (gasp) is not important to them – more precisely, they don’t know it is – shocking but true.

Here is the really scary part – THEY DON’T CARE how inelegant storing content in a database is.

Joe Six-Page cares about:

and most importantly

In reverse order – picking Microsoft is as safe as picking IBM used to be.  SharePoint has a generally good user experience, except when you try to change look and feel and scale so the problems generally don’t show up early. Lastly, it is perceived to be cheap and eventhough it’s not the Redmond marketing machine has done an outstanding job getting people to think that it is all they need.

I believe the question the community is asking has indeed changed. Instead of “why do I need both” it has turned into “Why not do it in SharePoint” – which brings us full circle. You will be unable to prove you can’t do everything in SharePoint that you can do with Documentum. You can only prove that it will be too expensive, too unstable, too unreliable, take too long and hope one of those numbers is too big for them to swallow. That is a lot of detail and a lot of work to convince someone you want to write a huge check that they are wrong.  

By getting in the minds of the buyer first, Microsoft coopted the argument and it is an uphill battle convincing people with tight budgets and timelines that a Documentum (or IBM or Oracle) platform is worth the money – even when it is.

One final thought – My dad said I’d never use my degree in any job – this post officially proves him wrong. Everything else he had about right.

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