Last Tuesday, I felt a little like I was in enemy territory. Despite having attended Big East (for now) rivals WVU and Pitt, I spent the afternoon on the University of Connecticut campus. Fortunately, this wasn’t a sporting event, this was Content Management. A friend had invited me to share some of our experience with a group of people who are working to implement ECM and WCM solutions, and SharePoint is one of the options they have to choose from. It was a diverse group, and some of the people had also expressed interest in Open Source solutions, so I invited Jane Zupan (right) from Nuxeo to join me. In my presentation I touched on a collection of things I wish someone had explained to me before I started our SharePoint-ECM journey in 2005. Jane talked about Open Source in general with an emphasis on ECM and WCM, and a bit about Nuxeo.
Despite the fact that neither presentation had been a sales pitch, when we finished, the woman who arranged the meeting asked me if I would consider Open Source if I were making my decisions today. That was a fair question, and my answer is “yes – when you’re spending someone else’s money, you should always consider what might be a viable lower cost option.” If that wasn’t my answer, I might be looking for a new job. Considering a lower cost solution doesn’t just mean looking at price though, we selected SharePoint because the combination of features and cost appeared to represent a good value for our company. If I were making the decision today though, I would consider the following:
There’s cost and then there’s cost – We eased our way into SharePoint via WSS (2003) and gradually moved up the food chain through SharePoint Portal Server 2007 and on to SP2010. During that journey, my budget was stretched to accommodate many things that I hadn’t considered at the outset, like the extra licenses to “properly” deploy SharePoint. On top of licenses, there are CALs and on top of those, we have Enterprise CALs. We discovered that some vendors selling add-on software, license their product by user, some by web front-end, some by farm and some with variations on top of those variations. We have a wide variety of products both for administration and to improve SharePoint’s user experience and those license fees add up. In fairness, there are analogous real costs to open source software as well. I am not saying that SharePoint is too expensive, but it is taking us longer to afford the SharePoint environment that we want, than I thought it would.
Extensibility – While it’s fair to say that I wanted SharePoint to be less expensive and easier to support than it turned out to be, it’s also fair to say that I have been surprised by the scope of requirements SharePoint can satisfy. Our SharePoint implementation expanded, in the number of servers, products, person-hours and hard dollars beyond our plan, but there has been a commensurate expansion of value provided to our organization.
If I were selecting an ECM solution for our company today, I would absolutely take a hard look at Nuxeo. I learned during Jane’s presentation that it’s a well-designed, modern and capable ECM solution. I am sure that Nuxeo would appeal to the systems developer in me, but SharePoint would still probably be able to leverage greater value for us. We are a small, Microsoft-centric shop, and SharePoint works well for us. I do like the fact that there are solutions like Nuxeo to choose from though – competition in the ECM marketplace is ultimately good for everyone.