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Social Welfare at the ECM Workplace

January 19th, 2015 Comments off

A few months ago, Linda gave birth to her son Luca. Linda is the wife of Stephan, a colleague of mine. Curious as he is, Luca was premature when he decided that it was time to see the light of day. That by itself wasn’t any problem at all. The world was ready for him.

The birth of Luca triggered me to share a story that I tell my customers in the early days of a document management project. By now you are wondering why the birth of Luca trigger this story.

Here in the Netherlands, we have a social welfare system in place that kicks in at the early days of a pregnancy. Not only is the health of both mother and her child monitored, but the system also ensures a safe home is in place for the new born. It may sound overanxious, but one of the checks they do is to see if you have a cradle for the baby. That same social welfare system functions as a lifeline throughout your entire life until you shall come to your grave in ripe old age.

That lifeline provides the guidance, the procedures, the policies and the actions to fall back upon during your life. It’s the blueprint of the minimal life. You can still live your live to the max the way you want it, as long as you don’t underperform and drop below the minimum that the lifeline provides. It also takes into account the stages that you pass in your life. You may become a parent yourself, which gives you access to child support. You may develop a partial disability to work, which provides access to special compensation benefits. And even a basic pension is provided when you reach the age of 65+.

For us humans, the Social Welfare system provides the lower limit blueprint of our life from Cradle to Grave.

If you’ve read my previous post (Diversity at the ECM Workplace) about Connecting People to the Enterprise, you will understand that bringing and keeping your users on board requires an ECM solution that is easy to use but still honours the enterprise needs. One aspect that you need to facilitate is what I call the Social Welfare for the ECM Workplace.

Cradle to Grave is the concept that implements core information management functions, which become a lifeline throughout the entire life of your documents.

If I create a new document, the system needs to be ready for that. It needs to support the cradle. This can be done if the lifeline supports me with e.g. content types, templates, managed metadata and rule-based storage. In these early days in the life of the document, it needs the lifeline to understand whether it is going to be a contract based on the English language template. We stick more labels on the document to classify it and together that allows a document management solution to decide where the cradle should be located.

That lifeline also provides the guidance, the procedures, the policies and the actions to fall back upon during the life of the document. It will pass stages depending on the life it lives. In the infant stages you’ll see typical states like draft, and for review. In the adolescent stage the document will go up for approval, and get approved. While the document matures, it can use the supporting processes to move between these states and stages. At some point in time it might become a reference document to others which alters the access permissions as well as its information classification. Some documents will move from classified to unclassified, from internal use only to publicly available.

Like all of us, there comes a time when also the document will retire. It will be withdrawn from active service but is still available in some archived format with again changed access permissions and information classification. It may also move into a new storage location.

For managed information, laws, rules and regulations determine the length of the pension. There is no fixed rule for this, just like nobody knows how many years one is given to enjoy the old age. The harsh reality is, that it won’t last for ever. For managed information the grave implies that the information is deleted from the ECM solution or moved from the system to preserve its historical value elsewhere.

Depending on your requirements and circumstances, you determine what that lower limit is and which ‘social benefits’ you provide your users.
For managed information, Social Welfare for the ECM Workplace provides the lower limit blueprint of the life of that information from Cradle to Grave.

So, why did the birth of Luca trigger this? Because of the parallel between the Dutch Social Welfare System and the Cradle to Grave. You don’t want a fixed path for your newly born and nor should it be a one-off approach for your documents if you want to keep your users connected with your enterprise needs. But the opposite is also true. You don’t want uncontrolled chaos in both situations. It should be predictable and acknowledging that new documents get created and deleted and need to be managed in between. From Cradle to Grave.

Like the concepts of Diversity and Cradle to Grave matches perfectly in real life, as do they match perfectly in our ECM world. Take a look at SPA4D.com if you want to learn more about how we can help connect SharePoint collaboration functionality to the enterprise control of Documentum. Or watch our blog for more articles on enterprise information management.

Diversity at the ECM Workplace

November 10th, 2014 Comments off

Just the other day I was driving home from the office reflecting back at events that happened in the last few days and weeks. As always driving home is one of those precious moments where I can sit back and reflect. Sitting in the car in traffic, it finally dawned to me.

For a couple of days already I was trying to put finger on something that bothered me. I had been working on multiple engagements over the last few weeks. Some only related to EMC Documentum. Some only to Microsoft SharePoint and some included both. All were in different industries. If you wouldn’t know better, there was nothing they had in common. But there was.
Read more…

Configuration vs Customization vs Development

June 8th, 2014 Comments off

Everyday more customers are hesitant about development and question if custom work against SharePoint is a good idea. Often they lean towards the opinion that only out-of-the-box solutions are allowed to be created. They believe this will pose less problems when upgrading to a next version or they just have an overall no-code policy.
This poses the question of what exactly is out-of-the-box. There have been jokes that a SharePoint installation is only out-of-the-box as long as you only add content through the browser without changing anything else. There is a reason for those jokes. Out-of-the-box does not always mean there will be no problems during upgrade and code does not always mean there will be. That is why we have been thinking about what is customization, what is configuration and what is development and why we have created a vision about which should be used and when. Read more…

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Changes to the ‘SuiteBarBrandingElementHtml’ property not reflected

June 3rd, 2014 Comments off

In SharePoint 2013 you can run into this issue: The top left corner of pages does not reflect changes to the ‘SuiteBarBrandingElementHtml’ Web Application property or is empty instead of showing default ‘SharePoint’ text.

In this article I’ll explain why this can be the case and how you can resolve or prevent it.
Read more…

Responsive HTML5 / CSS3.0 / LESS SP2010 Template Informed Consulting

April 22nd, 2013 Comments off

At Informed Consulting we use one template which contains our styling for multiple SharePoint Publishing Sites. The SharePoint 2007 (SP2007) template was updated a lot in the last couple of years, so it was nice to create a complete new, fresh template for SharePoint 2010 (SP2010).

Our new template for publishing websites in SP2010 contains preset styles for better browser compatibility, supports HTML5 and responsive themes, uses CSS3.0 without making it a mess, has a clear and open structure and is easy to adjust in future updates.

By building the template in the dynamic stylesheet language LESS, we can manage the template a lot easier and clearer, using parameters. We used various combinations of multiple free-to-use web frameworks in LESS, controlled in two chapters, the Template styling and the Theme styling that are described below.

The SP2010 template contains the following chapters:

  1. Dynamic Operations
  2. Reset Style sheets
  3. Optional template Functions
  4. Grid system (Semantic.gs)
  5. Frontend Framework collection Bootstrap
  6. Typographic Framework Baseline
  7. Template styling
  8. Theme styling
  9. Updates & Theme Media Queries

1. Dynamic Operations

On the lowest part of our LESS file we operate numbers, colours and variables so we can use the output all over the stylesheet. Like @default_TextColor, @default_Font, @var-default_LinkHoverColor.

2. Reset Stylesheet

We use multiple reset style sheets to make the websites browser compatible. A normal reset style for HTML4.1 en CSS2.1 was not enough. The reset styles were improved by adding some extra reset styles, one especially for the HTML5 elements, html5doctor.com reset styles (for IE9 and all older browsers).  And a reset stylesheet for resetting the font-size and colors of SP2010.

3. Optional Template functions

CSS3.0 does not improve the clear and open structure of the template, the length of the code was making it hard not make a mess. So I created a chapter filled with all the CSS3.0 large styling and created functions from it, so they could easy be used in other parts in the template. Some of these CSS3.0 elements are based on template parameters located in the chapter Template styling.

4. Grid system (Semantic.gs)

Since I don’t want to create multiple columns for every new theme, I use the calculation from the semantic grid system for the template. It calculates the width and behaviour of the high level containers and columns, easy to adjust by number, located in the Template parameters in the chapter Template styling.

5. Frontend Framework collection Bootstrap v2.2.2

The Frontend Framework collection of Bootstrap is used for the multiple components in the content area of SP2010. Sliders, buttons, tabs, dropdown, tooltip, forms, icons and even Webparts are given a new fresh look instantly when using the right classes.

6. Typographic Framework Baseline

Every theme has its own typography and I needed a good base to work with, easy adjustable in LESS, like the rest. I found a good typographic framework called Baseline that calculates the rules of the typography for us. The parameters for this calculation are located in the chapter Template styling.

7. Template styling

This is the most important chapter, and is where the basic website is being created. First the different solutions from the previous chapters are managed in this chapter by defining the template parameters: the Operations, the grid system, and the frontend and typographic frameworks. Second in place are the behaviours of the SharePoint core.css basic styling in combination with our template styling, and third the
basic website itself. Which is the enumeration of styling of all the possible elements of the SP2010 publishing site, and the styling of the basic WebParts used along with the structure.

8. Theme styling

The specific styling for the client theme is placed in this chapter. It starts with an enumeration of the template parameters that are being overruled. Then the high elements styling till detailed content styling are being created, with the help of the optional template CSS.3.0 functions, bootstrap build in styling and sometimes the SharePoint 2010 chart.

9. Updates & Theme Media Queries

The first part of the dynamic stylesheet can contain the very specific styling for the theme, updates and the media queries which allows the website to adapt to different window resolutions of multiple devices. The last part will not be used often, since SP2010 does not use Device Channels, which allows the creation of separate masterpages per device.

Conclusion

By building the template in the dynamic stylesheet language LESS I wanted to bridge the world between Design and Developing.  Although LESS is not yet fully utilized in the template, The LESS parts are the solution what I was looking for: controlling multiple elements and behaviour of different websites by parameters on one spot. Like the colours used on a website: I just have to define one color and the template will automatically calculate two good looking colours beside it (if I want to) and automatically use these for the elements in the website, like the navigation, header and footer and typographic blocks. This is especially for our demo websites, a quick solution.

Sandra Filius

05-Apr-13

Shredded Storage: A new feature in SharePoint 2013

December 7th, 2012 Comments off

Shredded Storage is a new feature introduced in SharePoint 2013. It deals with the way that SharePoint stores documents/files in Binary Large Objects (BLOBs) in SQL Server to improve both storage utilization and I/O performance.

Although ‘shredded’ sounds a bit ominous, it means that SharePoint now turns each file into a number of shreds and writes these shreds to SQL as separate BLOBs. It includes an index that keeps track how the various shreds fit together to make sure that a file can be reassembled when it is requested.

Now this in itself will obviously not improve storage or I/O. However, let’s go in a bit more depth by looking at a document library in SharePoint which has versioning enabled.

In SharePoint 2010, updating a file in a version enabled library created a new version record for that file including a new BLOB which held the entire updated file. Updating meta-data information such as title or contact or any other field was also considered to result in a new version.  SharePoint would then again create another BLOB for that file even though the file itself was not changed.

So if you had a 1MB file in a versioned library for which the meta-data was changed 9 times, 10 identical BLOBs with a total of 10MB would be stored in SQL, one for the latest version and 9 for the previous versions.

The way shredded storage improves on this process when updating files is by working only with those shreds that actually changed. In case of a versioned library, a new version record is still created with the latest meta-data however the only BLOBs that will be added are the ones that correspond to those shreds that actually changed. The shred-index for this version record which is needed to recreate the full file will be a combination of entries that point to the unchanged shreds of the previous version(s) and the entries that point to the newly added changed shreds. In case of an update that only includes meta-data changes, the number of changed shreds is basically zero which means that no new BLOBs are written to SQL and the shred-index for the new version is the same as the previous one.

As you can imagine this could dramatically reduce storage for versioned document libraries and also improve the I/O performance as only the changed shreds have to be written to SQL. Because of the way Microsoft Office documents are now structured (XML) and the use of a technology called Cobalt (introduced in SharePoint 2010 to make sure that only changes are sent when editing documents on SharePoint directly in Microsoft Office), Microsoft Office documents will benefit even more from the new shredded storage technology.

Another thing you should know about shredded storage is that it can be enabled (default) or disabled on a web application level. The desired setting can be chosen by manipulating the FileOperationSettings property of the WebService member of the web application (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/microsoft.sharepoint.administration.spwebservice.fileoperationsettings.aspx).

This property has 3 possible settings:

  • UseWebSetting (=0)
  • AlwaysDirectToShredded (=1)
  • NeverDirectToShredded (=2)

The FileWriteChunkSize property can subsequently be used to change the maximum size that will be used for each shred (default=64kB). (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/microsoft.sharepoint.administration.spwebservice.filewritechunksize.aspx)

As the first setting for FileOperationSettings suggests, it should also be possible to control the setting on a per sub site basis. This would be done by manipulating the EnableDirectToShreddedStorage property of the SPWeb class but unfortunately this is currently not (yet) documented at http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/microsoft.sharepoint.spweb_properties.aspx.

Something else that is worth mentioning is that shredded storage is a per document feature. So if two exactly the same documents are stored in two different libraries, these two documents will still have their own set of shreds which will take up twice the space of each individual document.
The only solution that would actually save on storage for these kinds of situations is to enable Remote BLOB Storage (RBS) using an implementation that supports de-duplication. This way BLOBs are stored outside of SQL on a file system and the RBS layer will make sure that identical BLOBs only take up space once. If shredded storage is enabled in combination with RBS, each shred is stored on the file system as a separate BLOB. If the chosen RBS solution supports de-duplication, identical shreds will only take up space once, even if they belong to different files in SharePoint.

Although shredded storage is enabled by default, it only applies to documents from the first time they are uploaded or changed. For a new site this would mean that all new documents will be stored as shreds. However when you upgrade a site, the already existing files will not be stored as shreds during the upgrade. Only when the existing files are changed, they will be ‘shredded’.

Based on the information discussed so far, the conclusion would be that shredded storage potentially lowers the amount of storage required for storing files that are available in SharePoint. On the subject of I/O performance reduction, Cobalt (introduced in SharePoint 2010) takes care of reducing the amount of data that is sent when users update Microsoft office documents in Office 2010. Shredded storage adds to the I/O reduction by reducing the amount of data that is sent to the SQL server when users update documents in SharePoint.

But what about read I/O performance?

Because shredded storage breaks files in multiple chunks when they are added to SharePoint, reading such a file would be more complex as SharePoint needs to get the correct set of shreds to be able to assemble the original file which should take longer than reading the entire file at once as was the custom in SharePoint 2010.

During the SharePoint Conference 2012 in Las Vegas, Dan Holme (Intelliem) and Jeremy Thake (AvePoint) presented some test results with regards to the impact of shredded storage on read I/O (and data storage). For the test a SharePoint site was used that contained 24GB of files. Tests were done with and without the use of RBS. For the base test, both shredded storage and RBS were disabled. In this case the database size was around 24GB and the RBS storage size was 0GB. Read time for this base test was measured and amounted up to 1477ms. After RBS was turned on, the database size shrunk to a couple of MBs and the RBS storage size was about 23GB. Read times with the added RBS layer increased with approx. 25% to 1882ms.
The next test was done with shredded storage enabled (default chunk size of 64KB) and RBS disabled again. In this case the database shrunk with approx. 75% to 6GB. Read times increased to 2471ms which is an increase of approx. 67% compared to the base situation where shredded storage and RBS were disabled.

After RBS was enabled for this situation, database size shrunk to a some MBs again (although a bit more than with the first test) and RBS storage size was about 6GB. In this case read times again increased to 3502ms which is approx. 86% longer than the test without shredded storage and even 137% longer than the base test (no shreds & no RBS).
As a last step, the same situations were tested with larger chunk sizes (1MB and 1GB). This obviously reduces the number of shreds that need to be gathered for each document which resulted in better read times but they never came down to the 1477ms read time that was the result of the base test.

What the above described tests confirm is that shredded storage can definitely impact the amount of required storage in a positive way. Based on the rest of the story, it should also impact write I/O in a positive way. However with regards to getting data out of SharePoint, there’s an increase in the response times.

So all in all shredded storage is a new feature that could definitely be beneficial to SharePoint but not necessarily at all times so, as with all things, it depends on what you are looking for. For instance a site where most or all of the files are read-only might not be a good candidate for shredded storage. Also a site with lots of small files might not benefit that much. Whatever situation seems best for your particular situation, always make sure that you test it to verify whether you get the expected results.

The blessing of the app-model in SharePoint 2013

November 23rd, 2012 Comments off

Last week, we as Informed Consulting, attended the SharePoint Conference 2012 in Las Vegas and we all came back to our cold little country with lots of information and lots to think about.

But first, what a week! For me, this was my first big conference and the first time in Las Vegas, and it was a combination I will never forget. Absolute brilliant organisation by Microsoft, providing over 10.000 people, hungry for food and information, with their tasty meals, ready in no more than 10 minutes and so many interesting sessions to choose from that you are obligated to watch the sessions online that you could not attend at the conference itself!

When Microsoft launched the beta of SharePoint 2013, the biggest new feature for me was the whole app-model that was introduced.
But unfortunately, I could not get it working on my development machine, mainly because I did not have enough internal memory available to smoothly run the SharePoint 2013 VM.
Also, I did not get the whole app idea. Okay, it is cool to have a store where everybody could sell their apps, but how many corporate companies would allow users to install 3rd party apps on their corporate intranet? None I think, so why should we as developers stop creating WebParts and start building apps?

With that question in the back of my mind, I scheduled as many interesting sessions about apps in SharePoint 2013 as I could, hoping to get back with a well-founded answer.

And YES, Microsoft has made a huge step forward with the introduction of the SharePoint 2013 app model!
Apps in SharePoint 2013 are not about selling and distributing them in the appstore, it is all about creating functionalities on top of SharePoint that work just as good on premise as in Office 365 in the cloud. And also important: do not break SharePoint.

The current version of Office 365 is based on SharePoint 2010, and allows developers to create only SandBoxed WebParts. The big limitation of SandBoxed WebParts is not having the ability to run code with elevated privileges. This is something we do quite often when we build WebParts for corporate clients that have their SharePoint environment hosted on premise.
Because of this limitation, we have recommended a lot of our current clients not to move to the cloud. Losing all the custom built WebParts and functionalities that use elevated privileges, does not outweigh the advantages of hosting your SharePoint environment in the Cloud. But all of this is about to change with the new app model of SharePoint 2013!

To avoid getting into too much depth about the technical side of the app model, I will try to explain it at a high level.

The code that you would develop for the previous versions of SharePoint all run on the SharePoint server itself. You always had to make sure that your code was written properly and it did not have for example memory leaks that would eat all the resources of the server. Also for the IT-pro’s that owned the SharePoint farms, it was a huge challenge to test all the code before deploying it. Because of this same reason, Microsoft did not allow you to deploy full WebParts to Office 365, but only SandBoxed WebParts.

The big change with the new app model of SharePoint 2013 is that now the apps do not run on the SharePoint server, but on their own (app) application server. This gives the developers lots of freedom to create all kinds of functionalities, without them having to worry whether or not what they build, was allowed to be deployed on the SharePoint farm.

But how about talking to core SharePoint information? Microsoft integrated the oAuth token based authentication model for Office 365 and the Server to Server (S2S) authentication model  for on premise. So with only a couple lines of code you have all the SharePoint methods you need at your disposal!

It all sounds like a great step forward to me, but my biggest concern is hosting the apps.
All the demos at SPC12 used Microsoft Azure to host their apps in combination with the new Office 365. Even though Microsoft says that it is very easy to host the apps yourselves and connect them to either Office 365 or your own on premise SharePoint 2013, this is something that we need to dive into before we can give our corporate clients good advice about migrating to SharePoint 2013 on premise or moving to the new Office 365!

SharePoint Conference 2012 Day #1

November 13th, 2012 Comments off

Monday was the first day of SharePoint Conference, and what a great day.

We will be doing some more in depth blogging, but for now this is my first impression.
Having only been to DevConnections before, I am amazed at how well Microsoft has organized this conference.
Many events can learn from Microsoft on how to manage a crowd of 10.000 people to enter and leave the Keynote area. And even more amazing is how they manage to feed that many people in an organized way. But that is not what we came for of course, we came for SharePoint 2013. And that also exceeds our expectations…

We are very busy working with EMC, as their C3P partner, specializing on integrating EMC Documentum with SharePoint for clients, and while we had already dived into SharePoint 2013 we did not really ‘get’ the huge changes. We get them now.

User experience

In the user experience area, which was good to begin with, SharePoint has made another huge leap. Expanding the MySite feature that has not really been used to its full potential, they have added SkyDrive Pro. This adds all documents users store in their personal space to the cloud, allowing access anytime, anywhere, from any device.
Basically, what users have used until now is Dropbox, SkyDrive or other cloud solutions. This is now added to SharePoint and has become the default storage location when creating documents with Office 2013.

On top of this there will be Apps for accessing all this from Windows Phone devices. But there will be one for iOS as well. This shows that Microsoft is very serious about wanting all users to be able to access their information anytime, anywhere.

Social

The social capabilities of SharePoint have also been expanded to support even more collaboration, allowing users to really work together, learn from each other and use each others expertise. With the acquisition of Yammer and the work they have been doing together to integrate this into SharePoint, companies that already use both can get even more out of their social internal network.

Office integration

In the earlier office versions there were already possibilities to integrate with SharePoint but this has also been greatly improved. Combined with the new real drag and drop functionality users now really will not have to use the Office client they are working in all day. And with the addition of the App Model we can now add functionality to bring the users any SharePoint functionality they may need to do their daily jobs better and they can have this at their fingertips…

App model

This is another thing we did not get when we unboxed the SharePoint 2013 preview. We get it now…Contrary to what we could do with WebParts we can now build apps that support both the cloud version (Office365) as well as on premise environments. Apps run outside SharePoint but can have full access to all things SharePoint. Basically we can build Apps for anything. Supporting end-to-end solutions for clients but also adding magic to any of their Office clients. Definitely one of the areas we will be doing more blogging on.

Office365

Until now the limitations of Office365 and of sandboxed solutions have often resulted in us advising the client to stay on premise. Now with the new App Model we no longer have to and we can advise clients to take advantage of the new 90 day release cycle. Meaning that new cool features are available sooner instead of the 3 year server product release cycle. Which also will mean no more expensive upgrade cycles for clients. For us developers it means being able to use cool new features much sooner because we do not have to wait for clients to upgrade. For me that is a win-win situation on all sides.

We are now gearing up for our second day at SharePoint Conference. I for one cannot wait to dive more deeply into all of the above and into the areas we did not even cover yesterday.

Momentum Vienna and The SharePoint Documentum Framework

November 5th, 2012 Comments off

This week is Momentum 2012 in the European capital of the waltz: Vienna. Of course, cultural heritage is large with the music from Strauss as well as the yearly débutante ball in the Hofburg. It illustrates that the Viennese Waltz is live and kicking as part of the Vienna culture. Waltzing is a very applicable way to illustrate the way Microsoft and EMC ‘dance’ together around information management. SharePoint and Documentum have learned to move gracefully through crowds of ECM without stepping on each others tows to hard and to often.

Dancing requires one to lead, usually the male, and one to follow and shine, typically the female. It’s not that simple to say that either SharePoint or Documentum is leading or following. That is largely dependent on your starting point — more on that later — although one could say that if you take the shallow outside approach, SharePoint is the sexy partner and therefore must take the female role: follow and shine. That leaves EMC as a leader.

If you dive a little deeper, the roles are not always according to the look and feel.
On a high level you can have two starting points: collaboration versus enterprise document management.

When you start from a collaboration point of view, SharePoint will be leading, the male role, and will perform the dance for its audience. That audience is looking for flexibility, tools that they know already — that is the MS Office suite —, as well as speed of change. This would leave the EMC suite as the female role. Following and shining. Off course I too had second thoughts about EMC being shiny, being sexy.

From the enterprise point of view, there is now doubt that Documentum steps up. The male and leading role. For years we learned Documentum was not sexy. But with D2 that changed fundamentally. And yes, xCP is also a step forward. Still, for the individual collaborator, its just not always good enough. Hence their love for SharePoint. From this angle it thus is the challenge to meet the needs of the collaborators somehow. That could well be SharePoint.

But let’s face it, dancing a waltz requires 2 partners. Documentum and SharePoint next to each other creates to silo’s of information and it goes beyond telling that such is a bad thing. They must be connected.

With SDF we can can make that happen. As EMC’s Consulting Preferred Partner (C3P) we know how to bridge those two worlds. Not only is such a matter of knowing the technical bits of the SharePoint Documentum Framework (SDF) but also the ability to help the customer bridge the two silo’s of people in their organisation. Those that want freedom to collaborate and those that want to control and meet compliance. Bringing those worlds together is what makes projects a success.

We at Informed Consulting are glad to help out. Just reach out. We may not all shine on the ballroom floor, we do in the Information Management arena.

Access Documentum content through SharePoint

October 7th, 2012 Comments off

Just recently I read an article by TSG about replacing external SharePoint sites with a simple cached approach providing Documentum access to external users. That solution was required to provide a selective view-only access to external users so they would only see the subset of quality documents applicable to them.

In the case provided by TSG, the external users do not need access to all quality documents, but need access to the specific documents that they are expected to follow for the business process. Previously numerous SharePoint sites were set up to allow external users to access the required documents. The client found that the work effort to maintain these separate copies and keep them up to date was very difficult and was looking for an easier way. The client was also concerned about the compliance risk of the SharePoint sites being out of sync with the Approved and Effective documents stored in Documentum.

The question is: is it in general the solution that you would suggest to a client that already owns both SharePoint and Documentum? I believe it’s not.

I believe that there is a better solution available: the SharePoint Documentum Framework.

First, the case given is a common case. In many cases you want to share and collaborate on a subset of documents. Indeed, clinical trials are an example of that. But also claims, customer files or tenders match that case.
Second, the concerns about compliance and separate copies are genuine concerns. Keeping copies in sync, though theoretical simple, is difficult. It needs full control over new, updated and removed documents and on top of that proper security mapping between two – now disconnected – systems.

So why not go the route that leverages existing investments and – more importantly – use the UI powers of SharePoint and the compliance powers of Documentum?

Let me share that route.

Documentum is very capable of managing all the documents, its versions and its meta-data in a secure and controlled way. This will guarantee that any user has only access to the documents that this user is allowed to read or edit. Regardless if that user is an internal colleague or an external client. A must for compliance.

Giving access to the customer through Webtop can indeed be challenging. OK, you won’t do that. D2, the alleged Webtop replacement, is by far better suited but still isn’t perfect.
The reason for that is related to the business requirements that you must expect when sharing documents with your client. Normally, next to sharing the documents as the main requirement, there are requirements like being able to interact (discuss, set tasks) and provide related collateral or instructions.

That’s one of the reasons why SharePoint comes into the picture. SharePoint is very capable of doing just that. But how to get the right documents available in this environment?

This is where the SharePoint Documentum Framework comes into play. This framework provides webparts that can query the Documentum repository for the right documents. And they honour the security set by Documentum. So, if you revoke access in Documentum, access is revoked in SharePoint. And as a bonus, you can set access to read-only even if the user has write access in Documentum. Not that I would recommend this as a replacement to setting the proper settings in Documentum.

The other interesting part of using these webparts is that your query leverages the available information about those documents in Documentum. So, if you’ve marked a document as ready for sharing with the client through its meta-data, it will meet the query parameters and show up in SharePoint. As soon as you change the meta-data so that it no longer is available to the client, it won’t show up anymore.

Oh, and important to some organizations: this is a productised solution supported by EMC and not a custom solution.

But regardless of that, the SharePoint Document Framework provides a flexible way to merge two systems that each lead in their own space. A case where the total is larger than the sum of the individual parts. A framework sold by EMC, implemented by preferred consulting partners like Informed Consulting.

If you want to learn more, don’t hesitate to get in touch!