The evolution of SharePoint's enterprise content management (ECM) functionality has created a dilemma for organizations looking to implement an enterprise-wide content management solution. Trying to answer the question of whether to replace your ECM solution with SharePoint or simply to integrate it does not have a simple answer. Why? ECM vendors supplement SharePoint functionality in many different ways. Most professionals already have a mix of ECM tools, and there are many options for integrating SharePoint with existing products.

Microsoft SharePoint 2010 has seen rapid adoption for managing enterprise content. In a recent Forrester survey of 252 ECM decision makers, 63% indicated that they were using SharePoint to address some or all of their ECM requirements. While in an earlier study, satisfaction with SharePoint's content management workload ranked highly, with 68% of IT decision makers claiming they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the product.

Because of this success, SharePoint has become a disruptive force when it comes to ECM strategy. Organizations with existing ECM tools—for document management, records management and more—find it particularly disruptive in three ways:

  1. SharePoint packaging and pricing make overlaps tough to avoid. Microsoft includes SharePoint in enterprise agreements, which leads to questions like: Why are we paying maintenance to two or more ECM vendors? Can SharePoint meet our ECM needs? IT leaders, in their quest to cut costs, foresee potential redundancy between SharePoint's ECM functionality and the organization's incumbent ECM vendors' capabilities.
  2. SharePoint's strengths lead to viral adoption among business users. SharePoint makes creation of basic sites easy and provides mature features for business users to easily share content—the top-ranked business reason for investing in ECM technologies. Collaboration, sites and intranet site workloads are highly deployed with high satisfaction rates and receive the lowest dissatisfaction ratings. This means SharePoint sites often see viral adoption among workgroups.
  3. SharePoint 2010 made strides in ECM functionality. SharePoint has emerged as a credible alternative to traditional ECM vendors in two key areas: foundational and business content. While this is a positive development, it also means content and collaboration professionals must begin evaluating the costs associated with migrating off of previously customized platforms.

Completing your organization's SharePoint ECM puzzle requires an understanding of your requirements and an analysis of SharePoint 2010 ECM functionality. ECM vendors provide multiple ways to put together the SharePoint ECM jigsaw puzzle. Each puzzle differs based on your organization's ECM requirements. When identifying the capabilities you need, make sure to:

  • Assess your readiness: Don't underestimate people, process and technology change. If SharePoint ECM functionality will replace all or some of the current ECM solution and apps, it will be critical to assess your organization's readiness for that change. Adoption of the SharePoint solution is the main criteria of a successful implementation.
  • Identify your fit: Map your ECM requirements to Microsoft SharePoint 2010 capabilities. Understanding how much of SharePoint's functionality meets the needs of your organization will provide the basis for determining whether a second ECM solution is required.
  • Mind the SharePoint gaps: Determine which ECM vendor best fills the gaps. Many organizations have discovered that SharePoint can meet most but not all of their ECM requirements, thus, requiring an additional solution to enable critical functionality. Identifying the right capabilities will help identify the best ECM vendor products that can provide an ECM solution that best meets your users' needs. Several market-leading ECM infrastructure vendors—such as EMC, HP, IBM and OpenText and Microsoft partners—supplement the SharePoint offering.
  • Complete the ECM puzzle with search, web part and document menu integrations. Select the integration approach that will supplement SharePoint functionality, ignoring those that are not needed for your specific implementation. For example, don't implement the records management integration if you don't need DoD 5015.2 functionality.

ALAN WEINTRAUB is a principal analyst at Forrester Research, where he helps clients define ECM strategies, identify organizational risks associated with ECM implementations and build ECM governance programs that ensure information integrity and project success. For more, visit

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