Saturday, April 16, 2011

Parsing the xCP Buzz Words

Taking all of the buzz words out of the Documentum xCP pitch we’re left with “accelerated”, “content” and “platform”.

If a client would accept building a TaskSpace application from a napkin in their production environment, then I’d say this accelerates the application build process, but it no client’s IT department would allow it. TaskSpace apps are built in development and deployed to test and prod via Composer, quick right? Well, what about requirements and functional aspects of the solution? Is that made quicker? No, and here’s why:

Let’s say we have a solution where we scan/capture invoices, process them, and finally report on them. Easy, just like the end to end slick demo that EMC sales did, right? Install InputAccel  and you’re done? Install Forms and Process Builder and slap together a workflow? I don’t think so.

The problem with smoke and mirrors is that we as solution architects and developers get blamed for how slow it takes to build a solution that the sales guys touted as a piece of cake, 3 months to build max. The 3 month schedule should be more like 6 to 9 months. The sales guys are long gone and the customer is annoyed and start to cover their own asses as the bean counters are tapping their fingers.

These products might be easier to use for cookie cutter solutions, but what about that 20% of a solutions that doesn’t fit the mold? You need requirements which take time, you need functional specs to setup up the configurations for scanning, forms, processes, use-cases, etc. This takes more time than is usually allotted. This is not accelerated.

Where is going to happen with the old content? The legacy stuff needs to be migrated. Where are the requirements for this? What are the new attributes and object model for the new system? What is the mapping of old to new attributes? The sales guys didn’t talk about this. This is not part of the acceleration.

The “platform” is still a mashed up combination of export connections (InputAccel) and xml integrations between Forms Builder and TaskSpace and the Content Server. One application has variables, the other has attributes. One can parse scanned pages, the other reads a whole document. In order to put the whole solution together you have to be part developer, part UI designer, and part lucky. The reporting aspect of this platform is an afterthought and with BAM can bog the whole Java Method Server down to a halt.

Next generation of xCP
The next generation of xCP needs to address the following: 

  • Better coupling between requirements and functional specs, configuration, and validation of configurations. 
  • A smoother ride when developing/configuring the pieces of the solution puzzle in terms of common language of computing as well as nomenclature in manuals and tutorials. 
  • Build on open source platforms which are in common use, take a tip from Alfresco. 
  • Slowly eliminate the bottlenecks of configuration, for example, on a large project for each product there will be experts who are assigned to work on their one piece, however they always seem to hurry up and wait for others in the config chain to finish, or make changes.

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