Sep 152008

Last week I began working for Alfresco Software, as I previously announced.  During that first week, I learned about Document Management, amongst other things (like the Spring Framework for example).  The end result: I wanted to kick myself.  It really would have been nice to have Alfresco’s Document Management solution in place when I was working on Gestalt/Accenture’s CMMI level 3 compliant Agile software delivery method!

Our process for defining processes was basically this:

  1. Draft the process
  2. Pilot it (and make revisions based on what was learned)
  3. Approve it
  4. Deploy it

Of course, there were several sub-steps within those processes, and they required version control, auditing, and moving documents to different folders at certain times (a document workflow).  At the time, we used Sharepoint as best we could to manage all this.  It handled version control and auditing, but it had two shortcomings as I recall.  First, there was no automated way to baseline a set of documents as being part of a release candidate (such as you can do with CVS or Subversion tagging).  Second, the moving of documents was all manual, every step of the way.  This doesn’t sound like much, but as I recall, we had six or seven folders in the workflow, and we could have used some automation when doing round robin peer reviews within our team.  And the deployment of these assets was no trivial matter; I remember it took me almost a whole day to learn how to deploy a set of process assets, and then deploy a set of them for the first time.

So as I went through “Getting Started With Document Management“, I was shaking my head the whole time.  It is so easy to create content rules and workflow rules.  Instead of manually moving documents from folder to folder, a workflow could have been set up to do that automatically.  Instead of manually notifying a teammate that it’s their turn in the round robin peer review chain, the workflow could have done that for us.  And best of all, we could have easily set up a templatized space that could have been used for all of the processes and associated documents that we delivered over the course of over two years.  Finally, because Alfresco is open source and standards based, we could have extended the platform to automate our specific processes for deploying process assets.

Considering the number of documents we handled, the amount of reviews, the number of gates in the process, and the number of people involved, I have no doubt that if we used Alfresco we would have saved a lot of time and therefore money as we defined, piloted, approved, and deployed new Agile processes across the company.

So yeah, document management software is a great thing.  I only wish I knew about it years ago.

  5 Responses to “Document Management, Where Have You Been All My Life?”

  1. The problem is that the ECM industry has done a shoddy job of marketing its wares, and I’m not sure that Alfresco has yet to fully redeem it yet. SharePoint has tended to be the best of the bunch, but you rightly point out that even it fails to simplify something like document management that really should be brain-dead simple.

    The good news is that this means we have a lot of work to do. The easier it becomes, the bigger the market becomes. Welcome to the machine.

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