Switching horses downstream? What do we do when the vendor of our current ECM application is pulling the plug on it and offers us a new (more expensive, entirely different) product?

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This is the good news: UAlbany has been engaged in document management for several years. Recently we have made progress in connecting with campus units not yet using ECM and who see document imaging as a valuable step towards streamlining their current processes and facilitating much faster customer service while growing resources to fulfill UAlbany’s ambition. Implementation meetings have already begun.

The bad news: the vendor’s decision to end Nolij Web (our current ECM software is ver 6.7) as a product offering. At the recent INSPIRE conference PSI announced End Of Life for Nolij Web as of 2018

Announcement from Perceptive Software Inc From the Nolij Web Product Development Team of Perceptive Software Inc (PSI):

” Nolij Web 6.7 has moved to Limited Support Phase (LSP)
effective as of 4/1/2015 which means the following:

– We will support usage not enhancement
– No patches, no bug fixes
– Customers must upgrade to 6.8 in order to keep up with dependencies such as Oracle 12, Tomcat 8 & 9 and Java 8 or go directly to Content 7. ”

At issue is whether we:
-simultaneously plan for a migration to the successor product (beyond Content 7 because we cannot return to a client based architecture) from PSI, while implementing additional offices on our current platform
-plan for indefinite use of Nolij Web, potentially to be supported by a third party vendor to overcome dependencies such as browser updates, Tomcat upgrades, OS patches (we use Linux UEK) and Java updates,
-or to initiate an RFP and plan for a migration to an entirely different ECM product – whether commercial or Open Source. MY personal issue is how to perform the risk analysis of each option and how best to present this information to a director who has not yet learned the difference between SSR and ECM

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Univerisity at Albany
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Staying with your current vendor will most likely be less expensive than going with someone new. Looking at the other two options, either upgrade along with the vendor’s recommendation, or stay on the current version indefinitely — that decision depends on what you want to do with the software in the future. Without vendor support, I wouldn’t recommend that you do much of anything; you should just provide legacy support for the existing users. If you want to continue rolling it out to new groups, you really should have vendor support.

While there is always organizational pain with moving to a new product, more often than not there is also downstream organizational gains with the greater capabilities functionally and technically and, sometimes, even gains in efficiency since it also works properly (and with the easiest management) on the most current infrastructure.
As such, I would encourage either your first or third options. Though I would try to keep the additional offices expansion to a minimum while preparing to move to the most current technology.

 

This is one of many advantages of an Open Source platform; insulation from vendors unanticipated an self serving decisions; have you considered Alfresco (Alfresco | Document Management System | Enterprise Content Management?

Hi Julia, I really believe it depends on the total cost of the upgrade, and what other additional features the new updates bring to the table. If all it does is take advantage of current technology without additional capabilities, I would think twice. Many software companies have done this when there has been a total re-write of the software to take advantage of new technologies, which opens up the scenario you are in now….do I upgrade or look at other options? It appears that it is going to be disruptive to your environment if you upgrade (with migration and retraining, etc.) anyway, so it might be a good opportunity to look at other options that might add additional value for the same price, or less, as the upgrade and migration. You might find that newer technologies might cost less than imagined, have a better user interface, and more features that would be beneficial to the organization. I don’t know that I would go through an entire RFP process until you get some ideas from other application vendors on estimated costs to migrate and install to see if it makes sense. The RFP process can be very expensive on its own. I have worked with many of these vendors that have charged significantly for the upgrade when I have been paying for maintenance over the years that are supposed to cover upgrades. Just doesn’t make sense to me. It is a good time to take a step back and look at all your options!

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Total Solutions
[City] [State]
[Phone]
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Thank you all, this is very helpful and galvanizes what I’ve been presenting to leadership here.
Being a state agency we have constraints on spending but, as Gary aptly pointed out, this is definitely going to be disruptive to our environment if/when we upgrade. Their follow up product is based upon an entirely different schema and server architecture. The look and feel of the next product is wholly different, in most ways significantly better.
A constant source of angst in the systems unit here with the current vendor is how their software runs far more efficiently on Windows servers rather than *nix and the vendor’s support staff is not yet “strong” in *nix. We’re also an Oracle back end shop.

My challenge with agitating for Open Source (my personal preference) is how to guarantee support in-house over the next seven to ten years. I can’t. I’ve no authority to promise that our current server admins and systems support staff will remain with us.

We are a Linux shop now. Open Source makes perfect sense for us on a number of levels (I am a programmer, chafing at the bit to return to more coding) BUT how to articulate a plan for contending with security issues and patches is where my petition for Open Source is most challenged. Our funding is increasingly limited. Our staff is increasingly burdened. I need to push for something we can manage with our limited resources without breaking the not-yet-anorexic-but-greatly-diminished budget. I am still puzzling over how to efficiently compare apples to oranges in risk analysis for each option.

Whew, that was a mouthful, but you get the picture.

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University at Albany (SUNY)
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It would appear that moving forward one dot release to 6.8 would buy you more time and should be a relatively small move forward, or did I miss understand?

And this isn’t a proprietary versus open source issue, I don’t believe. No system is supported (updates, support for latest, security, etc.) forever and every system gets rearchitected or dies at some point in it’s life cycle.

Of course when a system is rearchitected significantly, that’s the time to evaluate the new version against the competition.

So if I were in your situation, I’d move to 6.8 to stay current (and therefore safe) and then start the analysis, review, and budget planning process for a major shift next year either to v7 or another vendor.

Hi Upgrading to 6.8 changes licensing on the server, meaning it would connect to the vendor’s license server every two hours.

Yes, 6.8 though slated for end of life, would give us another year. 6.7 is presently afforded limited support.

Yes, the product after 6.8 is rearchitected significantly. Additionally, we presently have an unlimited enterprise license for our campus. The vendor no longer offers that on their products.

A reservation with moving to 6.8 is this: we do not have confirmation – in writing – that should we remain on 6.8 beyond the end of life date, the vendor’s license server will not reject the connection from ours and – after a couple days of repetitive messages to anyone logging in – shut our operation down.

My follow up question to another group is whether end of life for a product releases us from the NDA so that we could we make use of in-house programming to support (minimally) the application through at least one more major Java update to give us time to start the analysis, review, and budget planning process.

I am beginning the analysis. I do not yet have permission to communicate the issue and invite the campus stakeholders to begin the process. To be fair to senior leadership – the document imaging application is considered a “relatively small” footprint — albeit to critical stake holders. We have three major systems being either upgraded or replaced within the next eighteen months. Their plates are quite overflowing.

Thanks again. I really do appreciate your time.

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University at Albany (SUNY)
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And this is on-premise installed software? I would be working rapidly to move away from any vendor that required licenses checks to their server for on-premise software beyond initial install or significant change of config. That’s not reasonable – if they have that level of concern over the rightful use of their software, they’ve done something wrong to begin with. Penalizing paid customers is the wrong tact IMHO.
Good luck.
Quark Software Inc
[City] [State]
[Phone]
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Hi Don’t confuse Open Source with “free software” I wouldn’t recommend Alfresco without vendor support for a production environment. If you are considering Alfresco, you should budget also official support that will guarantee bug support, security patches and so on. That is your plan for contending with security issues and patches. Open Source doesn’t mean free, it just mean their source code is out there.

There are consulting services also for Alfresco, you don’t have to have in-house support. If you can learn Alfresco I bet probably you can learn whatever ECM product from another vendor. You can never guarantee in-house support from Open Source Software or a big and costly vendor, it is the same thing, It is not up to you that is the work from HR.

I hope this helps you to pass along to the executives the message about the different options.

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Soultech
[City] [State]
[Phone]

@David
Yes this is locally managed software and you bet I am agitating for moving away from such “big-brother/mommy-may-I?” vendor control. The vendor has never answered the question as to what happens when we continue past whatever they will establish as the end-of-life for the product. We are also still waiting for word on the cost of licensing as we have an enterprise-wide license structure now, which they apparently do not offer with their next generation products.

To be fair, the vendor was acquired by a much larger entity (Lexmark) and the recent spate of firings also included people from PSI (our doc img software vendor) so the people responsible for getting that info back to us may no longer be at PSI. I’m hoping to know more by September. Not holding my breath.

@Eduardo

We use Open Source for a lot of other projects but the support issues abound as we sometimes risk losing the very staff who support those systems (skilled Linux systems admins and perl/python programmers are NOT a dime a dozen, no matter what various job boards and casual bloggers might indicate)

So….reviewing OS options is on the plan. If we were to go that route, it would likely be through an established vendor who hosted our solution as opposed to using in-house talent. I could be very, very wrong. I’ve been researching this for almost a year and have a significant amount of work yet to do (while banging out a few more certifications).

For all the vendors watching this thread who have since reached out to me: We are a LONG way off from an RFP. I very much appreciate the information and will definitely include your information in the research I am preparing for our Directors here. Please know that Higher Ed moves very …slowly… and that I expect your prices and conditions to have changed by the time UA issues an RFP.

@all: my latest “dilemma” arises from a coworker in the HR department who, having finally heard me for the fiftieth iteration in social conversations, is “excited” about ECM to such a degree that they are now preparing to end-run campus IT and present the question to the incoming VP of HR as a personal career booster. Not only is this person entirely unfamiliar with ECM/records management/data architecture/information governance — but they had the poor judgment to insist I name some “vendors I like” for them to present. I expressed my ire at the shortsighted impulse and walked away. Thankfully the campus IT department has been working with Purchasing to insert IT review on all technology related acquisitions but… we all know how politics go. I’m simply not skilled in that arena and I can’t afford to spend the time to dwell on it. If this person succeeds in trashing a campus-wide ECM strategy and long term content management platform project — guess who will be assigned to implement their one-off standalone solution for HR? Yep… that would be me. 🙂 Sadly I’ve witnessed that and worse happen at other places I’ve worked. I am unhappy but not entirely surprised that I may have to accept this wasteful phenomenon again.

We’ll see. I’ll post again as I have more info. One point that I had not shared in my original post: we have SharePoint on campus. The group having implemented SharePoint is still learning the many nuances to supporting it and so far the document sharing/collaboration tool is primarily in use by campus IT. I perceive that we should look at SharePoint as a significant piece of our ECM strategy. Building custom forms and rewriting all the processes to auto-import files and auto-index documents as departments scan, to mimic what we have in place now, is not a viable long term solution we can support. We will still need to replace our legacy Nolij Web software.

Thanks again for all your valuable insights. I learn more every time I read the various discussions and blogs.

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UNIVERSITY AT ALBANY
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My organization is in the process of reviewing a new ECM solution and we put together a formal RFI document for targeted released to a select group of vendors offering systems that we identified as “good fits” for our needs. Without going into too much detail, we’ve identified two systems that appear to have hit all of the checkmarks, and we are pursuing additional information through reference sources we requested of them, as well as using input solicited via user group forums.

Does you have a VAR or CSP with your current system? If so, they should be able to guide you in terms of working through your transition, and / or identifying the options that the vendor has provided for moving clients to their new solution(s). This may be important is changing to a new system is a no-go.

If at all possible, I strongly recommend that you take any and all steps to get ahead of this process – as daunting a project as it has been, we helped our own process by being proactive in assembling our team of administrative and technical knowledge experts, soliciting questions to that team for promoting deep thinking and internal dialog, and assembling the best information from that process into a formal document to facilitate the most comprehensive responses from the marketplace. We haven’t made a formal decision yet, but we certainly feel good about the two candidates that have emerged, so there has been no sense of panic about the changes we are facing. Hope this helps 🙂
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Vantage West Credit Union
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I am sorry for the tardy response. I missed the email alert that someone had updated this discussion.

Good news is that I’ve been given the go ahead to start the analysis and complete a solution specification. We’ve a few dozen hoops to jump through before the college can issue an RFP. So far I’ve polled our peers and gathered information. I am hoping to kick off the needs analysis this term. We’ve very recently hired a project manager. I’d love to think that this project would be high on their list but we’ve other legacy systems to update and/or replace – which have a much larger footprint across the campus. I am resigned to the reality that I will (again) be agitating for change and may again be generally regarded as a nudge, but I’ve done it before and endured.

Our VAR has frankly been quite unhelpful in this regard, although it would not hurt for me to ask once more. 🙂 The vendor is still forming a transition plan, but their holding company just fired 500 people and our regional sales/support rep moved on. I cannot loiter waiting for them to share their plans.

UNIVERSITY AT ALBANY
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