xECM for O365 to ‘marry’ MS collaboration with regulated content server?

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I originally worte this as a reply on the discussion Records management in OT vs O365, which I find very interesting and useful.

But my question is going slightly off topic so I started a new thread.
We use OT Content Server (xECM for SAP) and use Office 2016 on prem. Most of our documents are actively created and managed within CS, so it is not just a storage. The upside of that is that we (think we) have all our important documents in CS, the flipside is that we have too way much ROT.  RM is not yet deployed for various reasons.

We also have SharePoint (also on prem) but that is only used in a very basic way for projects that require documents exchange with external persons and there’s a policy saying that relevant content should be transferred to CS.SharePoint sites are not provided for internal projects or other groups requiring a document space.

We did study AGA a few years ago so we could leverage MS SharePoint functionalities keeping our documents in CS but that never happened because it was found too complex, too expensive and we weren’t ready for it.

We are now considering the introduction of MS Teams for its collaboration functions. One things we are hesitant about is the management of documents which we intend to keep within CS.

There is now also something called ‘extended ECM for Office 365’ which I must admit I don’t know much about yet.  Does anyone have experience with that? How does it compare to AGA? Am I right in assuming it could enable the linking of connected workspaces from CS in MS Teams? We could then imagine that instead of (or next to) having a SharePoint site with documents behind a ‘Team’, there is a connected workspace with documents within CS.  If there is a Team that also shares documents with external project partners, they might have three tabs giving access to document repositories all within one interface, thus marrying the records management world with the collaboration world:
1) the connected workspace in content server, for all documents that are/will be records, managed immediately in CS, or that require workflows, document statuses and the like (which we have in CS and we don’t intend to remake in O365) and only accessible for internal users
2) the typical SharePoint documents library that belongs to the Team – useful for ‘temporary’ documents and all those files that are now polluting our content server, and only accessible for internal users, but not intended for deliverables, records, process controlled documents.
3) a SharePoint library that IS accessible for external project partners

Or am I now fantasizing something?
I agree that this would require good governance, policies, guidance and follow up, and user/permission management will also be a challenge. But would it be a scenario worth considering? Or would it maybe require too much customization and extra licenses?
Any input?

Best regards

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Pieter Jan Hermans
ECM Analyst / CIP
SCK•CEN
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Pieter,

Pretty sure you’re not fantasizing at all��.

Yes, extended ECM for Office 365 works with MS Teams/O365 Groups.  So, you could achieve what you describe for sure.  One caveat though – I believe (though I’m not certain as I’m not a deep CS expert) that extended ECM for Office 365 uses the AGA engine but just extends it to connect to the other O365 services.  Check that with your OT technical support folks.

Question though: as you’re using OT as your prime platform, why would you bother using SP for content sharing?  Why not just use OT Core?  That’s what it is literally designed to do.  Sorry, just seems like you’ve added a big extra layer of costs and sustainment requirements without adding much/any noticeable extra value.

Aria

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Thanks Lorne for your reply and of course that is a good question.

OT Core is also being looked at but at this moment but that one feels to me as a more individual/temporary thing: one person decides to open up a file or a specific folder to specific other (external or internal) persons, for a limited time.

If you participate in many teams/projects that share information that way, it becomes less manageable: you have a long list of folders.

Then again, a big advantage is the integration with CS of e.g. audit logs.

When you create a Sharepoint site or a library on a SharePoint site, you create a more ‘structural’ place to share documents within a group of people, with a longer lifetime, probably more folders and with easier permission management. The original person that shared the files might even leave the project team and the site remains.

All that may be a wrong gut perception and  I certainly agree that too many different options doesn’t mean it becomes easier to use or manage.


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Pieter -I think that you’ve got more going on than just the OT/SharePoint (xECM) question.

Teams necessitates the use of Office 365 and therefore SharePoint Online.  How you use it, you can choose, but whether it will get created or not isn’t optional.

So now, you’ve got OT, SharePoint 2016 on-prem, and SharePoint Online.  While as Lorne explains, xECM integrates with O365/Teams the question I’ve got is “Is that the right approach?”

I’m sure you *CAN* implement it but would the effort be better spent working on a strategy to clearly articulate what goes where and then build automation to support that strategy?  I’m wondering how users will know whether to store a file in their OneDrive, the on-prem  SharePoint 2016 environment, SharePoint Online (perhaps via teams) or OT.

You mentioned the concern about ROT.  The introduction of Teams will only amplify that problem if not managed well.  Teams is necessarily a collaboration platform and collaboration platforms generate ROT.  Work must be done to cull the contents of collaboration when it’s no longer being collaborated on.  It seems like this is the inflection point that could be used as the time to migrate the content from OT.  Teams / SharePoint content gets set with a short retention schedule so the only way to keep things is to get them into OT.

Maybe I’m thinking about it wrong, but I think that you can have a platform for collaborative/temporary documents and a more official repository.

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Robert Bogue
President
Thor Projects LLC
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Hi Robert,
Thanks for your contribution. I hadn’t thought about that yet. I’m thinking that most likely our Sharepoint on premise will gradually be replaced by Sharepoint Online. In any case all customizations we had in SharePoint have been or are being phased out so that becomes easier.

I am fully aware that good guidance and policies will be crucial and we cannot simply offer the tools without it.

Automating the support of that is something to consider.

The way I’m seeing things now I don’t see any added value for for Onedrive.   That is good to manage personal files but it should not be the place to store or share business content.
Much like the personal workspace in Content Server.  Anyhow, it doesn’t integrate with OT Content Server which remains our official ECM solution, which brings OT Core in the picture.

The users would have

1.  Always a content server ‘project workspace’  as more official repository for records, deliverables, all process controlled documents

2.  On request (no self-service), a Teams site for flexible and effective collaboration, with a simple SharePoint (online) library behind it, but no metadata, workflows, …    I like your idea of having short retention periods for this content.

3.  Only if necessary the SharePoint (online) site is extended with more libraries e.g. to have one where external people have access and one where they don’t (I understand the user/permissions management in Teams is rather poor).
Users do not get administration rights for of the SharePoint sites.

4. We’re still contemplating OpenText Core as that enables both sharing of files from the official repository in a way that integrates with content server, and ad hoc sharing of files with people that don’t have structural access to the right repositories. But as both you and Lorne pointed out that overlaps a lot with the documents in Teams/SharePoint though not fully.
Something that does bother me is that it requires a lot of licenses or subscriptions to be purchased and maintained (xECM for SAP and O365 we already have, xECM for O365 would be needed and OT Core is also not for free).

We do hope that with MS Teams (and Planner) in the picture, we may have a valid alternative for all the Trello and Asana requests we get from the users…


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I agree that your on-prem SharePoint will likely be replaced over time.  What I see is that users get confused to start and then decide not to come back and try again.  I try to get some clear statements like ‘Only X,Y, and Z application files will be on the SharePoint 2016 environment (whatever you call it.)’ That gets trickier when it’s a rolling change.  We sometimes clarify with only existing solutions all new environments will be created in SharePoint Online (again names and messaging matter here.)As for OneDrive… It’s less about the added value and more about the fact that with Office 365 you’re going to get it and it’s a matter of how you manage it.  Some IT departments use it for profile stuff for VDI — others have different solutions.

Microsoft does us no favors by having a content repository called OneDrive which is really a SharePoint My Site (personal site) and also having a synchronization tool called OneDrive which manages file synchronization to the local machine.  The sync tool can make working with files much easier for users but it will expose them to the OneDrive term and it will encourage them to login causing their personal OneDrive to synchronize to the PC.

I don’t know that I’d prevent metadata in SharePoint … especially if you can plan it to match the official repository so that you can move it more easily.

Definitely restrict the creation of teams.  Don’t make it impossible but put enough friction there that there is some assurance it’s needed.

Permission management in Teams is not really managing in Teams.  It’s a SharePoint site underneath so you have all of the options for using SharePoint permissions management.  (Except of course the conversations which land in Exchange).  There’s a separate conversation about the “need” for secure channels which I have a fundamental objection to.  SharePoint does support shareable links – so the user doesn’t have to have “proper” permission to a file to get access to it.

From my point of view, I’d be looking at how easy I could make the migration process from a collaborative repository to an official repository.   If everything in SharePoint is set with a short expiration they’ll want to make it move to the official repository.  The remaining issue is accessing files migrated to the official repository that they want to access from Teams/SharePoint — depending on how many files this is or how frequent the access path is, it may not be that complicated to create a path for the users to get to the files.  Teams will allow you to create a tab to an arbitrary web page.  SharePoint can do an IFRAME type integration too if necessary — or access the repository through a deep link that’s in the SharePoint site navigation.

As for Trello/Asana and Teams+Planner … it depends on the complexity.  Simple stuff, sure.  More complex, maybe.

I hope that helps.

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Robert Bogue
President
Thor Projects LLC
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Peter, I’m thinking that building another “closet” doesn’t clean the one you have, or prevent it from getting stuffed full of ROT again after cleaning.
You said RM isn’t implemented, but it is exactly what you need to manage the detritus.  It doesn’t need to be a full up solution with tons of analytical metadata, but a few loose easily used categories maybe hooked to projects or roles.  I’d initiate a capstone-like solution tied to projects/roles and be pretty ruthless with deleting the “miscellaneous” on a short schedule.
All the best
jana

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Hi Pieter –

I haven’t seen this point mentioned in this thread so far, so I thought I should mention that 100% of the integration functionality that xECM for SAP provides with OT is available for SharePoint from at least two COTS software providers.

For a time, I was the product line manager for Gimmal’s product in this area, responsible for implementing it with several customers.  I can’t speak to the other offering on the market from direct experience, but I know that there’s at least some overlap.  I have no relationship with either company at this point.

Using one of these products plus a migration project, you’d be able to move everything off of Content Server and on to SharePoint online without losing any of the content management functionality you’re relying on inside of SAP.  The experience of users inside of the SAP environment doesn’t change at all, thanks to the indirection provided by the SAP architecture.

A hybrid solution is also possible, with legacy content staying in CS and new content routed to SPO, but your comments seemed to indicate a preference for moving to SPO.

Good luck!

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Mitch Shults
OfficeOptimus, LLC
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