Xerox Takes on New Challenges

Review: DocuShare moves document management up a notch

When your company name is synonymous with documents, people expect that your products will be strong when it comes to document management.

But what happens when document management starts to mean much more than just controlling how documents are created, stored, changed and tracked within a company? How well will a document-centric company do when document management means handling things such as collaboration, document security and even BPM (business process management)?

With respect to Xerox and its new DocuShare CPX 5.01, the answer is, not bad at all.

In eWeek Labs tests, Docu-Share CPX 5.01, released in August, proved solid in the core document management areas of collection, routing and tracking. And DocuShare still has one of the most intuitive and easy-to-use browser-based interfaces of any document management system weve tested. We also were pleasantly surprised by DocuShare CPX 5.01s powerful abilities in meeting management, interactive content and group collaboration.

Indeed, to a large degree, this DocuShare release is a more direct competitor to Microsofts SharePoint Portal Server 2003 than it is to large-scale enterprise document management systems such as FileNet (recently acquired by IBM) and EMCs Documentum. This makes some sense, as DocuShare has always been more of a midmarket solution that focused on ease of use and deployment.

And when you compare Docu--Share CPX 5.01 head-to-head with SharePoint Portal Server 2003, DocuShare looks very good: It competes well in collaboration and group interaction and offers much more robust document management capabilities than SharePoint does. And, of course, unlike the Windows-only SharePoint, the Java Server-based DocuShare CPX 5.01 runs on most serv--er platforms and isnt tied to Microsofts Office or Internet Explorer for its collaboration features.

With all these strengths, it seems somewhat strange that Xerox has decided to push Docu-Share CPX 5.01 as a BPM platform. The product does have some nice rules and routing options for controlling the flow of documents and forms-based activities, but it comes up seriously short if you look at it solely as a BPM solution. DocuShare CPX 5.01 lacks support for core BPM standards such as BPEL (Business Process Execution Language), and it doesnt have the advanced orchestration designs necessary for true BPM.

However, as a document-centric ECM (enterprise content management) solution, DocuShare CPX 5.01 is among the better solutions weve seen and deserves serious consideration by any business looking for a simple-to-manage-and-deploy ECM platform that provides strong collaboration and doesnt scrimp on enterprise-class features.

Pricing for a 100-seat implementation of DocuShare CPX 5.01 starts at $45,000—on par with SharePoint Portal Servers pricing and quite affordable when compared with some large-scale ECM systems. For organizations that need just the core document management system, Xeroxs DocuShare 5.01 is available starting at $4,500 for 20 seats.

Like many corporate ECM products, DocuShare has made a big push into the Web 2.0 world. DocuShare CPX 5.01s new integrated wiki and blogging features wont be serious competition for dedicated wiki or blogging applications, but they will be useful for simple internal use, such as providing feedback and information on company projects, standards and requirements.

These Web 2.0 features, along with most of the platforms collaboration capabilities, are maintained within what DocuShare calls workspaces, which are essentially just shared project collaboration spaces.

We found the tools for creating and managing workspaces to be very good, making it possible to create unique and interactive workspaces for our different group projects. Besides standard options such as interactive calendars and to-do lists, DocuShare CPX 5.01 let us create group-editable documents, meeting spaces and spreadsheetlike tables, all managed in flexible group meeting areas. It also has built-in integration with WebEx Communications conferencing servers, making it possible to tie in live meetings to group workspaces.

Although DocuShare CPX 5.01 falls a little short from a BPM purists point of view, it can be used to create powerful routing rules and event notifications for content and documents—with one significant weakness.

Within DocuShare CPX 5.01, we could create a content rule for any object within a collection and apply a whole host of conditions and actions to take when a condition occurred. These rules were easy to create and provided lots of options for automatically tracking and controlling content. However, there was no way to save and reuse rules, so we often found ourselves re-creating a rule when we should have been able to just select it from a list of rules we had already developed.

This was surprising because the latter method is exactly how DocuShare CPX 5.01 handles content routing and the creation of routing rules. When routing content, we could create simple but capable workflow rules so that we could, for example, request a review of a document by a group and trigger other routing steps if certain actions took place or if the review wasnt completed by a certain date. And we could save these routing rules for use at other times, letting us quickly apply them to other content.

DocuShare CPX 5.01 in--cludes the fairly standard ability to add and attach comments to any piece of content within the system, and its simple but welcome exporting feature made it possible to send content to external FTP servers. DocuShare can convert content to HTML for viewing online, and Version 5.01 adds a convert-to-PDF feature that leverages OpenOffice.orgs Open-Office (which must be installed on the server system) for the actual conversion.

DocuShare CPX can leverage external authentication systems and directories, and, with Version 5.01, users can apply fairly strict rules on how passwords are created and renewed.

Evaluation Shortlist

EMCs Documentum

A leader in enterprise-class document management, Documentum gains collaboration features when combined with eRoom (www.software.emc.com)

Microsofts SharePoint Portal Server 2003

The Microsoft answer for pretty much anything related to content, SharePoint Portal Server has strong collaboration features but limited document management (www.microsoft.com/sharepoint)

Open-source portal and publishing platforms

Although these products tend to have fairly weak document management capabilities, they also tend to have strong collaboration and content-sharing features and very good Web 2.0 capabilities

Labs Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at jim_rapoza@ziffdavis.com.