eRoom Gains Flexibility

Upgrade revs collaboration, but it's still costly.

Documentum Inc.s Documentum eRoom 7.0 includes a number of improvements that make the product more flexible for end users and easier to manage for administrators, but its still one of the more costly collaboration products on the market. It also has a number of shortcomings that will leave users wanting.

Documentum eRoom 7.0

With new features that smooth managing and finding eRooms on multiple servers, Documentum eRoom 7.0 makes it easier for teams to exchange information and to manage complex tasks via a new project management tool. However, eRoom 7.0 drops support for broadcast messages, and the database application lacks some data management features for building powerful enterprise applications. In addition, eRoom is still expensive compared with other collaboration packages.
















  • PRO: Better task management; improved user management features, from permissions to passwords; cross-server connectivity improves management and search.
  • CON: Incomplete presence awareness features; database application lacks power available in SQL back end; some quirky user interface conventions; high cost.

• IBMs Lotus Software divisions Team Workplace • Inc.s • SiteScape Inc.s Enterprise Forum 7.0

eRoom 7.0, which began shipping last month, is available in two configurations, eRoom and eRoom Enterprise, which includes Documentums Content Manager application. eRoom is priced at $200 per user, at the high end of the $100- to $200-per-user price range for this class of collaboration platform. We tested the advanced configuration of eRoom, installing multiple servers and linking them via a Microsoft Corp. SQL Server 2000 database.

eRoom 7.0s Web-based collaborative work space includes a number of niceties beyond the basic work spaces, discussions and databases found in previous editions—most notably, better eRoom management and search capabilities, as well as a new project management tool. However, the database application lacks customization capabilities that could turn eRoom into a user-supported application.

Architecturally, eRoom 7.0 gains enhanced management and ease of use. In eWEEK Labs tests, the multiserver architecture connected several eRoom servers in such a way that we could manage them from a single console and view all the eRooms to which we had access rights from a single screen. Obviously, this resulted in significantly faster administration and more rapid access to work spaces in our tests. The multiserver architecture also allowed us to search across eRooms on multiple servers from within the My eRooms view.

The most significant addition, from an end-user application perspective, is Version 7.0s Project Plan project management template. We generally liked the project management application because it gives teams a way to manage complex tasks with interdependencies from a single application. Project Plan also provides a detailed view of each task and a Gantt chart to view interdependencies and timelines. Users can view tasks independent of an eRooms Project Plan using the Task tab in the left-hand navigation view.

The products most onerous shortcoming is in the database application that teams use to build custom applications in an eRoom: The data types supported for fields offer lackluster controls. For example, we could not specify a given field in phone number format, only number format. Likewise, we couldnt designate a field as required.

Although Documentum has dropped support for Windows broadcast messages in this release, it does support presence awareness insofar as we could see if someone else was logged in to eRoom at the same time we were, and we could connect via eRooms intercom feature. Companies can add an IM (instant messaging)-based presence if needed because eRoom is highly extensible through its APIs. IM applications such as IBMs Lotus Instant Messaging and Web Conferencing offer tool kits for embedding presence awareness in Web applications.

eRoom includes user management and security enhancements. Two in particular—permissions management within groups and better password management control—will help administrators offload chores to end users. Given that administrators will configure eRooms file store on a separate server, support for Microsofts encrypted file system on Windows 2000 enhances document security.

Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at