Thursday, April 12, 2012

ecm marketplace for Alfresco modules, solutions and services

There was no update on my blog about Alfresco for quite a long time - but I have a very good excuse: I was busy founding and building up a new company. The company is named ecm4u (see http://www.ecm4u.de) and it offers modules, solutions and services for and connected to the field of ECM/DMS and the Alfresco system in particular.

Recently, we launched the ecm Market (see http://www.ecm-market.de) which is a B2B marketplace for tools, modules, complete solutions and services compatible with Alfresco.


Who could benefit from the ecm Market?

First: Companies that use Alfresco today

When Alfresco is already up and running, the users start to like it and usually soon request more features. Most requirements will be small ones that improve usability, for example:
  • Sending a document link to a collegue
  • Sending document as attachment
  • Zipping up a space
  • Changing multiple properties in one go
  • ....
Modules that extend Alfresco with those features can be found at the ecm Market productivity category for example. The marketplace rules ensures instant availability and a ready-to-use package for download and the installation of the module. Using the ecm Market also provides safety, as it allows to compare similar modules regarding functionality. Last but not least, because every product is presented with a given price. It is also possible to return and refund a module if it does not work as expected and described. All ecm Market modules also come with support, so that it is assured that any arising problems are handled and resolved.


Second: Companies that think of introducing Alfresco

In the first place, it is usually a single specific use case that make companies think of using Alfresco. Typical use cases could be:
    • Simple collaboration needs: distributed employees need to collaborate and work together, exchange documents
    • The SubCon Case: Plenty of subcontractors are delivering parts within a big project. They are also competitors, so each subcontractor has its own specific area in Alfresco without being able to see the quotes and numbers of each other.
    • Managing invoices and contracts
    • Fulfilling quality process requirements
    For collaboration requirements, Alfresco can be used out-of-the-box, as it is very strong in collaboration, sharing content and working together. For the other use cases, Alfresco needs to be extended to fulfill the requirements. This has to be done by a system integrator with a deep knowledge of Alfresco and will result in a straight software-tailoring-IT project. While a software development project will allow to perfectly customize Alfresco to your needs, you always take the good with the bad. IT projects can be risky in terms of timeline and budget, as we all know. Deep customization will make updates to future releases of the main product a very difficult task. Using a prepackaged module that contains a part of the required functionality can help to reduce the project risk in terms of budget and a shortened timeline. Most modules of the ecm Market will have received much more testing, because they are used multiple times by many customers, thus providing better quality at a lower cost.


    Third: System Integrators


    The point of view of system integrators is usually providing high quality services by experts. Software developers, architects and analysts work together to implement business requirements for a customer. Although the requirements for a customer in a project can be very specific, there are always recurring or cross-cutting issues and solutions that can be applied again in different contexts and therefore reused. In the early stage of a project, in my opinion, it is no (nearly no) additional effort to identify those requirements and to factor them out in a separate module (or code-library) that can be reused in the next project. Or, even better, companies can benefit by offering these modules one the ecm Market. By doing so, further development could be funded and the module can be improved with new features or a more robust implementation. Also, new regions and markets can be addressed by the ecm Market - a rather difficult task for a single company that has to rely on its individual marketing and sales efforts. All system integrators are invited to improve the number and range of available products at the ecm Market. A large marketplace has advantages for all participants. Registration and information on how to become a vendor on the ecm Market is available in both English and German language following the above links.


    Fourth: The Alfresco Community and ecosystem

    I am convinced, that the ecm Market will improve and spread the usage of Alfresco. Small and medium sized companies, who do not currently use Alfresco, will be able to introduce it at lower costs and risks. Why? Because they will be able to find a module specific (or close) to their first and primary use case. This will lower the entry of doing a quick pilot project with the Community version. And as soon as the system usage and its importance grows within the company, upgrade to an Enterprise Version to have it covered with the appropriate level of support and features needed for operation in an enterprise environment as a first line system.

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