Collaborating on Alfresco

From the perspective of frequency of changes, document storage can be divided broadly into two phases

  1. Teams collaborate to create, revise, and finalize, and publish documents
  2. Published documents are stored for long term and don’t change frequently

While features like versioning and security are good for document management, people may still resort to using email and file attachments with naming conventions for discussion around documents. Basic discussion capabilities are a must before a platform can claim support for collaboration.

Alfresco offers built-in support for discussion forums (forum spaces), topics, and replies on topics – core features available in any discussion forum product/framework. Further, a discussion thread can be associated with a document or a space. A specific set of users and groups can be invited to space to participate in discussions there. It is also possible to send email to all the users invited to a space.

Going back to my favorite question – how does Documentum support collaboration?  There are two levels and really they are two separate solutions. Documentum eRoom is a full-fledged collaboration solution. It has features such as calendars, discussion threads, databases, and dashboards. eRoom was a separate product prior to being acquired by Documentum. It is built upon Microsoft technologies and has a different architecture compared to the Documentum platform. Slowly, integrations between eRoom and the Documentum platform have become available. For example, eRoom can be a front-end while using a Documentum repository for content storage. Thus if you have a Documentum deployment on Linux or UNIX servers, you will need to bring some Microsoft technologies/servers into the mix if you want to use eRoom.

With the arrival of Documentum Collaborative Edition (DCE) some collaboration features can be directly enabled in the Content Server and Webtop (the basic Web interface to a Documentum repository). The collaborative features are also available through some other Content Server clients as well. DCE provides a level of collaboration support that is similar to what Alfresco offers. Either way, collaborative capabilities in Documentum require additional licenses.

To summarize – Alfresco offers basic collaboration capabilities without many bells and whistles. If you need richer collaboration features with Alfresco, you may have to deal with some integration. However, this approach appears to be consistent with the overall Alfresco approach of providing most used features first and keeping the platform lean and fast.

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