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Document Management Systems

Documentum's made a very nice business out of selling the functionality found in Visual SourceSafe or any other source code control system to non-programmers. From what I can tell, the only native functionality to Documentum is check in-check out and versioning. Is there anything else there that I'm missing?
Stephen Hirsch Send private email
Monday, December 27, 2004
ooga booga
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Well, there's a little more to doc management than source control and versioning.

Typically there's support for signoff processes (workflow), full text searching of different formats (Word, Excel, PPT, PDF, etc).

Also, there's often usage tracking (who viewed a document, etc.), and support for offline documents (what file cabinet and folder is a document stored in).

Like everything else under the sun, its not original and unique, but there's value added features that you can't get from off the shelf generic source control.

Having said all of that, you're essentially correct.  It's source control for non-techies :-)
Dave C Send private email
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
The biggest problems that document management systems solve are not simple check-in, check-out, and versioning. Their benefits come from the routing, electronic signature capabiliies, coordinating the document release with ECO effectivity dates, publishing to multiple formats, etc.  It can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.
Yet another anon
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
This stuff goes by the management-friendly term Product Data Management (PDM) outside the world of software.  (And sometimes combined with issues management, PIM, to make lifecycle management, PLM.)

Autodesk (of AutoCAD fame) has a product called Vault, and the makers of SolidWorks are associated with a program called SmarTeam.

In addition to things like workflow that hava already been mentioned, these products also tend to have integrations with other programs.  And not just being able to do check-ins from  your CAD program, but also things like being able to push and pull information from your enterprise resource management system.  So you can take a model and check it into the system, which will automatically assign it a part number, associate it with a drawing/print, and put it into the system so that sales can place orders for it.
Michael Chansky
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
What's ECO? Never heard of it. Also, to publish to different formats, is that built into the doc management system itself, or do you have to build it yourself.

Just doesn't seem worth 2 orders of magnitude difference in price, however.
Stephen Hirsch Send private email
Saturday, January 01, 2005
ECO = Engineering Change Order.

It is how you handle change in a structured manner.

What is changing?
Why is it changing?
How much will the change cost?
What will the change do to the quality and performance of the product?
When does the change go into effect?
Have all the relevant documents affected been changed?
What do the changes look like?
Does everyone affected know about the change?
Have they been given sufficient time to assess the effect of the change?
Have the changes been approved by authorized people?
Friday, January 07, 2005
The company I work for is a systems integrator that specializes in developing custom applications built on top of Documentum. Documentum is a platform for creating applications that help manage unstructured information (anything that doesn't fit well into a relational database).

What you describe as similar to source control is refered to in document management circles as "library services" and includes features such as versioning, compound documents, custom metadata attributes, full-text search, robust security, documents that exist in multiple file formats, folder structures and documents that can live in multiple folders, etc. Additionally, Documentum supports complex workflows, relationships between documents, subscription/notification, translation into multiple languages, audit trails, encryption and electronic signatures, retention schedules, collaboration, automatic transformation from one file format to another, etc.

Documentum is targeted at large enterprises and their business documents, not source code. In fact, it's really bad at managing source code since there are no integrations with IDEs. Most people use it as a foundational component of a larger system that automates a business process, similar to how people use Oracle. They use Documentum when their business process involves documents instead of structured data.

If you are interested in learning more, I've written several articles about Documentum at
Michael Trafton Send private email
Sunday, January 09, 2005
Thanks, Mike. I still have a question, though. For all that you're saying there, why couldn't you build it on top of Visual SourceSafe, for example?

Also, you say that Documentum "supports" alot of complicated functionality. Doesn't that mean that you have to code that yourself, probably through some Documentum script? And if you have to code it yourself, Visual SourceSafe, et. al. surely have some sort of scripting language associated with them as well?

From what I can see, there's precious little functionality that comes out of the box with Documentum, but a really hefty price tag.
Stephen Hirsch Send private email
Monday, January 10, 2005
When I say "support", I mean out of the box functionality. Documentum does have a rich development API that allows developers to customize the heck out of it, but out of the box it is much more robust that any source control system.

Frankly, if I were going to try to solve the same class of business problems without using a document management system like Documentum, I would probably use Oracle as my base toolset, not a source control repository.
Michael Trafton Send private email
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
I will check out your site with an open mind. Programming teaches you how to be wrong...(:=)
Stephen Hirsch Send private email
Thursday, January 13, 2005

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