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In Focus: Xerox Adds Sophistication to Low-Cost ECM

Xerox's DocuShare 5.0 upgrade stays easy-to-use while debuting blog- and wiki-support functions and componentized content management capabilities.

At least seven years ago, when I was editor of Imaging Magazine, Xerox productized what had been a homegrown document management system used by more than 10,000 employees. That system, called DocuShare, had the advantages of being Web-based, easy-to-use and inexpensive — costing less than $100 per seat in large-scale deployments.

Over the years, DocuShare has been through a major J2EE upgrade, it's been extended to work on leading databases and operating systems, and it has sprouted options that put it in the enterprise content management (ECM) class. Through it all, Xerox has stuck with the same easy-to-use low-cost formula that has attracted more than 3,000 organizations to deploy the system. The DocuShare 5.0 upgrade announced March 20 does nothing to change that. But it does mark the debut of DocuShare CPX, a new bundling of the system's most sophisticated features with new blog- and wiki-support functions and componentized content management capabilities.

True to form, the repackaging of DocuShare into basic and advanced versions keeps things simple, replacing a laundry list of optional modules with two deployment approaches. DocuShare 5.0 handles basic document management and simple routing, with systems starting at $5,000 for a 20-seat deployment. CPX delivers high-end features for content-enabling applications and business processes and is aimed at large corporate deployments; pricing starts at $45,000 for a 100-seat system.

The workflow, records management and collaboration capabilities bundled in DocuShare CPX were all available previously as optional modules, but by combining them into a single product, Xerox has simplified deployment. All-new features in CPX include blog and wiki tools with approval, permission and auditing controls as well as real-time collaboration added through a partnership with WebEx. Those two features don't break new ground, but the "content assimilation and reuse" functionality is a surprise for a low-priced product. This feature lets you chunk content in XML and then reuse and reassemble the chunks to create new documents in a sophisticated and potentially money-and time-saving componentized content management approach.

"This is very sophisticated functionality and they've included an XQuery API so you can start to do query-based retrieval of content," says Melissa Webster, a content management analyst at IDC. "That's moving toward an XML-based repository and management system, and it really shines where content needs to be componentized, tagged and reused in new ways. This could apply in placing orders, managing contracts, generating quotes, pricing and delivering proposals or assembling technical documents."

DocuShare's competition ranges from Windows SharePoint Services at the lightweight extreme to conventional ECM systems at the heavy-duty but more expensive extreme. Perhaps the closest match in terms of functionality is Oracle Content Services, an update of Oracle Files introduced last year that, like DocuShare, is complemented by records management and collaboration options. The Xerox and Oracle products are also similar in that the earliest adopters — and still the dominant share of customers — tended to be government agencies, school districts, colleges and universities.

DocuShare CPX is clearly aimed at the corporate market, but it's still a mainstream product. It won't displace Documentum within a pharmaceutical company, nor will it ouster FileNet in an insurance application. What it will do is provide an easy-to-use, broadly accessible and scalable Web-based environment with robust access controls and content tracking features as well as workflow, collaboration and records management capabilities that go well beyond basic intranet file sharing. An interesting new comparison may emerge late this year, once Microsoft has released the next-generation SharePoint and the Windows Vista operating system with built-in search and workflow services.

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