Monday, August 26, 2013

Talking about Alternatives to SharePoint

What we have here is a topic that, put plainly, generates controversy. It’s a point of contention, no doubt, because even though it has more than seven million users each year, if you search Google Trends (an application that measures internet searches for interest over time) for “SharePoint alternatives”, you’ll see that, since 2011, that interest hasn’t come down below 50 points.



It looks like we’re all divided on the topic. We suppliers in the ECM sector find ourselves either having to align ourselves with SharePoint, or having to declare war on them, and users seem to find themselves in the same spot.


So are there alternatives to SharePoint, or not? 

Well, for those of you who have reached this blog looking for answers to that question, I’d say yes, but it depends on what we’re talking about. SharePoint isn’t just an Enterprise Content Management platform; neither it is just support for social networks. The problem is that SharePoint is many things at once; and if we talk about alternatives, the answers change, depending on the aspect of SharePoint that we dislike.

 
If we’re looking for an alternative in the widest possible sense, I’d say that Alfresco is the solution that’s closest to SharePoint. Alfresco’s web content services permit the acceptable creation of web material; what’s more, they permit integration with pure CMSs like Drupal and Liferay, too. But if we only want to improve this part of SharePoint, you probably don’t have to stop working with SharePoint – you just need to find integration alternatives. In this post, for example, there are some interesting options to complement SharePoint in Content Management Systems. Thanks to “CMIS power” these integrations are becoming increasingly common. 


If we’re speaking strictly about Enterprise Content Management, Alfresco is a perfectly considerable option and it’s more cost-friendly…although, as we’ve mentioned in our “The two main alternatives to SharePoint: Nuxeo and Alfresco” post, there are also other options that are pretty powerful and much more affordable than Alfresco is.


Finally, if we’re just talking about a simple collaboration tool, this is probably where SharePoint has the greatest advantage, not just for its own characteristics, but also for its strategic plays, such as the acquisition of Yammer and for its compatibility with other fantastic Microsoft tools, such as IM an Expert, which give real meaning to the value of social networks in the work place. Alfresco can provide you with collaboration tools that are more focused on document management (integration with office software suites such as Microsoft Office, or other online collaboration tools for documents, such as Google Drive), and with web content management (forums, wikis, FAQs, comments, notifications, feeds, blogs, etc.) Nuxeo also gives your similar features. Here, we’d have to think about the way in which we’d want an alternative for collaboration in SharePoint; at best, maybe all that’s needed is an Enterprise Social Networking platform, of which there are many and some of which, like Elgg, are open-source (although Elgg, specifically, provides a lot of advantages, customizing it can be a pain in the neck.)


NOTE: With these kinds of posts, I always want to make clear that Athento isn’t a participant in this debate: we’re neither pro- nor anti-SharePoint. The value of Athento comes from understanding documents, which is not the business that SharePoint is in. We dedicate ourselves to extracting information of value from documents by using smart document capture, which is nothing more than an added value for any business, whether that business uses SharePoint or not.



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