As noted in the accompanying Test Center Analysis on electronic document management systems, enterprises face huge content management challenges — not just in administering volumes of documents but also in getting this material online and keeping it up-to-date.
Documentum Inc. 4i eBusiness Edition 4.0 provides a first-rate solution for large-scale content management. Global 2000 and Internet companies will find this product moves content quickly from authors, through approvals, and onto live Web sites, allowing e-businesses to respond quickly to changes in the online marketplace and deliver timely, relevant information to customers and business partners.
Offstage, Documentum 4i eBusiness Edition comprises various server and publishing modules that handle workflow, provide easy document editing by end-users, deploy content to large server farms, and integrate content with personalization services such as Macromedia LikeMinds, Net Perceptions Recommendation Engine, and E.piphany RightPoint.
Understandably, the acquisition cost and implementation time of such a sophisticated solution can’t be dismissed. Then again, today’s ebusiness environment demands that you find ways to publish critical content quickly and efficiently. Because Documentum 4i eBusiness Edition 4.0 does this so well and also has most other components needed to fuel online sales and business-to-business information exchanges (such as document conversion into multiple languages), it scores Very Good.
Speeding time to Web
Documentum’s engineers set up the 4i eBusiness Edition system in the InfoWorld Test Center Lab as they would for any client — a process that required a few days for software loading and quality testing. Once the dual-Pentium III server running Windows NT 4 Server and an Oracle 8 database was turned over to us, I tested administration and Web publishing remotely to evaluate how the system would perform in a typical enterprise setting.
Because many organizations will transfer current Web sites into the Documentum environment, I started by importing a site initially built with Macromedia Dreamweaver 3. The ftpintegrator, a very useful utility that works with any Web authoring tool, transferred existing files to the 4i eBusiness Edition repository without any difficulty.
Setting up workflows, which are fundamental to getting content online efficiently, was my next testing milestone. Documentum 4i eBusiness Edition ships with two default processes that can be easily customized with the graphical Workflow Manager. You simply drag and drop objects to, say, add or delete steps such as intermediate management reviews. Similarly, you can spawn other processes when a file passes final approval, such as generating an Adobe Acrobat version of the original document.
With site setup and workflows done, I kicked off several update scenarios to verify that the system reduced the time and effort required to publish new content or updates. As manager of a Web site for business partners, I wanted to have a new OEM listed. So I used Documentum’s Web interface to locate and mark the existing file, note the necessary change, and submit the request to the original author. I especially liked Documentum’s powerful search function, which quickly located the file requiring updating.
The author then received a link to the specific file and quickly launched the WebPublisher Editor tool to add the requested new text and links. After he submitted the change, the workflow module routed the revision through the approval process and then from the staging server to the live Web server. In all, the entire process required just a few minutes. Of course, administrators may insert additional checkpoints if desired. For example, to prevent premature news releases or leaks of price changes, you can specify the dates and times for certain files to go live.
Similarly, creating new pages requires very little experience. Using predefined XML templates presented within a Web form, I selected the appropriate page header and footer and formatted the body of the page using a word processorlike interface.
The WebPublisher Editor is designed specifically for nontechnical workers, such as marketing or administrative staff. Thanks to the predefined templates for adding or modifying content, design standards are maintained across the entire Web site. And yet, administrators can grant users some flexibility. For example, each template may include lists of approved headers, images, and other page elements from which to choose. Additionally, the editor provides a WYSIWYG view of the content, eliminating the extra step between converting documents into HTML and then checking their layout for accuracy.
If the aforementioned was all this product accomplished, I’d rate it Good. But testing revealed that 4i eBusiness Edition has many characteristics that competing products lack, which boosted its score. For example, the Content Personalization Service (CPS) examines new or updated files and, based on their content, automatically inserts meta tags. The inclusion of accurate meta tags vastly improves site searching capability, and it’s especially useful if you’re running 4i eBusiness Edition along with a third-party personalization engine because these engines are not effective without accurate tags. CPS can even automatically categorize files and put them into the right folders within your site.
I was equally pleased with Documentum’s site maintenance functions. For instance, the administrator’s Web interface let me maintain different versions of the files, modify the site’s folder structure, and even create several editions of the entire site without much effort.
Because 4i eBusiness Edition dovetails nicely with existing business processes, puts content management back into the hands of owners, and scales up for large enterprises, it would make a very good choice for content management at companies where dynamic updates are business-critical.
Contributing editor Mike Heck (firstname.lastname@example.org) spends his days building Web and intranet sites at Unisys, in Blue Bell, Pa.
THE BOTTOM LINE: VERY GOOD
4i eBusiness Edition 4.0
Business Case: This Web content management solution helps lower the costs of maintaining large-scale Web sites. The system enables content owners to handle updates, which improves productivity, and its workflow capabilities speed content review. Timely updates promote online purchases and improve site stickiness.
Technology Case: Documentum’s template-based XML-authoring environment permits documents to be repurposed for different needs. The WebPublisher module moves content through a formal approval process and provides a tailored work view according to the role of the user. Enterprise scalability allows deployment to large server farms.
+ Nontechnical users can create and publish content
+ Extensive workflow management
+ XML templates accelerate site updates
+ Integrates with third-party ERP (enterprise resource planning), e-commerce, and target marketing tools
– Somewhat costly
– Setup may require vendor assistance
Cost: US$200 to $600 per seat or $7,000 to $80,000 per CPU
Platform(s): Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, Sun Solaris, HP-UX
Documentum Inc., Pleasanton, Calif.; (800) 362-3367; http://www.documentum.com.
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Prices listed are in US currency.