Just recently I read an article by TSG about replacing external SharePoint sites with a simple cached approach providing Documentum access to external users. That solution was required to provide a selective view-only access to external users so they would only see the subset of quality documents applicable to them.

In the case provided by TSG, the external users do not need access to all quality documents, but need access to the specific documents that they are expected to follow for the business process. Previously numerous SharePoint sites were set up to allow external users to access the required documents. The client found that the work effort to maintain these separate copies and keep them up to date was very difficult and was looking for an easier way. The client was also concerned about the compliance risk of the SharePoint sites being out of sync with the Approved and Effective documents stored in Documentum.

The question is: is it in general the solution that you would suggest to a client that already owns both SharePoint and Documentum? I believe it’s not.

I believe that there is a better solution available: the SharePoint Documentum Framework.

First, the case given is a common case. In many cases you want to share and collaborate on a subset of documents. Indeed, clinical trials are an example of that. But also claims, customer files or tenders match that case.
Second, the concerns about compliance and separate copies are genuine concerns. Keeping copies in sync, though theoretical simple, is difficult. It needs full control over new, updated and removed documents and on top of that proper security mapping between two – now disconnected – systems.

So why not go the route that leverages existing investments and – more importantly – use the UI powers of SharePoint and the compliance powers of Documentum?

Let me share that route.

Documentum is very capable of managing all the documents, its versions and its meta-data in a secure and controlled way. This will guarantee that any user has only access to the documents that this user is allowed to read or edit. Regardless if that user is an internal colleague or an external client. A must for compliance.

Giving access to the customer through Webtop can indeed be challenging. OK, you won’t do that. D2, the alleged Webtop replacement, is by far better suited but still isn’t perfect.
The reason for that is related to the business requirements that you must expect when sharing documents with your client. Normally, next to sharing the documents as the main requirement, there are requirements like being able to interact (discuss, set tasks) and provide related collateral or instructions.

That’s one of the reasons why SharePoint comes into the picture. SharePoint is very capable of doing just that. But how to get the right documents available in this environment?

This is where the SharePoint Documentum Framework comes into play. This framework provides webparts that can query the Documentum repository for the right documents. And they honour the security set by Documentum. So, if you revoke access in Documentum, access is revoked in SharePoint. And as a bonus, you can set access to read-only even if the user has write access in Documentum. Not that I would recommend this as a replacement to setting the proper settings in Documentum.

The other interesting part of using these webparts is that your query leverages the available information about those documents in Documentum. So, if you’ve marked a document as ready for sharing with the client through its meta-data, it will meet the query parameters and show up in SharePoint. As soon as you change the meta-data so that it no longer is available to the client, it won’t show up anymore.

Oh, and important to some organizations: this is a productised solution supported by EMC and not a custom solution.

But regardless of that, the SharePoint Document Framework provides a flexible way to merge two systems that each lead in their own space. A case where the total is larger than the sum of the individual parts. A framework sold by EMC, implemented by preferred consulting partners like Informed Consulting.

If you want to learn more, don’t hesitate to get in touch!