It’s Time to Migrate from IBM CM8 – Here’s How

Some of our clients have CM8 (IBM Content Manager) and are planning to migrate off, but are uncertain of what questions to ask, how to plan, and what target ECM or “content services” system they should move to. This post outlines the reasons our CM8 clients are thinking of moving, what questions they should ask before migrating, and what are the reasonable options.

Why IBM CM8 Clients Are Thinking of Moving

The top four reasons we hear for migrating off CM8 are:

  1. CM8 is not IBM’s preferred platform. For years this has been the case and in 2016 IBM outsourced CM8 development and support to Unicom – but they kept P8 and continue to actively enhance, support, market, and sell it. This doesn’t mean that P8 is the only or best option – just that CM8 definitely isn’t.
  2. Many organizations that have CM8 can’t effectively or efficiently support it. Many of our clients with CM8 have single FTEs with full product knowledge and are having difficulty finding integrators with available adequate expertise.
  3. It doesn’t meet current and future content and process functional requirements. CM8 provides only a subset or a lesser version of FileNet’s capabilities in many areas, including dynamic document management, workflow, and records management. It lacks P8’s widely adopted integration with other relevant IBM and third-party products for workflow, collaboration, and vertical business services. But today lines of business are demanding more in terms of core and next generation ECM capabilities and integration with third party products and services. It doesn’t make sense to invest the necessary effort, resources, and costs into something that won’t be adequate for such digital transformation initiatives. P8 is an obvious alternative but, again, many other options are viable as well.
  4. We’re thinking of moving ECM to the cloud and it doesn’t seem to make sense to do it with CM8. As with the previous concern, it’s possible to spend resources and effort on doing it with CM8, but it likely makes more sense to take that step with a different solution. IBM has a number of offerings for getting P8 in the cloud, and certainly all serious alternatives to IBM have cloud offerings, some of which are only offered off-premises or at least only have cloud-ready containerized architecture.

What Questions Should CM8 Clients Ask Themselves Before Making a Decision?

A solid approach is to ask the following questions as you consider what to do with CM8:

  1. What are my ECM software options? It’s useful to start with a good idea of the space of plausible ECM software vendor and product options, though of course we don’t want to prejudge the answer.
  2. What are my requirements? More specifically, what are the functional, technical, resource and vendor requirements?
  3. What are my deployment approach options, service model options and architecture options? Deployment model options include on-premises, cloud-based or hybrid. Service options include self-service or managed service, with some variations. Architecture options include cloud-ready or not, or more specifically containerized or using virtual machines or some other legacy approach.

1. What Are the Most Common ECM Software Options?

The core ECM space has undergone considerable consolidation in the last few years. A fairly small set of vendors provide viable enterprise-class solutions for a broad set of ECM capabilities, and even fewer have a strong focus and footprint in the customer space occupied by CM8: financial services and insurance, business system integration, workflow integration and image management.

Most of today’s ECM solutions fall into the following categories:

  • Traditional large-scale enterprise platforms, including IBM/FileNet (CM8 and P8), OpenText Content Server and Documentum.
  • Mid-tier platforms, including Hyland, Laserfiche, OpenText AppXtender and SER.
  • Next-gen solutions that are typically open source, cloud-only, with some innovative architecture or metadata differentiator, including Alfresco, M-Files, Nuxeo and SpringCM (DocuSign).
  • Collaboration and file sharing services that provide enterprise ECM, including Microsoft and Box.
  • Minimalist federated cloud solutions, where some firms decouple their content stores from the application logic, and move their content to low-cost cloud environments like S3 or even less expensive storage for basic low-retrieval rate archival.

2. What Are My Requirements?

To start narrowing your options, start by clarifying your functional, technical, resource, and vendor requirements, defined as follows:

  • Functional Requirements: Ability of the solution to provide the ECM requirements you need to address. Since you’re a CM8 user, these will likely center on image and document management, records management and workflow.
  • Technical Requirements: Ability of the solution to meet your requirements for security and access control, integration, scalability, reliability, performance, development, administration and reporting. This is an initial pass, which you sharpen as you consider your deployment and architecture options below.
  • Vendor Requirements: The vendor’s or vendors’ overall stability, fit for your company, professional services and partner network, expertise, strategy, and ability to support you in the short and long term.
  • Resource Requirements: The likely total cost, time, personnel and expertise required to successfully deploy the solution over the next few years – versus your available resources and appetite to use them.

3. What Are My Deployment Approach, Service Approach, and Architecture Options?

There are multiple important decisions to make regarding deployment:

  • Whether to move to the cloud or stay on-premises
  • Whether to adopt self-service or managed service
  • Whether to adopt the new container-based architecture that’s now standard for cloud-based deployments and becoming more popular for on-premises deployments because of its flexibility and other advantages

For simplicity, I’m going to address the first two decisions together – cloud vs. on-premises, and self-service vs. managed service.

The graphic below depicts the typical division of responsibility between the customer and the solution vendor in the three common deployment models: on-premises self-service, cloud self-service, or cloud managed service.

ECM Solution Architecture Layers - Division of ResponsibilityThe primary differences between these approaches are:

  • On-premises, self-service: customer is responsible for all 4 layers
  • Cloud, self-service: cloud vendor is responsible for Layer #1; customer is responsible for #2, #3, #4
  • Cloud, managed service: cloud vendor is responsible for Layer #1 and #2; cloud vendor and Customer share responsibility for #3; customer is responsible for all of #4

Part of your decision process in this area is the architecture of the platform itself. A relatively recent advance in the architecture of the leading ECM systems is to containerize ECM services, even if the ECM system will be on-premises. We won’t go into all the details here - that’s a topic for another blog.

Putting It All Together


To summarize, the graphic above shows the general approach we recommend for effectively planning your move from CM8 to an alternative. Note that while we haven’t discussed the last step - the selection process - for many organizations this may involve conducting an RFP evaluation and detailed solution comparison. Contact us if you have any questions about your CM8 implementation, your options, and your strategy and approach for getting from where you are to the best target future state.

How to Select Enterprise Software

Rich Medina
Rich Medina
I’m a Principal Consultant and co-founder of Doculabs, and the resident expert in using ECM for information lifecycle management.