Planning a Documentum Exit Strategy

A version of this post previously appeared on CMSWire.


The dust hasn’t completely settled on the OpenText Documentum acquisition, but the initial shock has worn off.

Any of my clients currently on Documentum are now focusing on their go-forward strategies for the platform. For most of them, this means an exit strategy, because none of them view Documentum as a platform worth investing in for the long haul, which (as anyone who’s followed my writing about the acquisition knows) happens to be my view, too.

But deciding to develop an exit strategy and actually having one are two very different things. And for all of my clients, building out the details and specifics of their respective exits from Documentum is proving very difficult. Yet despite the challenges, I’ve noticed a few guiding principles framing their work. The following principles are far from codified, but hopefully will give anyone out there in the same position some food for thought as they seek to build their own Documentum exit strategies.

Assess Your Current Documentum State

Step 1 is to assess the current state of your organization’s Documentum implementation. In other words, the modules in use, the versions, total cost of ownership (TCO; i.e. software maintenance, hardware it’s on, support staff, upcoming renewals, etc.), the ECM use cases it currently supports (e.g. account opening, records management, e-discovery, etc.), specific capabilities in use (e.g. basic repository services, workflow, application archiving, file analytics), as well as the current political/cultural attitudes toward the platform.

Without knowing all this, it’s going to be highly unlikely that you can formulate a viable, actionable exit strategy. After all, you need to know what Documentum you have, what you’re using it for, what it’s costing you, and how the wider organization feels about it before you can figure out an exit strategy and find suitable replacement(s).

Define Sunset and Migration Opportunities

At most large organizations, an enterprise platform like Documentum isn’t a unified, single system, but rather a conglomeration of applications—sometimes tightly coordinated, sometimes loosely (or not at all). Given that, the right exist strategy won’t be a one-and-done, but rather a multi-year, multi-work-stream effort that will more closely resemble an ERP migration than a simple system cutover.

In approaching your Documentum exit strategy, it’s important to consider, at a minimum, the following when deciding how to sunset it and migrate to new applications:

  • Complexity: How much configuration or customization does each Documentum application have? How integrated is it with other systems or applications?
  • Business criticality: How integral to day-to-day business is each Documentum application? For example, is it handling real-time transactions, or simply archiving old documents?
  • Age of the application: How old is each Documentum application? Which versions are you running?
  • Health of the application: How well is each Documentum application running currently? Humming along, or held together with duct tape and bailing wire?
  • TCO: What is it costing you to maintain each Documentum application? (See above for factors to include in your TCO calculations.) Pay close attention to the last time you spent money to upgrade (last year versus 5 or more years ago), as well as how soon you need to upgrade.
  • Information risk: What is the risk level of the information in each Documentum application? Make sure you consider the typical variety of information risk—i.e. sensitive customer/partner data (PHI, PII, PCI), intellectual property, and business-critical information.
  • Options for replacement: What are the viable alternatives to Documentum for each application? Are there readily available commercial off-the-shelf solutions, or will you have to build something from scratch (or engage a software vendor or system integrator to do so)?

Once you score each Documentum application across all criteria, you can then begin to prioritize which applications are the best candidates for replacement and lay them against a 3-, 5-, 7-, or 10-year timeline for sunsetting.

Evaluate and Select Future State Systems

With not only a view into what Documentum applications you have, but also detailed information about each application, you can begin to evaluate possible replacements.

As I said earlier, in the vast majority of cases, this won’t be a one-to-one replacement for all applications with a single platform, but rather a case-by-case replacement, likely using multiple systems. In making this determination, you should give first consideration to systems you already own, preferably in production today. All things being equal, these will represent your path of least resistance because 1) you already own them (so low/moderate incremental spend) and 2) you already have some experience using them.

If there’s no suitable replacement option in your current technology portfolio, you’ll need to look outside for one. In the next step, you’ll lay these choices against a roadmap to determine the order in which you’ll proceed. But for now, focus on finding good enough replacements and scoring them along the criteria you use for evaluating new software acquisitions.

Create a Roadmap and Execute

Once you've completed the previous steps, you can now marry up your schedule for sunsetting Documentum applications with your candidates for replacement and create your roadmap. Think of this as a 3-, 5-, 7-, and 10-year program roadmap, with top-level workstreams for each application and second-level workstreams for the projects required to effect the replacement. Consider not only resource and budget constraints, but also the other projects going on at the organization. For example, if you’re going to Office365 or rolling out ERP modules in 2018, this will impact how much additional change your organization can handle for Documentum replacement.

And once your roadmap is done, you can transition to execution, whether that means getting buy-in for the replacement, budget and resources, or simply spending the funds you already have.

A Roadmap to a Documentum Exit

Although the approach to exiting Documentum will look different at each organization, some flavor of what I’ve outlined here is what 95 percent of the people I've spoken to are doing.

In my next post, I’ll dig in to more specifics of what a successful exit strategy looks like—i.e. the guiding principles you should use to wind down Documentum and spin up its replacement(s). But hopefully this helps you wrap your head around how to even get going.

Rich Medina
Joe Shepley
I’m VP and Practice Lead, focusing on developing Doculabs’ InfoSec practice and its applications in a wide range of industries.