Vendor Review: Alfresco ECM

There are plenty of options these days when it comes to ECM solutions. But if you haven’t looked at Alfresco recently, you might be surprised at how far along the solution has come. And you might be surprised, too, about what their clients have been able to accomplish. This Alfresco ECM review provides a quick summary of Alfresco advantages and disadvantages to consider.

Alfresco began as an open-source Content Management platform in 2005, following in the footsteps of the overall IT provider open-source movement. Analysts, consultants —even folks on our own staff — have too often characterized Alfresco as a second-tier player in the ECM marketplace behind leaders such as IBM, OpenText, and Documentum. But with all the consolidation in the ECM marketplace and vendor distractions as former ECM leaders reorganize, Alfresco now is finding traction as a viable, industrial strength ECM platform and alternative solution.

Alfresco ECM Strengths

Alfresco handles basic ECM well and leads in Amazon AWS implementations.

Today, Alfresco brings all the basic content management functionality on par with any other ECM vendor without the distraction of a consolidator like OpenText or IBM that has multiple content management solutions.

One area where Alfresco now leads in the content management space is a result of the vendor’s partnership with Amazon AWS since 2013. While the system can be implemented on-premise or as part of any cloud service, the Alfresco team has created a simple implementation path for organizations that want to use Amazon AWS. Alfresco even provides an offering in the Amazon marketplace that allows clients to quickly spin up an evaluation version. For an overall view of ECM solutions on the cloud, see A Look Ahead at ECM in 2018, from Both the Vendor and Customer Sides.

The Alfresco customer base now uses a host of Amazon services to augment and enhance native capabilities in its product. Alfresco has the most advanced integration with Amazon S3 for object storage, something that other ECM vendors have struggled to embrace given the distraction of their own cloud initiatives that compete with AWS (OpenText, Hyland and IBM).

Alfresco’s implementation led to a successful “billion object benchmark” on Amazon that proved out the solution for large implementations with ingestion speeds of more than 400 documents per second. In conducting our own research on the topic, Doculabs talked to multiple Alfresco clients that manage more than 600 million documents within the platform.

Alfresco is adding capabilities that support information governance and digital transformation.

Alfresco was recently awarded DOD 5015.02 Chapter 3 Certification validating its ability to handle classified information for the government. But Alfresco isn’t just interested in selling a repository. Its focus is on allowing organizations to achieve their digital transformation objectives by capturing and using content in electronic form and integrating that content with line of business systems through open APIs and robust workflow capabilities. Add the Information Governance functionality that Alfresco has been rolling out and you have a solid platform for managing content in your organization.

Potential Disadvantages of Using Alfresco ECM

Alfresco’s decision not to provide implementation services increases dependence on implementation partners.

Unlike other major ECM players, Alfresco has made a conscious choice not to provide implementation services, instead relying on a network of implementation partners.  Clients lacking Alfresco skills are heavily dependent upon the network of implementation partners to do the heavy lifting of implementation and integration. While the popular concerns about needing an A+ IT staff if you are getting into open-source software have been proven to be overblown, Doculabs would always recommend a good partner to support any ECM initiative, especially when it comes to Digital Transformation and Content Management.

Alfresco doesn’t have experience in specific verticals that some legacy vendors can provide.

Adding to the implementer / integrator concern is the question of industry depth. Alfresco has a large base of customers that use both its community and enterprise editions. The company has pursued an infrastructure path rather than focus on any specific industry vertical. As a result, Alfresco doesn’t have a specific dominant hold or expertise in a particular market in the same way that IBM used to have in financial services or Documentum had in life sciences.

Some may find that this is a non-issue since many content management challenges are common across industries. “We do understand the concern customers might have that Alfresco can’t provide the one stop shop and industry vertical expertise like IBM or OpenText when it comes to software and services” says Dave Giordano, the founder of Technology Services Group, a long time Alfresco partner and ex-Documentum and ex-IBM partner.

Giordano adds, “In our years working with the legacy vendors, we see Alfresco’s model benefiting the customers and partners as it brings more choices to pick best of breed vertical expertise and software solutions from the partners to the customer without the distraction of professional services from the legacy/ECM suite vendor.”

The Doculabs Take on Alfresco

Every organization will always have its own requirements that should be weighted and taken into account when it comes to ECM solutions. Clients looking to make a major investment in content services should always evaluate the different options.

If your organization is focused on a cloud-first initiative, especially AWS, and content management is being considered, Doculabs would recommend a tool that has been specially built for it. Alfresco is now the leader in the space and should be strongly considered.

If you are looking for a tool that is purpose built for your particular industry or a partner that has a large in-house services team, you will need to investigate the partner network and make sure to find out what industries they have experience in.

Alfresco has matured dramatically as a tool and an organization. They might not be the right fit for every company. But they should be seriously reviewed and considered along with the classic legacy vendors.

To read my two-part interview with Alfresco tech evangelist Ankur Laroia on the future of ECM, see my blog post: Alfresco, Open Systems and Content Management’s Inflection Point.


Rich Medina
Lane Severson
I’m a Practice Leader, managing relationships with Doculabs’ West Coast clients to improve information management and security.