New & Classic – Ways that SharePoint & Traditional ECM systems can play together

In this post I look at some SharePoint-ECM Integration scenarios.


The AIIM SharePoint Master course material that I am studying at the moment presents 4 scenarios about how SharePoint can be used alongside, or integrated with, traditional ECM systems.

These are:

1. External Storage Provider

In this scenario, SharePoint is used to manage indexes, metadata, user presentation, etc, and the ECM application manages content storage/retrieval

2.  External Repository of Record

In this, all content is managed in SharePoint, until it is declared a record. Then a copy is pushed into the ECM application, where it can only be accessed by Record Managers. SharePoint provides the user interface where documents are created, and edited. The ECM application handles the security, record retention, etc of the document once it has the status of a record. Content only gets into the ECM app via SharePoint.

3. Cooperative

In a cooperative scenario, all documents are created in SharePoint, where they can be edited, etc. The ECM system  is used to manage and control documents that have the status of a Record. Unlike the External Repository of Record scenario, in the Cooperative scenario, content can only exist in one system at a time.

4. Portal

In this scenario SharePoint acts merely as an interface into the ECM app. All documents are created, and managed there.

In researching this further, I came across  Andrew Chapman blog “Never Talk When You can Nod“. In it he covers the use of SharePoint with existing ECM systems a lot better in his .

Andrew offers 8 scenarios. I won’t regurgitate all of what he has written (you can read the posts yourself – see link at the end of this post), but I do want to summarise his 8 scenarios, and discuss where the AIIM scenarios match. (Andrew has got some really cool images on his post that visually represent each of the 8 possibilities beautifully. I’ll use this as well, but remember, they came from his site 🙂

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Andrew Chapman’s 8 Reference Architectures

1: Keep Systems Separate, Restrict Usage.

Content is moved manually from SharePoint into the ECM application.

2: Loosely Coupled Solution

Content is moved from SharePoint into the ECM application based on some rule, or event.

3: Use SharePoint as a Portal Container

SharePoint uses Web Parts that allow content from the ECM application to be seen, and at the same time, other Web Parts that allow the user to interact with content in SharePoint.

4: Passive Unification in Web Part

SharePoint contains Web Parts that allow a user to see content from both the SharePoint system, and the ECM system. This is from within the same Web Part. The user is unaware that the documents are located in separate systems.

5: Active Unification

Similar to Architecture 4 except that in this Architecture, the user is able to perform more complex operations with the content (managing versions, attaching objects to versions, etc).

6: Passive Back-end Aggregation

An aggregated view of all the content stored across all libraries in created in the ECM. This aggregated view could then be used to make security decisions, perform risk analysis, monitor file usage, etc.

7: Active Back-end Aggregation

All content is aggregated from SharePoint into the ECM system where it is managed, and controlled.

8: Synchronized, Intelligent, 2-way Shortcuting

As with Architecture 7, all content is transparently moved from SharePoint into the ECM system. However, in this scenario, users can still act upon the document directly from SharePoint.

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As you can see, Andrew Chapman has put a lot of thought into the various possibilities of SharePoint and tradition ECM systems working together.

Looking at what the AIIM SharePoint course material mentions, and comparing it to Andrew’s various architectures, there are close correlations – the AIIM scenarios match the first four of Andrew’s Architectures, with the last four describing variations on the Portal concept.

Andrew Chapman’s post: Eight Reference Architecture Organizer


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