How much do ECM solutions cost?

15 09 2009

Now this is a question isn’t it? I often get asked how much something would cost, and to be honest, the two most frequent areas I get asked this about are ECM solutions, or websites. No matter how many times I get asked this, it’s always hard to say, ‘Well it depends on your requirements, what you want to achieve’ as I often find a blank face looking back at me. Sometimes followed by, ‘Come on, a ball park figure’

Let’s talk price

Like all software solutions you get a wide variety of prices, with price often being linked to the amount of functionality that solution offers. However, ECM can be a little more tricky, as vendors often look at the amount of content you want to store and the amount of users who will be accessing this content. Traditionally this has lead to a ‘dedicated licensing’ approach. What this means is that you pay for your server license and in essence the platform. On-top of this price you will find a ‘volume’ license cost, based on the amount of usage the system will get (content to be stored). You will then pay a license for each individual user that then uses the system. This is only if you are using out of the box solutions too. If not, you will have to fork out for whatever professional services / consultancy / development (though often termed configuration) work you will need. Then each year, you pay a fee based on all of this (typically around 20-25% of your total outlay) in order for you to operate with valid licenses and receive full support and maintenance…

I can hear some people saying now ‘So tell me the price of a server’. Again, depends on your vendor and the platform you choose, however smaller solutions can start around a couple of thousand pounds, with larger more complex and enterprise spanning platforms costing tens of thousands of pounds.

Other price options

My own company provides an ECM platform, however our licensing is a little different. We do have a server based license, which does take into account volume. This license is required to be renewed every year. However you don’t pay anything additional for support and maintenance, no matter how much professional services you required to set up the system. We also only operate a ‘concurrent’ user license model, which means for every 10 users you may have you only purchase one user license. Why? Well it’s simple, our system is thin client, and we disconnect users when they are not using the system, effectively saving you licenses and logins…(Nice of us really).

Many other ECM platforms and vendors offer you similar services / pricing models, so its always worth talking to them and negotiating just what you can get for your money…

It’s expensive…

Well you might be thinking it is expensive to invest in ECM, however, you have to look at the savings a good ECM platform delivers you, year on year. Once you do, you will see they really are systems that are worth every penny. ECM savings / benefits is something I have written a number of posts on, and if you are thinking just what are the benefits and savings an ECM solution can provide, I suggest you spend a little while reading some of the posts available from the following link:

https://andrewonedegree.wordpress.com/?s=ECM+Savings

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Silverlight EPOS?

14 09 2009

Now this maybe a little left field, but I have been talking to some EPOS people who have been asking if we can expect EPOS systems delivered in Silverlight. Funny enough, I have also seen people searching my own blog on this subject…

So what is the chances? To my knowledge there isn’t anyone attempting this, and there are a number of reasons why not. I have to say the chances of getting a Silverlight EPOS system are at best, very slim.

Why not?

Many EPOS systems (especially the entry level solutions) are built to work and run a physical till (cash draw and receipt printer). EPOS systems are often a single install, with your back office staff basically having the same software installed that will drive your front office point of sale terminal (till). To drive a POS terminal, the software has to interact with drivers that are actually installed on the physical machine.

Silverlight in essence is a web based technology, and as such cannot interact with drivers etc on the host PC. This is purely due to security. If you are not technical and reading this, just think, if a website could easily take control of programs and drivers on your PC, what sort of damage could a malicious hacker / developer do?

Wait, don’t get turned off just yet…

Though Silverlight couldn’t be used to drive a POS terminal, .NET applications built using WPF could, and these look and feel just like Silverlight applications. I know this means a client installation (which Silverlight avoids) however, on the POS you have to have a number of drivers and applications installed in any case.

Don’t think though that you have to use traditional thick client applications for your back office staff. Though most EPOS systems use the same software for front and back office (especially smaller solutions) it doesn’t mean this has to be the case. A division of my own company, workFile EPOS, delivers a thick client POS application, written in .NET, but back office users use the system delivered through a browser (thin client), removing any requirements for installations in the back office or indeed (if required) machines at home for home use.

EPOS systems that split front and back office functions can easily provide more flexibility, in terms of both user experiences administration flexibility. At workFile EPOS we have been looking to replace a number of web pages with pages using Silverlight to deliver a richer experience. The thin client sales agent is a prime example, delivering a “sales” interface without the need to drive a till or any hardware.

Silverlight EPOS is go…

In conclusion, yeap you can have a Silverlight EPOS solution. The chances of you seeing one shortly though are slim, and there is no chance of you using Silverlight to deliver a POS terminal. Also think that many EPOS systems were written many many moons ago and still don’t really take advantage of thin client technology or in some cases newer versions of Windows (I have seen many that still run on DOS!)

But, all this being said, some EPOS providers out there, like workFile EPOS, have the potential to use Silverlight to deliver EPOS back office functions, which bring together all the benefits of EPOS with those of rich end user experiences. If the demand is out there, no doubt Silverlight will be used for back office EPOS systems and WPF for the POS terminal experience. We shall see…





Puppy weekend alone

12 09 2009

Well this weekend has seen my fiancé off on her hen weekend, which I have no doubt is going very well. However, this has left me and little Diesel (my 6 week old black Labrador puppy) all alone. So far the weekend has been a mixed bag, what with Diesel deciding he will show off and poo and wee everywhere in front of some guests, deciding that he would now like to chew the sofa and more entertaining, will try to play with the two cats, who seem to hate him…

 Needless to say this weekend has been very entertaining. Diesel, when no one is watching, is getting pretty good at the toilet training, what with being able to poo and wee on the paper left out for him in designated areas (though he dictated these areas to me). So I am thinking, progress is being made….He is also pretty intelligent, he now knows where all the cats toys are and loves to show off to me that he can go find them, drag the box into the lounge and then get all of them out and kill them…He has also mastered getting up onto the sofa, which looking at the height of him and the height of it is very impressive. He has to scale up the front of it like a true mountain legend, though he has had some little falls too. My only concern is that once he is on there he loves to chew the seats and cushions. Now I’m guessing the 10 year guarantee is not going to cover this?

 It was pleasant though today watching the cricket, seeing the little lad running around and slowly getting tired. He scaled up the sofa and laid next to me which was very cute (a camera moment). However, I feel asleep for about an hour, but woke up to see that the sofa wasn’t wrecked, but had a little Diesel sound asleep on it, curled up next to me…..ahhhhh

Now for next week, going to try and move that paper slowly towards the door, see if he still does his business on it…What you think?





Case Management isn’t BPM

9 09 2009

This week I have found myself talking to a couple of clients about why their particular system cannot do quite what they thought it could. Basically, these clients had made investments in what they thought was workflow or BPM solutions. However, what they actually have is a Case Management solution. This solution is working fine for them at the moment, however, their ideas for future expansion of the system, incorporating more complex processes simply cannot happen with their chosen platform…

So what has happened? Well far too often vendors (especially those who do not specialise in ECM or BPM) claim their solution provides workflow or BPM facilities. Now I am not saying this is done on purpose to mislead customers, rather I believe it is done because they don’t know the difference between BPM and Case Management, and nor does the customer.

Most people I have spoken to about this agree with me, that Case Management isn’t BPM and shouldn’t be confused with it. This has caused some discussion out there in Twitter world. If you want to engage, why not chat to me on Twitter http://twitter.com/AndrewOneDegree) or some of these people about it @sfracisatx, @JohnBJansen, @skemsley and @DevilsRefugee

 

So what is the difference?

BPM is about control, and good BPM solutions provide you with great flexibility to go along with that control. So you have the flexibility to take control of any process within your business, no matter how complex it may be. However, Case Management doesn’t allow you to do this, rather it provides a solid one fit framework in which an item of work (Case) can be controlled and completed.

Let’s look at how Case Management can work. Typically you will have a number of “Queues” which contain work within them. Richer Case Management solutions will allow a “Case” of work to be split into smaller pieces of work, probably with each bit of work being allocated to one of those queues. Now it is up to a user agent to then open up that queue, and pull a particular piece of work (though they could be given the first one in the queue). The agent then completes the tasks and the work, and it’s then done. I know they can “hold”, “refer”, “suspend” etc but the point is, the piece of work doesn’t go anywhere, (it stays on the same logical step / activity) it isn’t moving along a logical process. Once the individual pieces of work are done, the case is in effect completed. Hence you have managed the case fully.

Now for me this is pure Case Management, it simply does what it says on the tin…

Is it BPM still though?

Now this particular way of working can be argued to be a business process, and you are correct, many BPM systems provide Case Management, and can provide it because of what else they can do. However, let’s take the same Case Management system and ask it to do some of the following tasks:

  • Automatically route the work to a particular skilled group of individuals
  • Identify and complete tasks / smaller processes that do not need human interaction
  • Automatically hold items at a particular stage and wait for other processes to complete
  • Split a task down into a smaller business processes
    • With the process needing to allocate work, move work to a different department

If it can do all these things, then you don’t have a Case Management system, rather you have a BPM system. Now the next question is, does your chosen BPM system deliver all that is expected of a BPM platform, the flexibility to use the same system across any business process?

Essentially BPM provides us with steps (activities) along the business process and provides the intelligence to be able to move work through these different multiple steps to completion. Case Management provides, if you like, a single step (activity) business process, as work isn’t being moved along to different stages, departments, etc…

 

When Case Management over BPM

Well it’s all down to requirements, and that’s how it should be. If your requirements don’t warrant a BPM platform or the ability to map out multiple business processes, then look at a Case Management solution. Case Management solutions should always be a cheaper option to BPM, because they aren’t so flexible nor complex.

 

Conclusion

Let’s ensure there is always a clear distinction between Case Management and BPM. It is confusing, but there is a logical and procedural difference between the two, and this should always be made clear by vendors to customers. Use Case Management for single step type processes and BPM for anything else that requires “movement” along a process…





A little puppy dog…

8 09 2009

Ok this isn’t really related to my normal posts, which are usually work(ish) related. So today, I thought I would share with everyone that a new edition joined the household this weekend. His name is Diesel and he is only 5 weeks. I know, only 5 weeks, didn’t expect him to be here until he was at least 8 weeks, but the vet said was all ok so here he is…

He is a little black lab and is a ball of energy, fun and some destructive power, well for about an hour then he needs another hour + sleep…Which is fine with me, as I am still nursing a horrid feeling body after my Stag weekend….

So far, nothing out of the ordinary to report. The cats don’t seem to like him (we have two cats aged 3), but they haven’t run off or anything as yet. So that’s a good thing. He is, sort of, managing to do his business on the allotted news paper so another positive….I spent a little time online last night reading up on house training your little puppy, and his dedicated room is now full of his toys, his bed and most important of all, 5 tabloid news papers spread out everywhere…

He has however managed to find his little voice, think he found it this morning at around 6:30, treating us to a great rendition of a howling puppy, which this morning was a novelty but if it’s happening every day, one that will ware off very quickly.

Anyway, I must now return to the real working world and get a move on with a desk full of work…I will keep you all posted from time to time on the domestic dog situation as things progress…