Documentum Webtop Musings
Webtop has been Documentum’s flagship user interface (UI) since its introduction in Documentum v5 (circa 2003) and has an enormous worldwide install base. It’s built upon solid (though dated) technology, methodology, and standards. It’s also built upon/with a solid API (the WDK), which allows developers to do ANYTHING with Webtop – including replacing it completely with a custom UI.
One of my favorite features of Webtop is that it does EVERYTHING. In fact, this is often the reason many end users (i.e., customers) don’t like it – it’s overwhelming. More often than not, we disable and hide capabilities and features in Webtop to make it more palatable for end users.
So, with all of this capability and installed user-base, you’d think EMC would enhance/upgrade/extend their flagship UI, right? Instead, they end-of-life it (Support for v6.7 SP2 ends April 2015. This was recently extended to Dec 2018 with the release of Webtop v6.8.) and are replacing it with one of two new clients: D2 or xCP.Worse, they provide no clear technical migration path from Webtop to either D2 or xCP and provide no clear criteria to choose one client over the other.
I know, I’ve heard the same guidelines that you have: if the application is “document-centric” it should move to D2; if the application is “process-centric” it should move to xCP. Well, it’s never that easy. Many of our customers have applications they target for development of D2 (or xCP) because it meets one of these guidelines. However, once it is deployed, they started looking at the next (and the next) application to convert/rewrite/develop.
Often these next applications contain elements better suited for the other platform. Now they have a problem: they want to build all of their applications on the same platform to minimize maintenance and maximize their investment, but they are stuck trying to force-fit an application’s requirements into a platform’s misaligned capabilities (or lack of capabilities). If they had remained with Webtop, they could achieve both types of applications (i.e., document-centric and process-centric) on a single platform. Of course, you lose the “no code” configurability of D2 and xCP and trade it in for full-blown Java development with Webtop.
As I mentioned before, out-of-the-box, Webtop does EVERYTHING. The thing that gripes me the most about xCP and D2 is that out-of-the-box they do NOTHING. Nothing! After installing the client you still have a long road ahead of you just to see your cabinets and folders, and create a few objects in the Docbase.
Out-of-the-box, Webtop works. Why doesn’t EMC invest in “Web 2.0-ifying” Webtop? They could rebuild it on Spring, using jSON and Ajax, DFS, REST, or whatever the framework de jour is. And, provide a migration path from the “classic” Webtop to this new creation. Many of these technologies provide the “configuration” conveniences they are striving for in D2 and xCP.
For example, look at what Armedia is doing with its ArkCase Management System. ArkCase is repository neutral and offers a UI that is elegant, responsive, and highly configurable while using current Web 2.0 technologies to achieve the highest level of re-usability and abstraction. Or take a look at CARA by Generis. CARA is a Webtop/D2 alternative and is gaining rapid acceptance for its elegance, flexibility, ease of use, and adaptability. Are these examples of what Webtop should be, could be?
Come on EMC, revive Webtop and restore it to its flagship status. Don’t just limp it along with periodic maintenance releases and force your user base onto D2 or xCP when they don’t need to or want to.