With D2 4.0 EMC Documentum released a new approach of a content centric ECM client one year ago. In the meantime version 4.1 has come out with additional features and improvements in March this year. The main paradigm of this client is configuration instead of coding. In this blog post we want to explain the characteristics of D2 4.x and the experience we gathered with D2 during the last year.
Common D2 Characteristics
- D2 is a modern looking web client
- With D2 you configure your requirements instead of coding
- More intuitive than older Documentum clients
- Fast and easy deployment and testing of any configuration of a solution
- Configuration changes will take effect immediately (just every now and then a cache needs to be cleared here as well)
Documentum D2 4.x Characteristics
The latest major D2 version 4 introduced some new innovative concepts compared to older Documentum clients that bring common advantages and increase the productivity.
- The new Workspace concept allows configuring UI’s for different uses cases. The user has the ability to choose which workspace he wants to open for his current activity.
- Each workspace consists of Widgets which display specialized functional interfaces. This approach gives the user a feeling of a portal, tailored for his specific tasks.
- Nowadays many clients use a lot of different browsers in their companies. Since version 4.0 D2 includes Cross-Browser Support.
- The new UI technology (GWT/GXT) provides for a modern looking web client feeling.
In the last months we had the chance to present D2 to a lot of existing Documentum customers as well as to configure proof of concepts and start first projects based on this updated technology. The feedback that we have received has been very positive so far.
What do customers like about D2?
- First of all the configuration possibilities which allow implementing a solution faster than before. Often the customers are willing to adjust their requirements when at the same time the implementation and maintenance efforts can be reduced drastically by using the configuration approach instead of custom code. There are of course exceptions, but so far it is obvious that the majority of the requirements can be covered as-is.
- Most customers also like the portal and widget concept. Now they are able to configure use case specific workspaces with the widgets that their users really need. E. g. a workspace for task management, a workspace which offers only search specific widgets etc. Common complaints with Webtop were that the client is highly overloaded with functionalities that are only really needed by a small amount of users – this can easily be prevented now.
- Another important aspect is the usability of D2. The characteristic of use case specific workspaces compared with the clear scope that a single widget offers increases the usability and reduces the need of user trainings. The client is more intuitive and guides the users through their tasks more smoothly.
What were the drawbacks?
- There have been drastic code changes within the early stages of the D2 clients compared to the most current version that has been released now. It seems that some functionalities keep getting lost or forgotten on this path. We have been working with EMC on some of those problems but most of the “lost children” seem to be coming back in the next D2 version 4.2.
- Especially for customers with many years of Webtop usage in their companies it is difficult to explain missing standard functionalities to the users. There are still some gaps meaning some functions that we took for granted in Webtop but that are not available at the moment in D2. It is clear that D2 is built on a different technological basis and the functionalities might look different. Together with our customers we have created some feature requests and we are sure that some of the functions will come with future versions. If you compare version 4.0 with 4.1 you can see that EMC is working hard to implement additional features.
New in D2 4.1
Documentum implemented a lot of additional functions with the latest D2 version 4.1 which was released in March 2013. These functions were impatiently awaited by customers and Documentum partners – including us. This version now allows us to build configurable solutions which meet the customer requirements even faster than before. The new key functionalities include:
- Advanced Search
- Custom Menus
- Virtual Document Support
- Drag & Drop
- Administration Node
- Workflow Enhancements
- Native Annotations
- Enhanced Electronic Signature Support
- Enhanced Audit Trail
Configuration vs. Coding
All customers pause for a moment when they hear: “With D2 we can configure your requirements. There is no need any more for custom code that has to be maintained through the versions.” This statement of course highly depends on the customer requirements but our experience shows that the part of necessary customizations (coding) is dramatically lower than compared to Webtop/WDK. The customization options of Webtop/WDK are very powerful and in the past it was common to customize Webtop/WDK components to change the client behavior and meet the customer requirements. Now with D2 you can configure the most common requirements that you used to code in Webtop/WDK. The configuration options of D2 are very powerful but –as everything -have some limits. That means you cannot configure everything that was coded in Webtop/WDK but the advantage is to stay closer to standards. More good news is that EMC introduced some extension points with D2 4.1 where you can further extend the D2 client if needed.
The customization approach with Webtop/WDK is very flexible and almost all requirements can be implemented. But as you know this approach brings a lot of disadvantages.
- Higher project costs
- Long project duration
- High upgrade costs
- Far away from standard
- Higher efforts to change coded behavior
The configuration and less customization approach with D2 is not as flexible as with Webtop/WDK but it provides a lot of advantages.
- More standard Documentum
- Faster project completion
- The configurations can be easily upgraded
- Smaller efforts to change the behavior of the client
- Provide user group specific functions
- Faster business value
So don’t forget: Try to configure the requirement before you start an IDE!
The D2 version 4.1 now also provides some customization options which allow implementing functionalities that go beyond configuration (everything has its limits). The customization options are less than Webtop/WDK but in our understanding this is necessary if you want to reduce your maintenance and upgrade costs – keep it simple!
- D2 Listener Plugins
- Custom Actions and Conditions
- Custom Widgets
- Custom Dialogs
- D2FS API
We will explore those options some more in a follow-up blog post – stay tuned!
Summary and Outlook
The major Documentum D2 version 4 with their new concepts turned out nicely. EMC communicates that D2 is one of the clients where more and more innovation will be implemented over the next years. The latest D2 version 4.1 does already contain a lot more features than 4.0. So we are curious and hopeful that this will be continued through the next versions and that the small gaps (such as subscriptions support) will be resolved. We believe that D2 is the right decision for content centric applications and we are sure that we will see more and more Documentum customers switching from their old clients to D2. We will keep you posted on our experiences!