A new “high-occupancy vehicle lane” (1 or more passengers) opened this week along a busy stretch of highway beside our offices to ease road congestion and help the environment. But it’s likely that in order to sacrifice motorized solitude, the personal cost of waiting in traffic needs to be high enough. It’s the same with gasoline costs; usually it’s only when pump prices rise that people start to look for alternatives, which now include full electric – although the trade-off in convenience and power is still too high for many people – and hybrid cars, which strive to strike a balance between fuel economy and power.

The desire to have the best of both worlds is no different in the software world. Buyers want the tried and true security of a traditional Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solution, but they don’t want to pay top dollar. As a result, hybrid software environments are common.

For example, an environment that uses both traditional ECM technology and SharePoint is seen as a less expensive way to achieve an organization’s collaboration and content management objectives. This can potentially allow them to reduce overall license costs while maintaining some of the security associated with the tried-and-true content lockdown offered by traditional ECM. The residuals of those business processes (documents, activity audit, etc.) accessed via SharePoint can then be stored and managed in the company’s ECM repository.

It has come as a surprise to me, and others, that SharePoint already has the support of many companies as a true ECM environment that they can centre their strategy around. SharePoint 2010 addressed many of the content management deficiencies of SharePoint 2007, enough functionality, it seems, for many businesses to base their strategies on.

The degree to which an organization adopts a single approach, or a hybrid solution, depends on many factors, including organizational size and the industry you’re in. Life sciences, for example are using SharePoint extensively, but still rely heavily on traditional ECM for their critical, regulated documents.

Other industries, where regulations are not as stringent may be more likely to tip the scales even more in SharePoint’s favour – for them SharePoint represents a truly compelling alternative.  

If alternative fuel vehicles offered the same scale-tipping value of superior value without the compromise, what would happen? I’d buy an electric sports car tomorrow if it wasn’t $100K.

P.S. Speaking of alternatives, it would be great if someone could build a document transformation solution that offers superior capabilities and lower TCO than Adobe LiveCycle… oh, wait, that would be Adlib!