Deep Content Management with Workshare Professional 5

Workshare Professional 5 is an interesting new type of content management application. Here's a quick summary, followed by our thoughts on the product.

Product Summary

Main features:

  • Multiparty document review and audit.
  • Outbound document security policy definition and enforcement. Enforcement encompasses automated actions, such as warn users, remove risky content (visible and hidden), PDF conversion, encryption (via third-party tools), and Vista document rights application.
  • High-function document comparison between Word documents.

Document master repositories can be local files, shared files, document management systems, or SharePoint. Documents are normally submitted through File/Save-As in Office applications. They can be sent for review via email notifications or via SharePoint postings.

Documents are first scanned by the policy management system. If all's well, they are then posted to the SharePoint repository or emailed. Once there, multiperson teams can work on a document.

Policy is applied to documents throughout their life cycle.

Workshare Professional integrates with the following mainstream document management systems: Interwoven, Hummingbird, Documentum, and SharePoint. Typical street pricing is $150 per user per year. The company says the product has about 1 million users. Plug-ins are installed on all participating MS Office desktops as well as Lotus Notes email client.

Comments and Observations

Traditional document management systems simply handle metadata, such as date of creation, who updated a document and when, and so on. This is an artificial restriction. Document management systems should be able to get inside documents to provide a finer level of granularity. For example, they should be able to provide information about who changed a phrase or diagram within a Word document. Workshare Professional extends document management to the content of documents, and that's a significant technology development.

The policy management system is similar in approach to traditional content control systems such as MIMEsweeper, and is inherited from Workshare's Protect product line. Conditions are defined as Boolean combinations of criteria. Criteria can range over header and metadata information as well as internal document content. They can be defined via regular expression pattern matching, exact data matching, and context (for example, whether it's in a document footer or the head of a table column).

Given its ability to delve into documents, Workshare Professional's policy management system provides far stronger information leak prevention and policy/regulations compliance than is possible with conventional document management systems.

If you want to track documents throughout their life cycle, and you are a Microsoft Office shop, Workshare Professional is a very attractive solution. The ability to use Microsoft Office rather than a third-party tool for document management translates to high functionality and much enhanced ease of use.

When you have complex documents and/or a document with a large number of reviews and revisions, the tracking and document comparison is far better than Word's built-in features.

The limitations we see are as follows:

  • Although the audit trail does record email activity and content, this history is a set of links to original content and not a structured data store.
  • Security policy is applied to email content, but change and review management is applied only to the attached documents.
  • Workshare Audit facilities are limited to all review activities. Recording who accessed the master document outside the review processes depends on the third-party repository and is not delivered by Workshare.

Workshare Professional's main competition is Acrobat Professional or the use of Office 2007 features for content management, with no add-ons. Workshare has a number of important benefits over Acrobat for document management purposes:

  • Workflows are much more natural and much easier. You stay in Office rather than having to learn Acrobat's rather cumbersome workflow system.
  • You work with the underlying documents directly rather than having to go through interim PDF files.
  • Workshare Professional has policy definition and enforcement, which Adobe lacks.
  • Audit trails are more robust and easier to understand.

... David Ferris

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