This past week, I saw a demo of TaskSpace and was quite impressed with the extensive configuration capabilities. TaskSpace is the first new application for Documentum D6. The configurable framework is built on the Forms Builder technology. Using Forms Builder, a systems analyst (non-developer) can build a simple application within days or change the UI in real-time. Since the forms are stored in the repository, changes in the UI are reflected in TaskSpace immediately. There is no need to deploy customizations, restart application, etc. This configuration-focused component architecture reminded me a lot of Sharepoint web parts.
Here is a list of sample configurations in TaskSpace that would have require WDK development to customize Webtop:
- Add/remove components (e.g. administration feature) based on roles. WDK supports component scoping by roles; however, it still requires a developer to modify component xml configuration files. In TaskSpace, a form designer just has to select which role has access to a component.
- Create multiple TaskSpace application for one TaskSpace installation. Since forms are stored in the repository and not on the application server, all a form designer has to do to provide a different UI experience for different users is to associate different forms to each application. WDK also supports scoping by application; however, to create a new application with a different look and feel, a developer would have to locate all of the appropriate components and apply the correct application scope accordingly.
- Create multiple Inbox views. To do this in Webtop, a developer has to customize the browsertree component to add additional nodes for each Inbox view. Each node then has to be extended to query for the appropriate queue; this may require changing the component class and modifying the underlying java code. To do this in TaskSpace, a form designer adds and configures each Inbox TaskSpace component to a form.
- Role selection at run-time. If a TaskSpace user belongs to multiple roles, when a user logs into TaskSpace, he/she will be prompted to select the appropriate role to use. While this may not seem ideal for a normal user, this feature is great for the form designer. Different UIs can be easily tested and validated by a form designer without having to continuously change the role assignment. I’m not sure if this capability is available in Webtop D6, but I’m pretty sure this is not available in Webtop 5.3.
While Webtop is very extensible, it takes a considerable amount of time/customization to streamline the interface to create an application where only a limited amount of features are exposed. The design goal for TaskSpace was to improve time-to-value. A simple application that can deliver value back to the business should only take weeks instead of months to design and build. I firmly believed that EMC Documentum has accomplished this with TaskSpace.
Will TaskSpace eventually replace Webtop?
In my humble opinion, in order for this to happen an extensive library of TaskSpace components must exist. This is very reminiscent of when Visual Basic first came out. VB was great if you wanted to quickly build a database application. The popularity of VB grew when developers started building ActiveX controls that encapsulated reusable functionality that out of the box VB did not provide (e.g. image controls, encryption controls, etc). This supported the creation of more feature-rich applications and the explosion of the popularity of VB. I’m pretty sure that the TaskSpace product team has a laundry list of TaskSpace components that want to build in the future, but if a TaskSpace SDK (software development kit) was made available, more of these components could be built faster by the developer community. Just look at the number of WDK components on the Component Exchange on the EDN that freely available.
I do not for see the need for Documentum developers going away; I see their role changing from customizing the UI to developing more reusable components that encapsulate complex business logic. This is already evident in the amount of development focused on developing web services. Could there be a need for a web service TaskSpace component?