Review – Alfresco Share

Alfresco Share by Amita Bhandari, Vinita Choudhary, and Pallika Majumdar

After reading the Preface, I was excited to see three things about this book:

1) it covered the latest UI/application for Alfresco
2) it was written for a business user (not a developer)
3) it was second book written by the same group of people who authored “Review – Alfresco 3 Enterprise Content Management Implementation”

I enjoyed their first book and was looking forward to reading their “sequel”.  Before diving into the review, I want to acknowledge that the publisher invited me to review the latest book about Alfresco and provided me a free copy of the book to review.  This new book had a different spin than most of the other Alfresco books that I have reviewed.  The authors built a case study and provided tips on how to implement collaboration strategy for a company.  It was supposed to focus on business requirements and not delve deep in technical syntax.  Unfortunately, I was sort of disappointed on how much of the book followed this goal.

The authors started off good in Chp 1 by describing various collaboration features in Share and by framing the case study around developing a marketing site created for a new product.

Unfortunately, Chp 2-4 diverged from the business user perspective and covered installation, architecture and system administration.  The same information has been presented in other Alfresco books.  It was very similar to reading a sequel that spent the first third of the book rehashing what occurred in the original book.  If this is the first Alfresco book you buy, then the material is relevant.  However, I doubt anyone who investigating Alfresco as an ECM platform will only buy this one book.

Chp 5-7 covered site management, collaboration features in more detail, and the importance of document library.  The authors did a good job setting up the case study from a screen shot perspective, but did not really relate how business requirements dictated what features to use and what settings to configure.  A technical book oriented towards developers typically gloss over the business requirements in lieu of focusing the technical aspects of the product or feature.  I feel that the authors did exactly this and loss sight of their original goal of writing for a business user.

Chp 8 was the best chapter in the book.  It covered how to implement workflow within Share and it presented the content in terms of the use case.  The authors created very good diagrams that defined the marketing business process.  They describe various review states (or subspaces) and how various users of those review groups participated in the workflow.  The diagrams presented were well thought out and conveyed the business requirements in a way that most business users would understand.

Chp 9-10 covered advanced features and deployment of Share.  Again, I feel these chapters may not be as useful to a business user, but I did learn something new about Share – there is integration with Google Docs.

In summary, I really liked the idea of the book; however, I was disappointed on how the book turned out.  Most books about technology contain content provided by software vendor.  You have to; it is part of educating your readers on the software.  My personal perspective is that a good book has a well define audience and presents the material in a manner that he/she can understand (e.g. beginner developer, advanced developer, or non-technical user).  This book contains all the relevant material about Share, but does not live up to the potential of what it could have been.

In parting, I know sequels can be harder to write, so I hope I do not discourage the authors in continuing to write more books.  They know the material well; they just need to tweak the presentation.

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