The agony of choice – migration from Saperion to OnBase

The agony of choice - migration from Saperion to OnBase

Following up the take-over announcement of the former Lexmark software division Saperion by the US-American software company Hyland in 2017, many German companies became unsure about the application’s future. For most of them Saperion still forms the basis of their in-house ECM system.

Fortunately, it turned out1 that Hyland will provide further support and continue already planned development activities on Saperion. However, it became obvious as well, that Hyland will focus on its own product line, OnBase for implementing new features and improvements, and will integrate Saperion into their software environment2.

Comparing both systems, one will see that OnBase has some advantages compared to Saperion3:

  • OnBase is set up on a more modern and and more modular codebase than Saperion. It supports extensive customization with and without programming, using the native Windows runtime environment, based on the .net framework.

  • Due to more modern interfaces (supporting web-based communication as well), OnBase supports better integration into complex IT environments. Data types and formats meet current requirements.

  • OnBase's support concept is based on certified partners who regularly refresh their expertise to support the latest features.

What are the impacts for my current Saperion installation? Should I migrate all my data to OnBase?

Basically, there is no immediate need to switch to OnBase. Recent Hyland releases read that version 8.1 of Saperion will be fully supported by December 2021 - and the extended support running until end of 2023. The release of Saperion 8.2, originally announced for the end of 2019, will be realized as an integration in the Hyland Foundation solution, including also the so-called Federated File Framework4 (formerly Convergence Framework). Using this framework, Saperion data become available in OnBase directly.

Thus, if you are planning to switch to a new OnBase installation, you can decide on the following options for data migration:

1. Not migrating

Saperion and OnBase are installed in parallel and will run simultaneously. It is not mandatory that the Saperion application server continues to operate, but the Saperion file system must be available. Bridged by the Convergence Framework (or Federated File Framework), OnBase will access existing records directly and displays them in the OnBase client.

The advantages of this solution are:

  • There is no need to export and edit existing data. A clearly defined schema can be used to realize the information mapping.

  • There are (almost) no (major) downtimes necessary and the new OnBase installation can be put into operation easily, with a "deadline solution".

Disadvantages may be:

  • You will still need certain Saperion competence to manage existing records.

  • The Convergence Framework is still in development. It’s announced by the end of 20195 but currently not public available.

2. Gradual migration

Basically, this is a variation of the first option, exposing almost the same pros and cons.

Based on the Convergence Framework as well, data is imported during OnBase access. The import takes place in the background and is almost invisible for users.
This gradual form of migration should probably be preferred for the majority of Saperion customers, as

  • This solution requires the least resources.

  • In the long run, it enables companies shutting down the legacy Saperion system entirely.

3. Complete migration

All records in Saperion are exported to an (XML-based) intermediate format and then re-imported by OnBase's Document Import Processor (DIP). This migration type is probably the most resource intensive one. It does not only take a long time and bind many resources, but also

  • requires conversion of the Saperion export format into an OnBase-readable data format. Quite often, Saperion-stored metadata cannot map to OnBase diectly, so complex data mapping may be required.

  • Revisions handling in Saperion and OnBase differs significantly. Specific rules have to be defined to solve this issue.

  • Not all versions of Saperion are compatible for migration. According to the version installed currently, it may be necessary to upgrade Saperion first.

Certainly, this solution has some advantages:

  • After migration, all data are stored in the consistent and updated OnBase format.

  • There is no additional effort or know-how required to maintain and run the Saperion system.

  • Data structures and workflows might be reconsidered and optimized by migration.

Converting the Saperion-exported data into an OnBase-readable import format almost always requires a custom solution, the Saperion export itself can be automated and standardized using a tool from EITCO6.
Quite often, Enterprise Content Management systems (ECM) are the fundamental basis for a company’s business processes. Choosing the right applications and solutions might be stressing but equally important is the decision on the right strategy for the data migration. In many projects this topic is neglected during conception, although, it can have a significant impact on the timeframe and the availability of information.
Due to that, a system change should not only be evaluated from technical aspects. It should also be accompanied by an analysis of the existing business processes and reviewing of workflows, keeping startegic long-term goals in mind.


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