What do you like best?
My comments are restricted to the commercially supported version of this java based open source enterprise content management ECM platform.
Alfresco stands alone as the most versatile and powerful ECM solution available, running circles around dinosaurs Filenet (IBM) and Documentum (where most of the initial brain-trust came from) and exceeding relative newcomer Sharepoint (Microsoft) on most measures other than the "free" part. Sharepoint is free to get started with and very expensive to use and replace once you discover its shortcomings and eventually discover how Microsoft monetizes it...free from MicroSoft? You knew better.
On the easy low hanging fruit end, Alfresco can easily integrate with Exchange and replace you P drive, and in so doing instantly enable a full range of document disposition capabilities across a spectrum of content types. You may also choose to leverage Alfresco's UI or build your own, and you may build a solid enterprise search solution (Solr based) for use by employees, partners and customers, while leveraging roles based permission to fine tune access and privileges. Alfresco enables selective use of private and public cloud and offers their own Amazon based cloud solution with impressive security capabilities.
While it falls short of a full eDiscovery solution or records management solution, most business cases do not justify the initial or ongoing investment in Autonomy (HP), perhaps the only surviving albeit beleaguered player in that arena?
Regarding workflow, Alfresco literally hired the JBoss JBPM business process modeling team to rewrite it as “Activiti”, now in a more suitable license for OEM (LGPLv3). Activiti leverages the BPMN 2.0 standard, and while this all makes sense, I am not sure how much market uptake there has been...I really just don't know. Perhaps another reviewer can shed some light here? We successfully used Activiti to model and implement a multi-department workflow in support of a heavily regulated manufacturing materials change request process.
You can do a lot with Alfresco, some of it very easily, and some of it with much effort. The ECM space is a mess, and in general Alfresco has brought more sanity, but this is hard stuff so good luck.
What do you dislike?
Alfresco's licensing discourages use of small "pieces" of its capability (see some of the above examples of projects). I much prefer to use the commercially supported versions of software like this, but the entry point is too high to justify the cost for anything but the more traditional ECM projects.
The cloud version is appealing but does not often fit either my client's technical model, or the arcane security governance policies of many large "old school" enterprises we serve.
What problems are you solving with the product? What benefits have you realized?
The perspective from which I share is that of an enterprise business analyst and product owner on small, medium, and large projects in government, transportation, manufacturing, financial services and e-commerce. In some projects Alfresco "was" the project, while in others it simply solved one or more of our business requirements and was a small part of larger initiatives.
Some projects were designed for 2 or 3 administrators with 10 to 50 users, and were built for a single device which securely served just a few hundred pages of content from the cloud to an app on a secure tablet. Think e-learning, Board Room communications, PKI monitoring, BI, or compliance management.
For a global manufacturing company with 27 USA based facilities, we successfully used Activiti to model and implement a multi-department workflow in support of a heavily regulated materials change request process.
One financial services project leverages just a small piece of Alfresco capability, image management, but targets 15 million authenticated users in a responsive multi-tenant environment.
In one Federal project we ingested over 10 million pages of confidential documents laden with PII, applied taxonomy, and enabled enterprise search as the initial goal.