SharePoint – bogged down and out of the battle?
Back in February 2011 I wrote a post titled “Is iManage WorkSite about to be outflanked?” where I looked at two up and coming DMS (Document Management System) technologies that were looking to take iManage WorkSite’s crown as the legal DMS of choice for mid to large law firms. After 18 months I though it would be worth taking a look to see how one of those “manoeuvres” is progressing.
The SharePoint offensive.
Leading the front is Magic Circle giant Clifford Chance, their drive started back in 2010 (at least that’s when I first heard of their plans to replace legacy DM5 systems with SharePoint at ILTA 2010 in Las Vegas). A post on Legal IT Professionals this month nicely brings us up to date on how it’s going and below are some of my comments on the progress.
My first concern for any big law firm thinking of SharePoint is the length of time taken to reach the objective. The project is getting on for two years old and so far only half the firm is live (3000 staff), as an example we have recently put nearly 1000 staff onto WorkSite in a project taking a little over 6 months (the main logistics of the rollout being the last 7 weeks of the 6 months where we also replaced the desktop estate too). Yes you could argue that any new technology brings delays, but you have to weigh those up against the benefits you’re going to get. One of the main benefits touted for SharePoint is the cost savings!
The biggest concern though for me, and I think should be for any firm, is the lack of email management. Managing the volumes of email today is much more critical to firms than just the documents of the firm. Keeping an up to date electronic file with todays mobile lawyers is an essential part of any DMS. Clifford Chance say “We are still deciding how best to present email content in SharePoint”, this is two years in! As Joanna puts it in the article “So basically you don’t have and will not have for the foreseeable future one folder or site-collection with all your matter related data including knowledge, email and related documents”.
Now an interesting point is raised here, “it is not totally clear to me that a single folder for everything is going to be what people actually want” says Clifford Chance. And I agree from a technical perspective, but from a lawyers point of view I think the feel of one place for all the matter material is essential. In fact I’m starting to think that maybe the DMS isn’t the right place for email, but that is for another day/post. Regardless you still want the UI (user interface) to present you a matter folder so from a user perspective you feel all your file is together.
On current progress in legal, SharePoint doesn’t look to me to be a threat to iManage anytime soon with these two issues. However there could be one secret weapon up Microsoft’s sleeve that may turn the tide.
As Clifford Chance point out “firms would gravitate towards SharePoint because it integrates with everything on the desktop” and this is the key point. The user experience is becoming key, the consumer UI that Apple brought us with the iPhone and iPad and now Micorsoft are bringing with Windows 8 mean people are demanding easy to use applications. The integration of Office 15 and SharePoint could be key, as Clifford Chance say “most people like the way SharePoint looks and the way it works. It is very similar to using a Microsoft desktop at home, and it is a lot easier than learning to use a piece of additional software that keeps popping up and getting in your way all the time!”.
On this current attack though I don’t think that iManage needs to worry about being outflanked. If costs are to be believed (“said that they invested over £1 million in consultancy”) then there are few firms that can afford the cost or the luxury of a two year project. But there is the question over iManage now it’s part of HP and how it will adapt in the next few years? The battlefield is about the change considerably with Windows 8, cloud and mobile computing and it’s going to take an entirely different set of equipment to cope!