Jul 7 2015

Someone has poked the iManage lion and it’s realised there are a few other predators on the plain

Jason

iManage seems to be back in the game, technically I realise it never went away but over the last month or so they seem to be on a real social media push. I mean I’ve actively been encouraged to blog about some of their new products on the horizon, those who’ve followed this blog for a few years will know just how surprising that actually is!! I’m not complaining at all, this is great news.

So this blog post is just some of my thoughts on the products they’ve had on show over the last month or so at user groups and CIO briefings.

First up the “White Rabbit project”, this has been in development for a while but is starting to near an initial rollout. What is it? Well it’s effectively a new interface for the WorkSite DMS (document management system), not a replacement for FileSite or DeskSite but a brand new web interface using responsive design, built using HTML5. So this should work as well on your PC as it will on your Mac or Android phone.

I have to say it’s pretty impressive. With an intuitive design and “in app help” it should be easy for the lawyer to pick up without too much training. As said it’s not intended to replace exisiting interfaces into WorkSite (although overtime I suspect it will replace WorkSite Web), but there will be a rolling programme to rollout some of its features into some parts of FileSite/DeskSite; the admin dialogues etc This can only be a good thing as the search, profile and security dialogues are looking a bit old fashioned and unintuitive in this day and age. There are some really well thought through amendments to viewing, this is built to facilitate better mobile experience. The document is streamed to you as you read, so on a mobile device that 500 page document won’t kill your 3G connection.

Next up the cloud is back on the agenda, can’t help think this is a response to the emergence or netdocuments and Matter Centre from Microsoft. Though I don’t see this as a transition to SaaS ala Satya Nadella’s moves at Redmond. This is more a “look we know you’ve got all these terrabytes of old archive data now, let us look after them for you” approach. At least that’s the way it seems to me at the moment. Given the success of Mimecast maybe this is a sensible move?

Finally a word on LinkSite. There was a big rush a year or so ago to be in the “dropbox” space by many vendors, unfotunately I don’t think though firms saw this as big enough of an issue to rollout out an enterprise wide solution. My personal view is that it’s such a shame LinkSite its not platform agnostic as their interface into WorkSite is excellent! It’s that “other end”, the HP cloud access, it’s a little too parochial for me, the ideal would be the LinkSite integration with SkyDrive or Box at the other end with the app support they bring across multiple platforms. Still I understand their (iManage) reasoning, because they own the whole experience they can develop something that looks so seemless. The Apple approach!

To wrap up, just a final word or two on cloud. Last month saw netdocuments announce new developments in their encryption, and today (7th July) they announced they received the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 27001 Certification confirming NetDocuments meets or exceeds international standards for data privacy, security, and information governance practices. You’ve also got Microsoft pushing their auto encryption ability in the Office 365 Exchange email platform based on the emails content (ie if it seems personal information such as bank details it will encrpyt the message). Email and Documents are the staple ingredients of law firms and their clients, so inevitably there is still the “on premise, on premise, on premise” mantra (you only have to read the recent LinkedIn online discussion following comments in an article in the latest Legal IT Insider – page 9 comments from Farrer & Co IT director, Neil Davison), but the consumer demands of access from anywhere combined with security offered by SaaS providers surely is pointing to a cloud based future for the core functions. After all, as I said in the LinkedIn post above, “why as IT depts would we want to spent all our efforts keeping operational systems running when we could use our sparse resources on strategic projects to help grow our firms?? We’ve allowed the Iron Mountains of this world to look after our clients data for years in paper form, it’s only a matter of time before we make the shift surely”.

But I love the fact that the DMS (document management system) world is hotting up up again. It’s been a stale environment for a few too many years andso I hope the iManage developers crack on and deliver White Rabbit asap, netdocuments continue to push their product and Microsoft continue to build on Matter Centre in their 365 world. I suspect we may see at least two out of the three 😉

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Jul 15 2014

NetDocuments Secures $25 Million to Fuel Growth in the Document Management Market

Jason

So today NetDocuments announce a “strategic partnership with Frontier Capital, securing a $25 million equity investment to accelerate NetDocuments’ increasing growth across the legal market”. Interesting move from both sides, a private equity firm willing to invest heavily in Legal IT and a big investment for NetDocuments to use pushing their product forward. I understand it will be a push on the marketing and sales rather than the technology side. I guess they feel the technology is at a mature state that is ready for a big push.

As the press release says:

“This investment represents Frontier Capital’s confidence in the market and NetDocuments’ ability to accelerate the growth across the legal industry.  The boost in capital will build on a successful sales and marketing strategy that will continue to penetrate NetDocuments’ core market and exploit the robust features of a true SaaS document management service.”

I think it’s actually an exciting time for the bread and butter technology for Legal IT. Here we have NetDocuments looking to move documents into the cloud, we also have Microsoft looking to moving email and lync into the cloud with their Office365 offerings and Mimecast wanting to look after law firms vast email archives in the cloud. These are systems that don’t offer strategic value as they’re common to all firms, but they are absolutely critical services. These SaaS solutions could turn them into utility services allowing hard pressed Legal IT depts. to focus on that game changing disruptive technology that we’ve talked about.

But there is just that pesky word “risk” that comes into play. We’re edging closer but unlike the corporate world we’re not taking the plunge just yet. True, we are custodians of client data and not just users of our own data. But as law firms clients move their own data into the cloud surely the demands from clients for data control will change?

So, if you were a betting man would you bet law firms will take the plunge to an Office365 or NetDocuments? A top 10 firm in less than 2 years? 5 years? Why not take a vote on the poll on the right hand site of this page (won’t be available if you’re on the mobile site).

I put £10 in Bet Victor for the World Cup and had a few 50p’s on various matches. My balance after the final stood at £1.68, clearly I am not a betting man! But I do have a feeling that in the DMS world we could we be in for a bit of a replay of the early 2000’s DMS battles (word of caution before you all log onto Bet365, we all thought this of SharePoint a few years back!). We could do with a bit of competition, the last battle drove some real innovation in the DMS world that led to a shift from profiling to a much more user friendly matter centric DMS with DM5 & Worksite 8.

As Alvin Tedjamulia, CTO, NetDocuments said in the press release:

“We’ve seen the document management industry go through dramatic changes over the last decade and a half, and we’ve been fortunate to be at the forefront with technology that is truly challenging the status quo.”

With some developments HP iManage Worksite have on their roadmap we could be seeing the start of an innovation acceleration in DMS, picking up from my last post, maybe one that will shift us to the “third platform” in this core Legal IT technology.

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Feb 6 2014

Microsoft have their (new) head in the cloud – Office365

Jason

Microsoft’s Office365 platform has had me thinking about cloud access over the past few months. The big stories that started me on this were when British Airways and Iberia parent company International Airlines Group decided to migrate its 58,000 employees onto the platform and also IKEAs decision to utilise Yammer as a collaborative intranet platform for its  employees in over 25 countries.

Then to top it off this week, Microsoft bet the company on cloud with its appointment of Satya Nadella as their new CEO.

For those unfamiliar with the business offering of Office365 (as appose to the same named consumer offering of 5 copies of Office for the family) it allows firms to let Microsoft run an Exchange email, SharePoint intranet, website and Lync messaging infrastructure in the cloud, all managed by Microsoft. Setup is simply choosing your plan based on numbers in the firm and then some fairly simple admin.

I already know of one UK law firm that is utilising Yammer as an intranet platform, but unfortunately they made the decision to forbid discussion of client or matter information, so you have to wonder of its usefulness to the firm. The issue everybody has is the worry of “security”, that someway if the data is on your own server things feel so much more secure. However as one tweet from #LTNY (Legal Tech New York) this week highlighted:

The question is not whether cloud is secure, it is whether it is more secure than what you do today? Most breaches actually happen on premise

Also another “security story” caught my eye this week. It was how the owner of a coveted one character twitter username lost this name to a “hacker”. The thing is it transpired that the loophole wasn’t any IT system, in fact the twitter security held up against the initial attacks (further details here and here). The cog in the machine that let him down was an employee! You can play this entire story through and realise that using the same social engineering techniques could easily have worked against the data being held “inside a law firm” as to in the cloud.

I am sure that it is only a matter of time before law firms start to switch to services like Office365 and legal vendors like NetDocuments in a big way. I think unfortunately we rely too much on technology to protect us, whether its on our home PCs virus checker or our corporate firewalls, when the weakest link is probably the person sat in front of the PC. Of course its harder to sell education and changes of behaviour, but maybe government initiatives like the current “Cyber Streetwise education campaign” will start the ball rolling that can then roll into initiatives within firms.

You can’t help think that these technologies are now the utilities of firms, like electricity, essential technology but give no business advantage to the firm. So those early cloud adopter firms could free their IT people to focus on the technologies that give their firms an advantage in a competitive legal market. Or the cynic may say they would just reduce their staff and news from #LTNY could make cynics of all of us!

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Nov 3 2013

Education, education, education – solving the dropbox problem

Jason

Security firms would have you believe it, vendors tell you it in sales pitches, but the fact is the Dropbox problem isn’t anything new. In fact it’s been around since 1996. Of course back then it wasn’t called “dropbox”, no back then it was known as “Hotmail”. We could put files easily in the cloud and access them from multiple different devices anywhere in the world, oh and security wasn’t that great either (in 1999 you could get into any Hotmail account with the password “eh”).

In fact I suppose you could go back further and draw an analogy to the briefcase stuffed with paper files that you took home with you.

So what is new? Why is there all of a sudden a push to solve this problem? Is there a problem to solve technically? Or is in fact the easiest solution the same solution that has always been there? Education.

I remember visiting a law firm on the west side of the Pennines and on exit I saw signs on each exit door reminding the fee earners on what files they should not be taking away with them off premise. These signs were referring to the paper file, but isn’t the same education required for the electronic file?  We trusted lawyers with the paper file why not with the electronic file? The IT dept know the risks, so why do we think the lawyers won’t “get it”? The flipside to this is of course that the lawyers take the responsibility and not blame the CIO when things go wrong!

So we don’t need the new “dropbox” tools? Well lets look back again, when we needed to securely transport paper files we came up with the lockable briefcase, when Hotmail came about we created Outlook OWA to provide similar functionality to the corporate email. No I think there is a space for these tools providing the user experience is matched (and that means more than just an iOS client to cover mobility!).

The better the UX and the more secure the product the better it will be for the lawyer, but tech alone won’t crack the “dropbox” problem!

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Jul 8 2013

BYOD article written for Managing Partner magazine

Jason

Back in March I wrote an article for Managing Partner magazine. I was asked to hold back on publishing myself for a few months, but now you can read the post in full here.

Managing Partner March 2013

It’s an interesting time to be in corporate IT, the booming consumer technology market is starting to flood into the corporate space and along with it comes a whole heap of problems and challenges. New buzz words are starting to dominate marketing material and new products are touted as answers to these challenges.

So when asked to write an article looking at the emerging technology for lawyers and their clients it was hard to decide where to start. But I’m going to pick two of these “buzzwords”, two that have been around for some time but I think will emerge from the hype and will now start to make a difference in Legal IT. Those two are BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and The Cloud.

BYOD

The consumer market in technology has accelerated way past the corporate world in the past few years, largely thanks to Apple and its iPhone and iPad. No longer is a lawyer happy with a standard BlackBerry and a plain old corporate laptop. The challenge for Legal IT (in fact any corporate IT department) is that the simplicity and flexibility people have at home they now want in the office and they also want it in a device that looks good. So the law firm board member now wants those papers on his or her iPad rather than stapled together in their briefcase.

For the IT department, that could historically control the computers it looked after and more importantly could control and secure the data on those computers, the flexibility and loss of control on personal devices is a big worry. However it will be a very brave IT department that continues to stand by the old ways and refuses to allow their end users the ability to bring in and use their own tablet or smartphone, not least because they’ll go and do it anyway!

So how do you maintain the control and security of the firm’s data?

It depends on the device; each device will have a different requirement for how the data is used.

BYOD

On the one side is the smartphone which is built around an “App” whereas at the other is the traditional PC with it’s desktop integration, the tablet fits in the middle as it can be used to consume and use both.

Securing the data on these devices can therefore be about securing the “App” right through to providing a secure way to access the firm’s desktop on the device. This is a fast moving space at the moment, but some of the key players that provide solutions to manage this are: Citrix, Mobile Iron, Good Technologies and the new BlackBerry Fusion application. These solutions offer ways to control the devices that you allow to access your corporate networks. They can allow you to control the Apps and services on those devices, auto configure things like WiFi and email, allow you to control and wipe data and Apps selectively and even provide white lists (and black lists) of Apps you can install on the devices. They are designed to allow you to keep the firms data separate from the user’s personal data.

Effectively these solutions are bringing the control and security the BlackBerry gave to corporate IT departments to a variety of devices. They also aim to keep the control of the data that belongs to the firm whilst allowing the device as a whole to be freely used as a personal device.

So what happens to the BlackBerry in the legal arena then? BlackBerry has just launched their new version and with it they bring some new features to assist in this personal/corporate split.

BlackBerry 10

BlackBerry 10 or BBX is the new operating system for the good old BlackBerry device and it brings with it “BlackBerry Balance”, this is a feature that lets you toggle between two profiles on the smartphone. A personal profile and a work profile. This allows corporate policies and controls to be placed on the work profile, yet leave the personal profile more open.

It will be interesting to see how the new BlackBerry fares in a crowded smartphone market, especially as the BYOD solutions (including their own BlackBerry Fusion solution) mentioned previously allow the control of data across a wider range of devices on the other three platforms (Apple, Android and Windows Phone). Even security conscious government departments have cleared the iPhone (CESG, GCHQ’s data security arm cleared the iPhone for Level 3 data, that data deemed restricted, in late 2012).

Another emerging area in the BYOD space is around tablets. We all know how phenomenally popular the iPad has been and how it has seen off some rivals (notably the BlackBerry Playbook), but this year I think will see the rise of a couple of challengers. On one side the Android tablets led currently by the successful Nexus 7 and I think as the year goes on from the Windows 8 platform.

Windows 8

It’s still early days for Windows 8 and it’s fair to say early impressions of the Microsoft Surface RT tablet device have been mixed. I think a lot of the negative reviews have come from the confusion in the way the software runs in either the “Desktop” or as an “App”, once you understand this it makes the perfect sense why there are two versions of the surface tablet (the RT and the “Pro” versions) and helps to see where the roadmap is leading.

The “desktop” world can be easily explained as the way every piece of software runs that you currently have on your Windows 7 desktop. So Microsoft Word, Adobe Photoshop, iTunes etc are all desktop software. Microsoft supports this world in Windows 8, however the desktop is now tucked away below a new “desktop tile” on the start screen. You can pin a tile for Word to the start screen, but launch it and it opens in that desktop space. So the desktop as you know it from the windows 7 world is effectively a layer below this new start screen.

New in Windows 8 though is a development platform, this is where the “Apps” come in. Adobe may create the next version of Photoshop as an “App”, and you launch it in the same way from a tile on the start screen, but this time it doesn’t switch into the desktop environment to run. It just runs the “App” basically like your iPad or iPhone does.

The “desktop” world still requires you to install the software in the same old way; the “App” world though transitions the software into an AppStore (Windows Store). For now most of the Legal IT world consists of desktop software and until such time that vendors start to build “App” versions of this software there is an argument to say stick with Windows 7. The shift has started though, OpenText already provide a Windows 8 App to access their document management system.

Once you’ve understood the split above the tablet versions make a bit more sense. The Surface RT tablet will just run the “Apps”, it won’t run the “Desktop” software. To run those you will need a Surface Pro tablet whose release is imminent. Why the split? Well the RT kit has different hardware “underneath the bonnet” and is designed to need much less power, hence much longer battery life (think iPad rather than laptop battery life).

The flexibility of this RT/Pro environment could be of huge benefit to users who travel a lot (lawyers?) as with “Pro” you have a true laptop replacement. You can use the device as a tablet with the “Apps” then connect a mouse and keyboard and use as a desktop PC! Microsoft see this and are launching new versions of their Office Suite (Office 2013), these are the usually fully featured versions of Word and Excel for when in desktop mode, but that also have a new “finger friendly” interface, so that when in tablet mode you can still use your email or read a document with ease.

One interesting feature of Office 13 is the shift to cloud. This seems a nod to the consumer world and allows you to store your documents in the cloud to allow access wherever you have an internet connection. So using file open in Word, for example, no longer has the hard drive (C: drive) front and centre, instead you will see SkyDrive. SkyDrive is Microsoft’s DropBox or Google Drive, your documents in the cloud.

Cloud data

It’s strange to see SkyDrive in the mix as traditionally Office is a corporate product rather than a consumer one, and I can’t really see firms being too happy that their documents are hosted, who knows where in Microsoft’s cloud. However it is more the concept that Office is bringing. The one that your documents can be available anywhere you have an internet connection.

Now most law firms have had an internal document “cloud” for some time in their DMS (document management systems), this has only been available if you were on your firms network. There is now a big scramble in Legal IT to provide a “corporate dropbox”.

A number of vendors are looking to exploit their technologies that are already on the desktops of lawyers. To add functionality to their products to load documents into the cloud, thus allowing access by the lawyers on their own devices and also to allow their clients direct access to the documents.

Workshare’s recent merger with SkyDox well and truly puts them in this space as they look to leverage their Workshare Professional product to help collaboration with clients in the cloud. HP Autonomy is also looking to exploit their ubiquitous DMS with the ability to synchronise with a “dropbox” solution that would be available to clients and lawyers own devices. Netdocuments having always being in the cloud are well placed in this space too. These are just a few vendors to look at solutions in this space and I’m sure a wander round the vendor hall at the Legal IT show will unearth many more!

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Nov 3 2011

Hamburgers needlessly uniform and fast or coffee annoyingly complex and slow?

Jason

I read an article in The Spectator a couple of months back that I’ve been meaning to tie into a Legal or Legal IT post for a while.

There were two areas of Law that I was thinking about when I first read it. First off this paragraph.

These changes happen because there are two kind of business competition. The first is where you try to be better at doing what the business next door is doing already. The second is where you create a ‘paradigm shift’, pursuing some entirely new ideal no one has focused on before.

This one got me thinking of the crossroads that a lot of law firms are reaching in these tough economic times. Do they try and do things better than their close competitors? Or do they create the “paradigm shift”? The majority of the press and many legal commentators would suggest that “Tesco Law” will usher in a new kind of law firm and the old firms that stick to the current model will wither and die. Is there room for the old style law firm anymore or will law pump out agreements “needlessly uniform and fast”? I suspect there’ll be room for both, after all the two businesses sited in the article (McDonalds and Starbucks) haven’t totally wiped out the “old diners” or the “old style cafés”.

The second area I thought of was after I read this.

I sometimes wonder whether it’s time for government to try a paradigm shift. If, instead of devoting all its energies towards huge, intractable problems such as wholesale NHS reform, our government were to establish a Ministry for Eradicating Trivial Irritations, some degree of success would be assured.

And this got me thinking of a few Legal IT vendors. How the clamber for larger firms through mergers and takeovers have led to a chase the next big thing. Whether it be the cloud, the latest in eDiscovery or Legal Hold or another big technology to sell to the law firms. My thoughts usually are that I wish they’d just look at what they do/did well and make it better. Ironing out those trivial but annoying “features” that drive the lawyers nuts.

Anyway, take a look at the article it’s worth a read in its entirety and perhaps read through some of the other articles by “The Wiki Man”.

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Dec 4 2009

Head in the clouds?

Jason

Cloud computing. The latest buzz word in IT, one that is probably only knocked off the top in a Legal IT game of “buzzword bingo” by eDiscovery! I started writing this blog post a few months back, at a time when I’d been flash mobbed by “cloud computing” companies. The intention was to put down some of the things I’d seen that may be interesting  for Legal IT people, together with some of my thoughts on “cloud computing”.

So what exactly is “Cloud Computing”? According to Wikipedia:

“Cloud computing is a style of computing in which dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources are provided as a service over the Internet.”

That help?

Probably not, let me try. It’s basically the infrastructure (all the hardware currently located in many firms computer rooms or data centres) and rather than being in your firm it is hosted somewhere else by someone else. The location you don’t care about (in a technical sense). It’s out there somewhere and it’s always big enough for you to add all your new applications and data to.

Basically so that the worry of keeping enough space to hold all your data or enough power to run your applications is taken care of by someone else (subject to you paying them more money for more space/power of course!). And all the disaster recovery and business continuity work is taken care of.

So some of the things I’d seen that may be interesting  for Legal IT people?

One of the first to catch my eye back in the summer was Legal Cloud, I  was obviously interested in their "Legal" angle. And I subsequently ended up on a call with the CEO of Legal Cloud, Mark Hadfield. You can read on their site what they offer, but for me as an IT applications focussed person I picked up on the possible benefits for testing software. When you’ve the masses of data a lot of law firms now have it becomes difficult to test new upgrades in a way that is close to your live environment, after all finding spare storage for a few terabytes isn’t easy! Legal Cloud though can offer a “temporary use” option, i.e. you can use a few terabytes in the “cloud” which you could utilise to test say an upgrade of your DMS (Document Management System) along with the millions of documents.

Autonomy iManage’s Digital Safe product also got my attention. Allowing a consolidated archive of the vast amounts of email and documents within a law firm. This also integrates with their WorkSite DMS (which is the DMS of an awful lot of law firms) and also the IDOL engine for retrieval.

Finally I caught a few news stories about Microsoft Azure and their offerings for data, SQL server database and .NET services running in a "cloud". I was especially interested in their Web Platform Installer which to me seems a great platform to run all kinds of applications on the “Azure cloud”. As someone posted on twitter, for the home PC market this platform could do for Microsoft what the App Store has done for Apple’s iPhone platform.

As well as tangible products like these there is unfortunately an awful lot of hype surrounding cloud computing. But much as the media likes to advertise the wonders to consumers and remind us of how it will be a multi billion dollar industry in n years, at the end of the day for the most part the end user won’t notice any difference. After all if their data is sat in your computer room in the Rotherham or sat in a giant data centre "somewhere" what do they care (so long as it’s safe)?

My thoughts on cloud computing then?

First let me link you to a post on a blog I follow “3 Geeks and a Law Blog”, this post by Greg Lambert was on the possible IT reservations with the Cloud.

“The ‘Devil’ on my right shoulder starts to put two and two together and wonder if my IT/KM friends are also seeing this effect of the "cloud" and playing on the basic fears that the law firm leadership has about putting any information or resources outside the physical reaches of the firm?? Meanwhile the "Angel" on my left shoulder shouts that I’d better listen to my IT/KM folks and not be such a ‘greedy bastard’ (he’s a little foul mouthed angel) in trying to save money while exposing my firm and its information to all kinds of access, security and ethical risks.

I’m probably being over simplistic in my example, but this type of argument is probably going on right now. Cost versus Security… Cost versus Access… Cost versus Risk…. Over time, it seems that the cloud based infrastructure is going to close these holes and create a much harder argument for technology departments to win.”

Generally I have never worried about this. I am of a generation that completely understands that not only do you not have a job for life, but the industry you’re in may not last your lifetime! The IT industry certainly is not unused to outsourcing parts of if not all of its functions, so I’m not sure my “coolness” on cloud computing is through fear of my job.

The big issue I see right now though is a point Greg also raises:

“we will need high-level contract negotiators to craft the contracts between the firm and the companies providing the services”

This may prove easier for US Law Firms where the data can be hosted in US data centres. But for the global firms that cross multi jurisdictions there will be a whole raft of contracts to ensure clients know where there data is.

On the whole though I just can’t get excited by the whole cloud computing concept. For the end user it’ll be nothing different, just that your data and systems might not be sat in your computer room in the Slough office but in a giant data centre "somewhere". And maybe that’s how we need to see it. A potentially very useful piece of technology, but certainly not a silver bullet technology that is going to save billions, save the planet and sort out every one of our technology problems!

Addition: you may also want to take a read at this blog post I caught today, it has some good explanations of the different models and delivery methods of cloud computing.

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