Nov 23 2017

Should we just take email out of our Document Management Systems?


So here’s my question. Is the Document Management system still the best place to store your emails?

This is a topic I’ve pondered for a few years, pretty much since the time email became about 80% of our DMS (document management systems) repositories. In a perfect world the inbox would be free of the client and matter related material in a law firm, in reality for a whole host of reasons it isn’t and so we duplicate storage and more.

This past week the following update from Microsoft and their Groups product (is it a product or a concept?) triggered me to think about this again.

Now within Groups you can drag messages from your personal mailbox to the group mailbox, so if you had a group created for each matter that got spun up for the matter team, then within core Microsoft technologies (Outlook and Exchange) you could drag and drop and have that email available to the whole team. In Outlook on the desktop, on the web and on mobiles. No addins, no plugins, nothing.

So because of this I ask myself again, isn’t using this better than putting in another system? Just keep the DMS for documents?

The other option of course is that the Group mailbox is transferred to the DMS as a whole on completion, meaning the day to day access can stay in the core Microsoft architecture. Then at the end the matter file is complete and in one place for future searching requirements.

Either way though, the take up of Office 365 (Exchange) is coming I’m sure. We see firms moving already and Microsoft engaged directly on this very topic with a large number of firms. We need to start to think about how the DMS vendor cloud architectures work with the Microsoft cloud world in a way that goes beyond replicating the way its worked on premise don’t we?


Jun 22 2016

Tikit signs new partnership deal with NetDocuments


I don’t usually blog about press releases but the news today from Tikit is worth a post. It’s been quite a year in the document management world (looking back at my last few posts, there are a higher proportion of DM posts than anything else), and today Tikit announce  they have signed a global partnership agreement with NetDocuments.

From a purely commercial sense as a reseller it seems an obvious move, there are likely to be more new installations for NetDocuments, simply because most folks have already got iManage and if you’re moving the only alternative is ND. I suspect resellers make more from new sales than ongoing support costs. Also there are many competitors in the iManage reseller, services and support space and not so much in the ND space, so first to a new market and all that.

Does it change anything for iManage customers? Probably not. But it offers a bit of validation that ND has moved into the space of #1 challenger in the DM space. As the world moves to a SaaS/cloud/hosted model it will be good to have two companies vying for business to accelerate development.

For Tikit it gives comfort that they are still  pushing in legal, though when I heard rumours of a press release this morning my initial hope was to follow iManage’s lead and an MBO from BT 🙂

A few lines from the Tikit release:

This new partnership, which makes Tikit the first Global Premier Partner for NetDocuments, is a continuation of our strategy of offering choice to the market and offering customers the best of emerging technologies from existing and new partners across the world.

Our product roadmaps will remain the same, but integration with NetDocuments will shortly be available for our products, TMS and eMS. As always, we will continue to invest in our own products, making sure they are kept up-to-date, to deliver what our clients and the market wants and needs.



Oct 5 2015

The future of document management?


I’ve been reading a bit on Office 2016 this week and getting interested around their real time collaboration on documents using any device, true mobility (meaning ubiquity not device type). The challenge for legal here is the DMS (document management system), how does this fit into the picture?

It feels we’re on the cusp of change here, like the shift in DMS when Windows 95 and Word came online, out went stand alone DMS desktop apps and in came integrated Open, Save etc within Word. What we need now is a DMS that is fully aware of Microsoft’s emerging ecosystem to allow us to take full advantage of the new features of Office 2016. Ignoring Windows 8 and, to a large extent, Office 2013 (by ignore I mean taking advantage of the new systems rather than compatibility) was fine, most law firms skipped these, but Windows 10 and Office 2016/365 I think will be different.

You get the feeling this is no longer just about access on mobile devices, but something more fundamental. It’s ubiquity of access to what you want to do. Working wherever, whenever, on whatever. I’m sure for law firms Microsoft Office will still remain the core to this, as will the need for industry strength robust DMS’s. But the the next generation DMS needs to swim faster with the Microsoft Office tide in true document mobility rather than just constrain itself to addressing iPad access and being in the cloud.

Maintaining a good electronic file in the DMS is key but it can not afford to be at the expense of efficiency in creation of what is part of the core business, the legal document.


Jul 7 2015

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


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 😉


Feb 23 2015

North, SaaS, East and West – split-shoring


So I’ve had a poll on this blog for a few months now asking “When do you think a top 10 law firm will take the plunge and move to the cloud for documents or email? (e.g. netdocuments, office365 etc)”. The results show a clear feeling that this will happen in the next 5 years (68%), 41% think it will happen sooner.

I’ve posted about Office365 previously and how some large companies are already on the platform, but the push for cost reduction and innovation in law firms at the same time surely means there has to be a move to focus staff on the new technology rather than the utility technology (and by the way I really dislike that term as it has connotations that this technology is old, unimportant or a simple commodity, it isn’t but it is the technology that people like Microsoft are now delivering as SaaS – Software as a Service).

This week also saw the news that Freshfields was looking for space in Manchester to set up a 80,000-100,000sq ft office to house back office and possibly a legal support centre. Legal Week (no link as it’s a paywall article) talked of a an initial squeeze on the market in terms of available talent, but that this will be offset by more lawyers coming into Manchester given the attraction of big names like Freshfields. But what about the squeeze on Legal IT? Manchester has a number of mid-sized law firms with IT depts in the city, I’m sure the draw of the Freshfields name will be a pull for some in Legal IT but it’s not as if Manchester is a backwater small city that is suffering from higher supply than demand in the IT sector.

I wrote a post back in 2011 on near shoring, it was around the time of Allen & Overy’s move to Belfast. I finished that post with a comment that still holds true. The lack of movement of the big London firms to shift resources out of the capital. This goes beyond law firms, but where as in recessions business is capable of rationalising their staff they still seem to miss the obvious efficiencies of moving out of the capital. Given a lot of big law now runs offices from the US to Australia and most places in between, there seems little technological reason for those functions not needing client contact to be located outside of the high cost capital city.

Now you may be reading a conclusion into this post already? But let me first throw in the other 22% of the votes on the poll, those that said big law would “Never” move to cloud based SaaS for the core document and email systems. I presume these were based on one of two things a) the feeling that law firms aren’t tech savvy enough to take the plunge (sorry but this is as tired and as untrue as the “Manchester United fans don’t come from Manchester” line!) or b) security! I can see the latter point being an issue, but I can’t help feel we’ll bust through this one at some point soon. It isn’t as though the clients won’t be considering this kind of move.

So what is my conclusion?

Well I haven’t one. As with anything in IT there is never a one size fits all solution, what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another. But I do have a couple of thoughts:

  1. If you’re a small firm without a dedicated IT dept then surely SaaS is for you. I can’t think of many cons to this choice.
  2. If you’re a London based firm who has yet to think of moving their IT out of the capital you have to ask has the boat already sailed? Should thought be placed to a combined move North and SaaS move? (Split-Shoring?)

Jan 6 2015

NetDocuments Acquires Decisiv Email Technology and Team from Recommind


Well today NetDocuments has made a move into controlling the explosion of email in law firms. Not the first to do it, but a bold move to acquire Decisiv Email from Recommind. I didn’t know too much about Recommind’s product until last summer when they (Recommind) were on a panel at ILTA, the session was titled “Predictive analytics: email management magic”. Given the challenges that email management brings in law firms (underlined by ILTA’s 2014 technology survey where it was shown as a major technology headache) the session got my interest.

The panel were mainly vendors looking at predictive technologies to try and understand the email content and context to be able to control and manage the email received, there was also a bit of “sales talk” sandwiched in between this and some good case studies.

Neil Etheridge of Recommind talked about approaches to email management and the scenarios they were best suited to, for law firms the most pertinent was:

  • Suggested filing (great for the day forward)
    • Great for matter-centric filing
    • Filling location suggested to the user
    • No training = minimal set up time

The case study in the ILTA session was from a mid sized North American law firm where Decisiv Email  was implemented, it was used to suggest likely Client/Matters, with the user then confirming or editing. They ended up with high accuracy through the combination of Recommind’s analytics and user intervention.

NetDocuments intend to rebrand Decisiv Email to be NetDocuments Email. It will be separate from NetDocuments EMS Folders and EMS Profiler. What’ll it bring? Well this section from the press release sums it up nicely:

Email continues to grow at a staggering pace and firms are struggling to incorporate, protect, file, and manage email in the document management system. The Decisiv technology will bring several key components to email management that will improve the ease of use when filing and managing email. Key features for effective email management across the firm’s matters, clients, and internal communication include:

    1. Predictive filing to the DMS – The Decisiv technology allows for robust predictive filing based on key criteria such as To, From, Cc, Subject, contents, etc. Predicted locations are visually ranked, indicating probability and enabling filing to the correct matter with just one click. Automatic filing can be enabled with a set threshold (e.g. email that reaches a 95% confidence rank or higher will be automatically filed to the predicted matter).
    2. De-duplication – Email is filed to the content management system once, regardless of how many individuals file it.
    3. Folder Mapping – Select folders in Outlook and map to the document management system. Email filed to mapped folders will be sent to the DMS.
    4. Global filing indicator – Email is visually tagged in Outlook for all internal recipients to see in their own mailboxes, indicating it has been filed to the DMS regardless of who in the firm filed it.

Now to an iManage customer with WorkSite Communications Servers and Email Management plumbed into FileSite this may not seem a massive deal, but it does bring the feature set of the two DMS products closer in terms of email management. I guess the key will be down to whose analytics engine produces the better recommendations. I presume that Decisiv Email under the Recommind guise could be plugged into iManage, so I’d be interested to hear any analytics stories in the comments from people who’ve used both?

My final thought though is one I’ve had for some time, is the DMS actually the right place for email? It’s probably too late given the volumes of email we’ll all have in our DMS’s, but I’d love someone to come up with some way of leaving the physical email in an email archiving product and the DMS hold a pointer to the physical item in the matter file. All this wrapped up in some lovely UI that was available on multiple devices with multiple apps for different use cases!

Link to the NetDocuments full press release



Jul 15 2014

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


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.


Feb 6 2014

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


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!


Feb 15 2011

Is iManage WorkSite about to be outflanked?


It’s been a few years since iManage WorkSite effectively won the war of the document management systems (DMS) against Hummingbird’s DM5. Since then both companies have been through a number of mergers and are currently the Legal DMS products are owned by Autonomy and Opentext respectively.

The peace though looks soon to be shattered by a counter strike on two fronts. On the one side we have the SharePoint juggernaut from Microsoft and on the other a coalition of vendors we’ll call “the cloud” (currently led from the front by netdocuments).

So who’s going to win this latest battle? First off it’s worth pointing out that the game has changed considerably since the WorkSite 8.0 v DM5 days, it’s no longer just traditional DMS functionality that is required in the armoury, but email management capabilities and great search functionality.

Let’s start with SharePoint. In its 2010 guise it looks like SharePoint is starting to be taken seriously. From Lewis Silkin’s SharePoint implementation to the announcement that Clifford Chance are going SharePoint there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the product is ready to be used by law firms. The big benefit of course is the cost, if you’re licenced for Microsoft, then you’re likely licensed for SharePoint. Plus there is the native integration with Office 2010. The addition of the FAST search engine gives it some capability against WorkSite’s IDOL engine. And there’s also a growing IT skillset out there to maintain the product (wider than just the Legal IT market).

But wait, there are limitations for Legal. Matter centricity and email management to name two. These can be addressed by “add ons” like Workshare Point or DMS4Legal (the former I have seen and have to say looks really neat) but then the cost and resource benefits are reduced or eliminated.

So if it’s not a one horse SharePoint race, what about the other side, the cloud coalition?

I’ll be honest I like the concept of netdocuments. The desktop application has all the features of a good DMS like WorkSite, but the heavy lifting of a DMS (the application servers, the indexers, the database etc) is managed in the cloud. Allowing the focus for the Legal IT department to be on the fee earners desktop, which is where it should be.

The downside of the cloud at the moment is the perceived security and risk concerns, I’m sure this will be resolved in time. But right now it’s still a stumbling block for many firms, but the shift may be coming (Foley & Lardner in the US, a 1000 lawyer firm, have possibly shown the way).

So is the original winner of the DMS battle doomed?

Short answer, certainly not.

I think there is plenty of life left in iManage WorkSite. As well as the fact that unlike the others it is a proven product in Legal, it also has a couple of aces up it’s sleeve.

First off it’s proven itself to be scalable to meet the demands of even the largest law firms. Something that SharePoint I don’t think has yet proven. The number of documents a law firm has may have levelled, but the email volumes on matters is still growing. That’s a counter strike on one flank.

On the other side it’s announced a big offensive by moving WorkSite to a hosted solution, too early to tell whether this is a route to victory (or what exactly the hosted solution will look like), but on the face of it moving WorkSite into the cloud itself is a good move.

So who’ll be the winner?

I honestly don’t know. Thinking about it, I hope there won’t be one outright winner. A little competition in the Legal DMS arena is a good thing. Product competition usual brings with it innovation and advancement, it forces vendors to up their game. All of which can only be a good thing for the lawyers!!  *

*that’s lawyers as users of the technology, not in some big litigation of course!!