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!!