I’ve been using Office 365 for a while at home and recently it updated to the 2016 equivalent version. It was then I started to notice some nice shortcuts in the email message that will be a real bonus within law firms. The two I noticed were “Suggested Meetings” and “Action Items”, they appear just above the message body.
Basically each one appears if they notice things within the email, first up in this case it has noticed some text “catch up ….. this Sunday 11th Sept” which it is using to suggest a meeting for me.
Now in this case the date has passed but from here I can quickly click “Edit Details” and it fills in as much as it can in a calendar appointment, shortcutting the process of scheduling meetings (it even used the email addresses to schedule other recipients for the meeting).
Here’s an example of one that is in the future.
In this case I can just add the location if required and click the schedule event button and it’s done!
The “Action Items” option just pulls out from an email the key actions it thinks are required. Basically giving you a quick summary of what’s required from you in a long email.
In this case a request to see the attachment and a reminder not to communicate further just yet. I can flag for follow up from here.
There is also a Bing maps add-in that recognises addresses from the email and can quickly show you a map of the location within the email body. Since finding these I’ve also found a Wunderlist app add-in that lets me quickly add information from an email into my wunderlist task list.
And the best bit is you don’t need to worry about these adding to the long list of COM add-ins within Outlook that slow down your startup time, these are all of the new Office 365 add-in type that eventually should work across all Office 365 platforms (web, desktop, tablet etc).
I just wonder how emails stored in iManage Work behave? Anyone with iManage and Office 2013 or above care to comment below?
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.
I came across a small article on news site for Windows Phone (yes, yes, small readership) about a new beta app from Microsoft called Outlook Groups. This is a feature I hadn’t heard much about, but that has apparently been introduced to Online Outlook in Office365. Anyway long story short, this could very well be one of the best additions to Outlook in a long time. A way to finally kill all those “All-<insert distribution list here>” emails that clog up exchange email systems of law firms. Basically it’s a collaboration space built around groups.
Say you have a distribution list for “Project Work Related”, rather than create a traditional list of email addresses under the distribution list you create an Outlook Group. People are then added to the group.
You can then email this “distribution list”, the emails are collated though in the Group view as shown above, I can reply to the conversation in this view. I can also start new threads. So rather than having to find emails and threads in my Inbox where I lose context of the particular project in amongst all the other junk email I see all the communication in one place.
As well as using Online Outlook to view and collaborate with the group I can continue the conversation using the mobile app.
The emails I send and receive also appear in my Inbox, this to me is both a pro and a con. Pro: I can continue to use a familiar tool (Desktop Outlook) and therefore don’t have to go to yet another product to use groups. Con: It’s not quite getting rid of my email clutter, though I know I can delete the emails quickly if they are emailed to the group. Maybe Office 2016 will integrate groups much better than the Office 2013 client shown below?
But the great thing about the groups concept is that it isn’t limited to just email, it hooks in the whole Office365 ecosystem. So as soon as I create the group I get a shared calendar (events are displayed in the group and I can simply click or tap a link to add to my own calendar).
I get a OneNote notebook, where the group can share notes amongst its members.
And finally I get a OneDrive space for my documents. So for example I can add and use documents using either the outlook group page or outlook group app above. However I can also go into my Onedrive and get access to the documents there.
Now at the moment it looks like the functionality isn’t integrated into the OneNote apps, nor directly in the Onedrive apps. So I can’t go into the Onedrive app on my iPad or Windows Phone and get the documents (even though I have my Onedrive for Business account set up). But I really can’t see why this functionality won’t be extended into these apps, when it does it will mean direct from within the Office Apps (Word, Excel etc) on the iPad I have access to create and edit documents within my group space.
For me this is the really exciting part for law firms. Having all the shared emails, documents, notes all in one place and that one place not being your personal inbox is fantastic. It will be interesting to see when the Office 2016 announcements soon, whether the groups functionality is brought into the desktop applications as well. Imagine if this collaboration space was surfaced through Outlook 2016 on the desktop, through the Outlook apps on your phone and online. That the documents could be edited directly from Word 2016 or Work on your iPad. And that notes made on the train on your iPhone would appear in the same notebook as your colleagues OneNote on their desktop in the office.
The question for Legal IT vendors, particularly in the document management and collaboration space, is how they will react. Surely the time is coming again to stop the proliferation of point solutions and hook up to the Microsoft 365 bandwagon. This has got to be the future for document and email dominated industries like law firms surely!
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 😉
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:
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.
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?)
I know, I know this post is late. Very late. I posted my last bulletin from ILTA back at the beginning of September and now we’re a few days from the clocks going back at the end of October! Yes, back at ILTA Microsoft launched their legal DMS (Document Management System) entitled “Matter Centre”. Developed for their in house legal team (not an insubstantial team, 1100 employees across 55 countries), they have decided to open it up to the legal world in general. The press release can be found here with details of what’s on offer, basically it offers the functionality of a DMS as you’d expect.
Two areas were of interest to me:
1) It’s built on Office365. So for a small to medium firm you can now have email (via Exchange), instant messaging and telephony (lync), your intranet (sharepoint) and your DMS (matter centre) all in the cloud. All secured by Microsoft. All monitored, managed, backed up by Microsoft. All the business continuity and future proofing you could want from a top class infrastructure team managed and all delivered for you by Microsoft. What’s more you can access at the office, on the move or at home with ease. It’s a compelling case for a firm that hasn’t the IT resources to manage a bespoke on site set up.
Now the downside for me is the DMS is effectively SharePoint at its core. I’m still not 100% convinced on SharePoint, however the potential manageability and scalability issues are taken away from being your problem, so maybe it’s not a big deal?
2) Now although I’m wavering on the first point with it being SharePoint underneath, this second point for me is the killer. Apps for Office, the method of integration for Matter Centre isn’t the old plug in method but the newer Apps for Office developed for Office 2013 and Office 365. This brings much slicker integration, the look and feel just works with Office. So no additional toolbars that look out of place or dialogue boxes designed for Office 2 or 3 versions back, it looks slick.
So as you can see from the photo above with Outlook, the Matter Centre “dialogue” just appears in the email body. Now I have to say the system looked very much beta 1 and some of the apps need a bit of polish. But, this has to be the way to integrate a DMS in future! With a bit of thought and design you could craft an interface that just feels as though its the norm for office. In fact think how OneDrive is now integrated as the default over the C: drive.
The same integration is available in all the Office products, so below is the integration into Word:
Again instant access to the Matter Centre system integrated into Word. And installing them is simple, just go to the appstore and install!
For the IT dept. Microsoft has released a product called Telemetry Dashboard which will allow monitoring of all the apps installed across the user base. As the Microsoft blurb says, you can “monitor loads and load failures for apps for Office in Word, Excel, and Outlook. This information will tell you which apps for Office are frequently used in your organization and which apps for Office are experiencing errors”.
This for me is the key feature of Matter Centre, the use of apps could potentially allow me to install the DMS on my home version of Office365 and get seamless access to the DMS. It’s a feature I hope the current DMS vendors will take a look at and maybe design and build a user interface from scratch for Office 2013 onwards, maybe also throw in a nice “DeskSite” Metro app in Windows 10 and we’ll have a DMS for the future!
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.
Much has been made on numerous tech sites of the alleged Microsoft decision to release the touch friendly version of Office dubbed “Gemini” first on the iPad rather than on their own Windows 8 tablets. The angle a lot of the articles have taken is that this somehow highlights a huge vote of no confidence in Windows 8 and that even Microsoft favour the iPad over their Surface and Windows 8 tablet devices.
I don’t think this is the case, my feeling is Microsoft realise that their long game is to get us all hooked into their cloud based Office365 environment. After all in terms of long term revenue streams, that is where they will make the money over time. But couldn’t they still do this by launching on the iPad after the Surface? Well yes, but the early adopters of the Surface devices will already be running Office2013 which when combined with keyboard covers mean the device is already ahead of the iPad for document production and spreadsheet editing. So it does make sense to target the iPad contingent initially and pull them into the Office365 eco system.
Then this Monday (23/02/14) the same type of lazy reporting comes out of the Mobile World Congress. Headlines scream Nokia are going Android, but what they’re doing is launching a forked version of Android on some cheap handsets for emerging markets, they won’t hook into Google Play at all and will have their own app store. Again they’re designed to bring people into the Microsoft ecosystem with OneDrive, Skype, HERE maps etc integrated and a very Nokia Lumia (Windows Phone) UI on top. Still, I’m actually more convinced on the Office play than this one, although I can see where they’re coming from in terms of the ecosystem I struggle to see how the Nokia X can be that much cheaper for emerging markets than say the Lumia 520. Especially when you consider the loosening of the hardware restrictions this week for Windows Phone.
But what this does all show is that it’s not about just products anymore, it’s all about the ecosystem. Apple understood this first and tied up a good chunk of the consumer market, Microsoft is aiming to do the same in the corporate space with Office365 and Azure. Throwing a line to the huge iPad user community with Office Gemini or leveraging an Android development team for cheap entry phones is just a long game play for Microsoft.
The question to Legal IT vendors is how are you going to plumb into these ecosystems? If you’re coming along to LawTech Futures 2014 in March I’ll expand on this topic and question a bit more in my talk (straight after lunch on the Lounge Stage).
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:
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!