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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Jun 28 2013

I can only start this post one way…”corporate dropbox”

Jason

As it’s been a while since the last post (my thoughts have been elsewhere during May and June) I’m going to stick to some familiar ground until I’m back in the swing of writing; so a post on documents. In particular the “dropbox” conundrum. Although I will mention a few of Legal IT contenders in this space and the challenges they will have, I’m not going to go into detail of how their products work. No, the question for me is where does the DMS (document management system) fit into all this and is it (corporate dropbox) a direction we want to go in?

It was Office 2013 that started me thinking about this again, with its switch from “C:\” being the default File location to having SkyDrive front and centre. A colleague had sent me this comment during a discussion on Office 2013 and Windows 8:

“The move to SkyDrive and other features such as Office on demand point to a big shift in Office not been seen as just on a PC in the office but giving you the ability to access your information anywhere. The question will be will Legal DMS’s be able to handle this type of mobility, I suspect we know that answer already. Which if the answer is no that then raises a bigger question, is [insert any DMS here]  the right platform for us going forward.. ?”

Mobility for me is the key here, why else do people use “dropbox” or “skydrive”. It’s mobility of the data, whether that is to access the content on your Surface or iPad or on your PC at home. And as I alluded to there are a few of the Legal IT big names that are moving into this space. In particular, Workshare and HP Autonomy. Both look to leverage their existing products in Legal IT. Workshare Platform thus integrates into the workflow of their Workshare Professional products to move the document from desktop to “cloud” (see video below)

 

HP Autonomy LinkSite leverages the workspace concept in WorkSite to move the document from the DMS to the “cloud”. Each of them have platforms to facilitate mobility, whether tablet apps or desktop folder synchronisation. Another option out there is DocAuto’s connector that integrates WorkSite with the Citrix onsite or offsite ShareFile system. This allows you to publish documents into your ShareFile for mobility.

To me though these are addons to a document system that law firms already have, in the cost conscious current environment will law firms pay for the licences for a “corporate dropbox”? Yes I know it’s more secure etc but let’s say it’s £100 per seat (a guess) , for a 1000+ person lawfirm that’s a six figure investment. Maybe with security on a par with costs in CIO’s thoughts the risk avoidance will win, but more likely  the outcome will be stalemate ie no “corporate dropbox”, but heavier restrictions on dropbox, google drive etc. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this article written by Jeffrey Brandt. (which this morning was shown to be a hoax, although this highlights an issue, it isn’t helpful in “selling” a secure alternative to dropbox – meaning unauthorised use of public versions continues!).

The answer to the costs for me is for the vendors to tailor the products as Apple do with Apps and have “in app purchases”. So the basic “dropbox” functionality is free, you then pay for the value added stuff “in App”. So that could be integration with the DMS or Document comparison in the cloud etc.

But back though to the fundamental question, shouldn’t this be a function of the DMS? I think this is one of three key areas DMS vendors need to start answering going forward:

  1. Should email be stored in the DMS? The physical email I mean, I think a view of emails in the matter file should be.
  1. Should just a basic search be a function of the DMS and more complex searching become part of an enterprise search portal?
  1. Mobility. How will the DMS cater for the dropbox, iPad, Windows 8 world?

And for item three there is one key question for the rest of us, are we ready for the security challenges ahead in this space or will we retreat to our “safe cave” of technology?

Floors open guys, what do you think?

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Oct 4 2011

WorksharePoint – a law firm perspective – part 2

Jason

An article I wrote that was originally published by Legal IT Professionals in July

OK so let’s take a look at Word. Clicking on File Open brings up a WSP dialogue box replacing the native Word open dialogue.

This type of dialogue replacement will be familiar to a user of any DMS and you get obvious views (My Matters, Favourites, Recent). There’s a checkbox allowing me to keep the document checked out (allowing me to stop others amending the document whilst I’m working on it) which is set by default.

I can then make some amends to the document. If I then click save on either the quick access toolbar or the backstage I get a dialogue asking whether I want to save as a new version or save over the existing document.

point-browse

Using Save As I get a similar WSP dialogue to Open, where I can select a new location and a new file name. If I cancel this you get similar behaviour to that of Workshare Professional when integrated into a DMS, in that the WSP (DMS) dialogue is replaced by a standard Windows dialogue allowing a local save. Quite nice consistency between the two Workshare products!

All the standard DMS functions are handled, but some areas still need some polish. For example the versions in Office 2010 on the backstage are integrated (presumably because it’s designed with SharePoint in mind) but the compare seems to jump to Microsoft’s version.

In other areas the native SharePoint use is a bonus for WSP i.e. the recent documents in the backstage (and the Recent Places) all link correctly to the documents and folders in SharePoint (i.e. the WSP versions). So if I open a document from a link and then click the Save button, the WSP kicks in and asks me what I want to do with the document as you’d expect.

Other things to note in WSP
In Outlook there is a ribbon for WSP and it’s in here you’ll find a few quick links to things like File Email and the WSP home page in Outlook mentioned earlier.

point-ribbon

Also you’ll find the configuration option, as with other parts of WSP, this is kept simple. Basically you can say which Office products to integrate with, the name of the SharePoint server(s) and some simple configuration for things like number of items in the recent list.

A couple of things that jumped out as missing for me are matter creation and the afore mentioned meta data inheritance from the matter file. The former I suspect a lot of firms would like some basic “generator” out of the box, but then as the backend is vanilla SharePoint writing something to generate “matter files” from the practice management system should be straight forward. The inheritance though goes with the missing client/matter meta data and is something that is on the plans for Workshare to address. I just hope they create a flexible meta data model that allows customers to build in their own requirements (e.g. allow fairly simple meta data for basic matter documents or more detailed data for say know how documents)

A final niggle is the synchronisation with SharePoint for which there is an option to do so in various places, but in others there’s a refresh. Again it’s nothing serious just some polish that is required to keep consistency. Also I’d suggest that fee earners just won’t get the need to synchronise with the DMS, they’ll just want their document where they expect them.

Summing up
So let’s try to start and sum things up. Starting with a question “What is it that an Legal IT department want from a DMS?”

Well fundamentally it’s to provide the functionality required by the fee earners. Both that I’ve outlined at the start, but also some they may not want, but should be using – i.e. filing emails and documents correctly in the e-file! It should do this in a simple to use, quick and un-intrusive way. And then do it all as cheaply as possible with the least amount of support work required to keep it running.

Well in so far as what the fee earners want, WSP does most of the functions and where it doesn’t there looks to be plans to add that functionality. I did have to remind myself that this is early version, it does the basics well (and some bits very well – hook into compare for review, neatness of email send/file and attachment) but there is work still to do to make it polished. And I have to say it’s fairly simple, I was provided no documentation and yet I still understood it enough to find my way around the core DMS features you’d expect.

From a desktop management WSP of view it has a small footprint and at the moment has a nice simplicity about it, yes there are some things that look a bit techie but there are others that look simple and are well integrated.

There are some future features that look interesting too:

  • Offline – the ability to mark folders (hopefully whole matters can be selected!) for cached offline use. And from what I gather the plan is that this will be part of the core app rather than an extra which is nice!
  • There are plans to support SharePoint foundation which is good news for firms on a budget!
  • Then what I think is the real interesting addition the move to look at Office 365 and SharePoint in “the cloud”. Workshare say they are looking to exploit by allowing people to simply connect to a SharePoint server online and still access that content via their office applications-just like WSP does now- except they will be connecting to a SP server hosted elsewhere.
    • Given the cost of 365 (£4 per person per month for SharePoint, email, IM and Office online!) this could be a real low maintenance legal app for small law firms

Finally the other aspect I mentioned was the fact Legal IT departments want to provide all this with the least amount of support work required to keep it running. Now this is the crux I think with the current buzz around SharePoint.

Is managing a SharePoint backend (after all WSP leaves pretty much a vanilla SharePoint backend) going to be any easier than managing one of the other major DMS’s? I’m not a SharePoint expert but I can’t imagine it will be, however finding the skills to do so may prove easier being a technology that goes wider than the Legal IT market. As for the as cheaply as possible, well a lot of firms already have a SharePoint licence as part of a wider Microsoft agreement or as an intranet (plus if the integration of SharePoint foundation is a success then all you’ll need is a Windows Server licence for the backend!).

But for large firms (and maybe the larger middle firms) that already have a DMS I’m not sure there is enough there to warrant a shift. This is not a fault of WSP, just that there is nothing really new in the DMS world and there is already a skillset supporting the systems in place. There is also the unproved nature of SharePoint.

Times are changing though; big firms are dabbling with SharePoint DMS’s (Clifford Chance springs to mind). In any case I like competition in markets as it forces all vendors to up their game. Microsoft was stagnant in the consumer PC world until Apple resurrected itself, they’re now playing catch-up Without Apple, Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7 wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as they are.

Overall what do I think of WSP? Well it does what a DMS should do (or at least it has the delivery of those missing parts on a roadmap). It does need some polish, but I’m sure that will come as it’s there in parts. I guess it then comes down to whether you’re convinced that SharePoint can be a DMS and whether Workshare can nail the price for the client to make it a very cost effective proposition.

Workshare have provided the test VM for me to use and kevin.docherty@workshare.com has been very helpful in answering my many questions on what is planned down the line. Apart from this they’ve left me to comment on the product as I saw it without any final review or editing.

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Oct 3 2011

WorksharePoint – a law firm perspective – part 1

Jason

An article I wrote that was originally published by Legal IT Professionals in July

“SharePoint, SharePoint, SharePoint, SharePoint, SharePoint, SharePoint, SharePoint, SharePoint!”. There you go, I’ve written Steve Ballmer’s keynote if he ever gets invited to ILTA to talk to a Legal IT audience (My inspiration? See Steve in this video for a developer conference.

Yes, it’s that hot topic in legal IT, SharePoint as a Document Management System (DMS). In particular, Workshare’s latest offering WorksharePoint. This isn’t “Workshare’s DMS” but a product that utilises SharePoint as the DMS and enhances it through its tight integration.

I’ve been running a virtual machine on my home PC for about a month and have just been looking at it with the experience of using a DMS for years, rather than as say a product assessment for my employee. So don’t read this as a review/recommendation as such, I’m not going to compare it directly against any DMS competition (OpenText, Autonomy or Netdocuments amongst others). Nor am I going to go into a detailed debate on whether SharePoint can make it as a DMS. I’m going to just try and look at it objectively from a Fee Earner or Secretary’s perspective and also from a Legal IT department perspective.

So first off let’s start with asking “What does a lawyer or secretary want from a Document Management System?

  • For it to integrate seamlessly with Microsoft Office? Microsoft Office is the tool of choice for the lawyer and secretary. The DMS should be there to support that and not get in the way.
  • Indexing of full document content and making it searchable? Basically the lawyer just wants to find their document!
  • One logical and organised place for the storage of the documents. Again to allow documents to be swiftly retrieved through either browsing, searching, using a unique number or some other categorisation of material (i.e. meta data).
  • Security of documents (I’m a bit of an advocate for simplicity here! ).
  • Assistance in drafting of documents by allowing versioning of documents, ensuring the most up to date or correct draft of the document is used.

These are pretty much the basics of what any DMS should do. Yes the lawyer and secretary want the DMS to do all these, but they want the DMS to work with them in what they’re trying to do and make things easy and quick. In particular when they are using their key tools of the trade, Word and Outlook.

So how does Workshare Point stack up?
Well first up Workshare Point (which I’m going to abbreviate to WSP from here on!) is a client application; the server side is basically out of the box SharePoint (i.e. SharePoint is the DMS). WSP is designed as a “legal skin” to SharePoint, providing a matter centric document management system with email filing. With it it brings some meta data (including a unique document number) and version control.

WSP in Outlook
As a fee earner what I’d want is to be able to browse my matters, file my emails into the matter and maybe send some of the documents in the matter to clients (and file the returning amends).

WSP helps me here as it appears in Outlook below my Inbox folders. So I can browse matter files and see the documents in there.

I can easily file my emails into the matters by “drag and drop” as I would any other Inbox folder or I can use a file email button on a WSP ribbon.

For those outgoing emails WSP has a “File email to” option when sending an email, the user interface for this integration is really nice, it fits really nicely into an Office 2010 environment (in my view this will be the standard Office version in legal in the next couple of years). It sits above the message body (see enlarged screenshot) and is a simple check box option with drop down for filing location. At the moment this is just a most recently used list with a browse option, but suggestive filing is on the roadmap for v2.0. Also on the roadmap is the ability to auto file the thread on receipt of a returned email.

If I want to send a document I can do easily using another well integrated panel on the compose email window. To the right is a panel displaying my most recent document list. I can simply add a copy of a document or a link to a document from here.

Sending out a document as an attachment brings in a very cool feature that goes above the standard document management features, the seamless integration of Workshares core product (Compare – Deltaview). So, if a client makes amendments to the document that I have attached, when I receive the document back I receive not just the amended document but also a comparison that has been run automatically using Compare! The change of the email is indicated in the Inbox by an icon change from my standard mail message.

I can then drag the document, redline or both into the matter file (for the document WSP will notice that the document already exists and prompt me to file as new version, overwrite etc).

The version I used doesn’t have Protect integrated, but it will be interesting to see if that can be integrated as neatly as Compare has been.

There are a few niggles within email filing in the current version:

  • The view for emails within the WSP matter folder. It would be better to change the view that of an email folder and ensure that the dates are “date received”, Subject etc. At the moment it is a list of .msg files as if they were just documents.
  • De-duplication seems to be on a file name basis rather than a message guid. This could cause problems as it doesn’t necessarily hold true that the email with the same subject is the same message. However Workshare indicate a more advanced de-duplication will be introduced in v2.0
  • Also at the moment it is a little confusing as to what has happened to the email (through icons, indication of location or status etc). So I did wonder what had been filed or whether there was an auto redline attached etc. Workshare say they are aware of this and looking at it for v2.0

So as a fee earner, what about finding my documents in WSP?
As mentioned there is a folder tree below your Inbox, at the moment this a little “flat” and because of this a little hard to get to grips with straight off. A bit of organisation and simplification would be good. Favourites, Recent, Browse and Searches. These are there, but could do with a little polish. The simplicity is in there as it can be seen if you click the main WSP folder, which displays a WSP window in the main Outlook pane.

However once you’ve got to grips with it, everything is there. From the document view you can easily see meta data, document previews, versions etc. One obvious area for legal that is missing at the moment is Client and Matter information on the folders or documents, together with the ability to inherit this information down to lower levels based on what’s filed where. There are plans on the roadmap for this apparently.

The same goes for security, further development is on the roadmap. So at the moment SharePoint security is respected by the WSP application, but there is nowhere in the WSP application to see this, apply this etc. You’d have to go into the SharePoint backend. This is an area I think Workshare should take time over and work with customers (both risk people and fee earners), keep it simple and get it right.

There is a search (obviously as there is in SharePoint) but I was unable to test this in the build I had, it is integrated into the WSP application though. At the moment Workshare say this exposes standard enterprise search, but they are looking to add SharePoint foundation and FAST.

Workshare have provided the test VM for me to use and kevin.docherty@workshare.com has been very helpful in answering my many questions on what is planned down the line. Apart from this they’ve left me to comment on the product as I saw it without any final review or editing.

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May 18 2010

Workshare and Office 2010

Jason

Last week I attended a Workshare user group event down at Herbert Smith’s offices in London. If you’re a Workshare customer I can say that (apart from Herbies meeting rooms being far too hot even with the aircon on) the user group is worth attending. It was a good mix of user feedback, product direction and case study and definitely not too heavy on the sales.

The point of this post though is to look at a couple of interesting products on the horizon. Both in my opinion take Workshare up against vendors that traditionally haven’t occupied the same space in Legal IT.

First up is “Document Doctor” (I’m not sure these are actual product names as yet).

This is a product they are working on to look at restyling and repairing documents. The idea being that it would work as part of the flow of what you are doing e.g. a comparison fails due to corrupt document and then it would prompt to try a repair. It’ll be available as standalone and also integrated into Workshare Professional (WSP). I wasn’t sure if it was an additional cost bolt on to WSP or part of WSP 5.5.

To me it’s clearly looking at an area currently held by another well known legal IT vendor, maybe not in direct competition but if they get the licensing right it could be a viable alternative for a lot of firms.
Next up is the integration with Sharepoint 2010. And there are two parts to this:

First off document collaboration, workshare becoming the glue between your DMS (Document Management System), Word 2010, traditional Workshare functions and Sharepoint 2010. Allowing you to leverage the collaboration features of Sharepoint 2010 and Word 2010, yet maintain the control your DMS gives you. The thoughts I had were of collaboration portals for clients. So you could use an extranet version of Sharepoint for collaborating on documents with clients, yet keep full control of versions etc within your DMS. This could be very exciting.

Second for me was the biggest surprise. This is where Workshare enter into another new legal IT arena, one I wasn’t expecting. It’s their product that adds matter centric working to Sharepoint. Allowing you to work on and store your documents in a matter centric content management system.

Some of this functionality was announced in conjunction with the Office and Sharepoint 2010 launch.

A very interesting development indeed!

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Nov 10 2009

Collaboration – Google Docs just got served

Jason

For a while I’ve been meaning to do a post on document collaboration, especially as working on documents with the client is such a key part of a lawyers work. In a typical law firm this collaboration is through backwards and forwards emailing of the document to the client.

I’ve had some more thoughts on this recently whilst doing a number of workshops on email management, a large portion of email traffic for a lawyer being this transmission of documents back and forth! To be fair this process works reasonably well, especially when you’ve got version controlled documents in your DMS (Document Management System) and tools like Workshare are thrown into the mix, either for use in comparison (e.g. using the Compare functionality or Deltaview as it was once called) or for power users using tools like the collaboration in Workshare Professional to track the multiple amends from various parties.

However I had a nagging feeling return that underlying all this was the email system and really this wasn’t what email was designed for. Surely there is a better way to do this?

So first off when I originally thought about this post it was Google Docs that had prompted the feeling above, with its ability to share the document in the cloud. This basically cuts down on the multiple copies of the document. Instead of attaching the document to an email and sending out to multiple people (= multiple copies) you create your document on the internet and invite people in to collaborate in real time. One click and they can edit and save the document online. One copy, always up to date!

For a brilliant explanation of Google Docs watch this video : Google Docs in Plain English.

Then this week I came across an article in my RSS feed for a product called DocVerse, a document collaboration plug in for Word, Excel and PowerPoint. For me this brings the benefits of Google Docs, with its online collaboration and real time document editing with a number of parties, together with the power of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint which I’m guessing is the standard for most law firms. This for me is the ideal solution.

Again take a look at this video explanation from the DocVerse suppliers.

This real time collaboration has to be the way forward. There is a but though and thus I think full adoption of this technology may be a few years off yet. The but is that there are a few hurdles IT depts and risk management functions need to get over first. The major one being “the cloud” itself. I read an article online yesterday that posed a question :

“Would you use a cloud-based service to store critical infrastructure documentation?”

45% said they’d consider it

36% said no way!

only 20% said definitely

That’s only 1 in 5 that would definitely be happy storing their documents in the cloud! Maybe someone good in math would be able to work out the odds therefore of you and your client being happy? And for this reason I think for large adoption this may take time, however for small firms who can move quicker than the large firms maybe the take up will be faster.

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May 14 2009

Bibles

Jason

There is one thing that has been on our teams “future” or “background” task list for quite some time, “Bible” creation. The ability to pull together documents, emails, PDFs, maybe even pages of documents into one final “Bible”.

Today I find the genesis to a solution on the Workshare blog.

Workshare PDF Enhancements

Workshare PDF Enhancements

This looks excellent, ability to add different types of documents, entire folders of documents and even individual pages of a document. Clear the meta data and add PDF security. Access to the DMS. All this needs now is the ability to generate a hyper linked index page (maybe that could be template based for branding) and that’d be a perfect solution!

Now pity we can’t get our custom 5.2 SR1 package to install and uninstall properly, but that’s another story…..

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Mar 31 2009

We all need to blog and twitter to get news of Workshare 5.2 SR3

Jason

If anyone wants an example of why you should blog or use twitter, read on!

Since starting this blog back in January I have built up better relationships with legal IT suppliers than I have ever managed with any “account manager”. Through blogging and through twitter I’ve managed to discuss their products directly with the people inside those companies who are involved with developing them.

An example today relates to comments I’ve made over the past month in regard to Workshares products, first about their recent 5.2 SR2 release and then about a possible protect workflow problem here.I’ve been contacted a couple of times by Workshare through this blog and through twitter (@jesbreslaw), but today I got some good news relating to two specific points I raised in the posts indicated above.

  1. My comment on 5.2 SR2 – “The PDF Combine functionality is only available from the local file system!!”
  2. My comment on how Protect and Autonomy iManage Send & File together could annoy lawyers.

Here’s what Kevin Docherty, Product Manager had to say:

I just wanted to clarify a quick point that you mention… re “The PDF Combine functionality is only available from the local file system!!”- I suspect that you are using the first Beta as the second Beta fully supports DMS interaction.

This is great news as I see this peice of functionality being really useful for things like Bible creation etc. Then on the second point Kevin continues:

yes, we know that this may provide a challenge to the basic Protect workflow. We are obtaining a pre-release version of Autonomy very soon and will be looking to get it set up ASAP. We’re specifically targeting Protect Workflow in the SR 3 version of Professional (Oct/Nov) so I will hopefully have some feedback for you around this area soon – and how we will be looking to cope with the multiple Autonomy pop-ups.

I’ve no idea how Workshare found the blog, but regardless I’m impressed that they took time to read and respond to their customers. More companies should follow suit and get their product development and sales staff on twitter and other “web 2.0” technologies to get dialogue going with people who use their applications.

If you want dates for the Workshare releases I got told the following:

  • SR2 Beta refresh– April 17th
  • SR2 General Availability –  May/June
  • SR3 estimated release – Oct/Nov
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Mar 27 2009

Workshare & Autonomy iManage pop-ups galore!

Jason

Workshare Protect v Autonomy iManage Send & File

Over the past few weeks we’ve been working on an upgrade from Workshare Professional 4.5 to 5.2 SR1 and during this time we’ve been getting a lot more information on Autonomy iManage WorkSite 8.5. The combination of these two got me thinking that either Workshare or Autonomy iManage need to work together on user experience around email sending.

In Workshare we have the Protect module configured so that as you send an external email you will get prompted with a pop-up box like that below. This allows you to utilise the Workshare functionality to removed meta-data, turn the document into a PDF etc

Protect after Send

In WorkSite 8.5 you can utilise the Send & File functionality to ease email management, in particular filing of Sent emails into the matter workspace (see my previous article on Send & File functionality). Again as you send an email you will get prompted with a pop-up box like the one below.

Send and File

What happens if you have both installed? I can see our lawyers getting really annoyed with multiple pop-ups when all they want is to get the email fired off to the client!

So a call to Workshare and Autonomy iManage, what we need is a Send, Protect & File integrated dialogue!

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Mar 17 2009

Workshare 5.2 SR2 beta

Jason

Got our hands on Workshare Professional 5.2 SR2 beta last week, not really had time to get our hands on it (we’re still on a live 4.5 release and struggling with some specific issues with our environment and 5.2 SR1!). But thought it would be worth blogging what’s new in this release:

  • In Compare (i.e. Deltaview part of Professional)
  • Comparison of embedded Excel tables – this is the data not the formulae in the tables, but still a pretty useful feature.
  • Comparison of images – no it isn’t that fancy as to show what’s changed (i.e. that person has a scarf on in that photo!), it just checks whether the image has been modified, deleted etc
  • OCR support for PDF comparison – nice, BUT you need to have ABBYY recognition server configured
  • In Protect
  • Manual redact – is this a growing demand?
  • Cleaning password protected documents
  • Previewing cleaned or PDF attachments
  • In Review
  • PDF combine – this could be really useful. The ability to combine multiple files into a single PDF. Useful at the close of a case when you want to combine many documents into a single file.  BUT although it supports the combination of the following file types into a single PDF: DOC, DOCX, PPT, PPTX, XLS, XLSX, PDF, TXT, HTML. The PDF Combine functionality is only available from the local file system!! i.e. NOT the DMS!

When we’ve got it up and running successfully I’ll blog some more thoughts, particularly on:

  • Is the configuration easier to manage/understand?
  • Lightspeed clean in protect – how much faster is it than v4.5?
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