May 25 2016

Well it’s back! iManage Gear Up returns with a new moniker ConnectLive!



Through the dark days of Autonomy and HP, iManage blew away the cobwebs and returned with a new version of the old “Gear Up” user conference, titled ConnectLive 2016. To celebrate it’s return a rather unique post , dual authored with Mubashir Mian. First my view of the conference through a view of day one and Mubashir will cover his view through day two.

Day One – author Jason Plant


Things kicked off at the Park Plaza Riverbank London with the usual keynote address, giving a chance for some old faces (Dan Carmel, Neil Araujo, Mohit Mutreja, Rafiq Mohammadi) and some new faces (Dean Leung the new Chief customer success officer) to run us through the rebirth of iManage and what it means for customers. It does feel like someone at the top of the new iManage issued a “The Internet Tidal Wave” style memo to the firm, that famous call to action that Bill Gates sent round Microsoft in 1995, the one that refocused the software giant back on the right path.

There were three key things that came across to me at the keynote: 1) They understand the “new professional” in law firms and their requirements, 2) they understand the desire for firms to use the data from their DMS’s for other purposes and 3) they realise quality and customer service was lacking in the dark days of Autonomy and HP and are actively doing things to improve this.

To highlight point one, there was a video that was shown during the keynote that for me summed up the vision for iManage products and how they see them enabled the new professional, better still gave a timeline for this to happen. If there is anyone from iManage that reads this, can you point me at a direct YouTube or Vimeo link so I can link it here?

Edit: Thanks to iManage here is the link :

And on point two there were some nice demos of the analytics work iManage Labs are doing, for example, using the data in the DMS to look at threat analytics using machine learning. A nice concept to identify rogue behaviour that is more intelligent than simple thresholds. There were also demo’s of the compass UI that uses analytics to show you info around documents, emails, matters, people, relationships etc. Given the number of documents and vast amount of meta data in our DMS (Document Management System) it will be interesting to see how these concepts develop to leverage value from that data.


At this point in the day I got hijacked by Dan to record some customer thoughts on the key concepts iManage brought up in the keynote. It was a glimpse into the life of television and endless takes, I’m sure I answered one question five times and really got sick of hearing “just try that one again”.

I did then get to a number of the sessions, but I’ll highlight a couple:

iManage Share

I saw what was LinkSite quite some time ago and the current incarnation is still very similar to early days, just more polished. The view that you get from within the worksite application (sorry iManage Work) is really slick and has a great UI and UX. And although the client view is nice, with a slick interface now using “html5 type” functionality, like drag and drop files to the website for me I can’t get past the feeling that it’s still another interface for the client if already using a deal room (e.g. HighQ)

But within worksite the UX back and forth is really very slick, very few clicks to do stuff. Audit trails kept etc. Integration into outlook so if attachments go above limits it suggest replacing attachments with smart links (however if you’ve got Workshare too this could mean a pop up for send and file with WorkSite EMM, another for meta data stripping from Workshare and then one for smart links!!). Again with attention to detail they’ve thought through a few of the client access requirements too, so the login requirements are minimised.

On the roadmap are SAML SSO compliance (H2 2016), responsive interface (H2 2016), BYO key for encryption (H2 2016) and in 2017 video, comparison and enhanced collaboration.

iManage Cloud

I posted a tweet during this session that sums up my thoughts, I don’t need to say who the other cloud is in the Legal DMS world is do I?

The iManage solution is more a “hosted” solution in my opinion, it’s the iManage stack that you know but built, managed and looked after by iManage in their datacentres. The benefit is that moving to it really is as simple as a DNS change from the address of your servers to theirs (once the data migration is done of course!). There was lots of information in the session on the hardware that will support this, that the implementation is yours and not shared, on the security aspects and on the locations they’re building out in the US, Europe and AsiaPac. It’s a different proposition to the competition, thus my tweet, and it will be interesting to see which get’s traction as I’m sure “cloud” will become more and more a part of legal.

Summing up day one

One of the most surreal things about the new iManage is the number of old faces that are back, and it was great to see so many of them over in Europe (Aaron Rangel, Tim Hurren, Melody Easton) along with those folks who stayed through the HP days but rarely got to these shores (Chris Rubert, John Fenley, Garth Hermanson) and of course Geoff who’s been with us all this side of the pond through the whole journey. A great opportunity to catch up with these folks.

Overall I thought the day was a great start to a two day conference, I only could attend one day though and as such the day felt a bit rushed. The keynote didn’t kick off until 11am and then the sessions were pretty much back to back until the day concluded. If I could offer a suggestion it would be to start the day earlier and have more gaps to network and chat to vendors. The end of day drinks are a great time to catch up and the time between these and the dinner was just about right.


Day Two – author Mubashir Mian

To echo Jason’s comments, there was a great vibe throughout the event, an energy and enthusiasm from the iManage folks that hasn’t been seen in a while. A distinct and memorable theme was iManage viewing their different types of users as personas. A “new professional” is someone on the move, accessing and sharing content across smart devices and remote working options; “classic users” requiring performant, stable software on their day-to-day workstations to carry out the bulk of the work. It’s a pretty good idea and although I’m not sure it is as neat as that in a law firm, the definition is well enough to work around requirements for both camps.

I talked to a number of iManage team members at the event, each keen to share the developments in their respective areas – management, mobility, support, server, consulting. Everyone displayed great passion in what they do and were full of optimism for the future. A cynic might say the post-MBO high is still at work, but to counter, there have been major milestones delivered – White Rabbit, 9.3 and there’s strong strategic planning across all the components which are complementing each other harmoniously.

Just a quick follow on from the first day sessions, Mohit did an in-depth technical session on Work Communications server. Personally, I’ve been closely involved with the product since the beginning (see here and here) and have gone through its many iterations and faults. The strong message given was think about upgrading to 9.3, or at least 9.2.2. There is a lot of work gone into these later releases and even though due to the ever-evolving nature of Work-Outlook-Exchange it’s always been “work in progress”, the latest version is robust and can handle many different scenarios around delegate filing & sent item filing (every Work techie’s nightmare) and Mailbox Sync. I’ve resisted Mailbox Sync so far and speaking to my peers they have similar concerns about it’s impact on Exchange but the new “event driven filing”, which will come in 9.4 sounds interesting and will work with Exchange on a lighter footprint.

Moving on to the second day, Nancy had an interesting session on Office365 covering amongst other topics, co-authoring in Word. Admittedly, I’m not sure how much uptake there is for co-authoring over here, but as Office365 and Office 2016 deployments are taken up within the enterprise, this will become more common. Working with Exchange online and Work’s use on the iPhone and Mobility were delivered in some detail.

Something you hear with the new iManage is a recurring message of “we should be doing this already”, a tangible example of which is the introduction of Control Centre. This is designed to update the admin tools that have been around for years and are woefully out of date. The team were clear to convey their direction – that the Work product software should come with its own ability and tools to administer the software. There was talk amongst peers of an inevitable clash with partner products, however I don’t see it this way. The products that are widely used in the customer base have been around for some time and have matured to what they are today. iManage seems like they’ll focus on rebuilding the core and so there will always be a market for supplementary third-party products.

A regular feature in iManage events is a Feedback from the Field session, where the support teams relay back what common issues they’ve seen and what the latest patches & software builds are recommended if you are looking to upgrade today. It’s almost always run by Chris Rubert, this time joined by John Fenley and its still invaluable now as in the past – this session itself makes it worthwhile attending an iManage event. One thing I did relay was that even though it disseminates excellent knowledge, it never quite finds it’s way back into the iManage websites where you can find it again. A tip I found that works for me is before looking at a version upgrade, find the slides from the last known event, an ITLA or a user group and use the recommended release versions from there. Hopefully this will be taken on board and using the (now excellent) Help Site, this dynamic information can be found quickly.

The team are involved in generating a lot of content and knowledge which will be hosted in the Help Centre. Personally I’m a big fan of the podcasts, I find them an easy way into a topic that is new (the iPhone app, for example) rather than picking up and reading the huge manual. A really interesting feature that’s coming is to expose the NT lifecycle on the Help Centre, meaning when a problem is reported by another client, iManage will make it visible at the earliest possible point whilst working to apply live updates on when the problem will be resolved. If I had a pound for every time I reported a bug and got given an existing NT number…

There was ample time to network with partners and colleagues from other firms and overall, it was a superb event. Clearly a lot of effort & dedication by Geoff, Melody and the rest of the UK team and great engagement from Dan, Neil, Mohit and the exec team.

Mubashir Mian is the Senior Applications Specialist at a major City law firm. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed here.


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 21 2015

The HP and Autonomy era is gone! iManage leadership completes buyout.


Well this morning sees the official announcement that the iManage leadership team has completed a buyout from Hewlett-Packard (HP). I’m not going to post comment yet, I’ll let the dust settle a few days before that. But here are some links to read what’s currently being said:

From the Legal IT Insider : “The Boys Are Back In Town as Team iManage complete management buyout from HP

From Legal IT Professionals : “iManage Leadership Completes Buyout of Business Unit from HP

The brand new iManage website press release : “iManage Leadership Announces Buyout from HP

From Phoenix’s website : “Phoenix congratulates iManage

Post from Neil Araujo on the iManage site : “Who is iManage Today?” and on LinkedIn Pulse “Who is iManage Today?

Post from Kraft Kennedy : “iManage Splits from HP, Becomes Independent Company

From Forrester : “The Rebirth of iManage: A New Company With A Familiar Name Re-enters The ECM Market

From Ascertus : “iManage buy-out great news for the market

Nothing from Tikit as yet?

I’ll update this page through the day with new articles, so if you’ve got any comment or posts that’s not just the press release please point them out to me on twitter @planty



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 😉


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.


Jan 9 2014

Looking back on 5 years of blogging part 3 – Interwoven to Autonomy to HP


As you’d expect from a Legal IT blog I’ve posted a number of stories about the key Legal IT suppliers over the last five years. But one supplier has proved interesting due to the takeovers it’s been involved in and its almost ubiquitous coverage in law firms. That company is Netright Technologies! I’ve picked out four stories from 2009 to 2010 that take you through the Autonomy takeover.

The first post from January 2009 sets the scene nicely as it was written just as the takeover was announced. You can debate on how much came true in the comment, but I definitely got the new name right in the last paragraph! Interwoven and Autonomy – WorkSite, IDOL and iManage?

I wrote a couple of posts in February of 2009 as information became a bit clearer. The first was picking up more information via Tikit, I think this was my first lesson in the care required when blogging as my original published article had a number of release dates that Tikit had mentioned but weren’t for public exposure until the Autonomy/Interwoven deal was completely done. A quick retraction was needed. There are some worries highlighted in the post that I think in hindsight came true for many during the “Autonomy period” – News on Autonomy/Interwoven

The other February post was more an idea of mine for a simplified DMS design. However I include here just to announce that in hindsight I am rather ashamed of my last sentence! – Calling Autonomy!

Finally to wrap up the Autonomy period is a post from December 2010. Less to highlight the content specifically, more because it shows that really it took from January 2009 all the way to December 2010 to really sort things out in terms of the product and service on offer. Autonomy iManage WorkSite 8.5 and on

The fact I have posted virtually nothing on the HP takeover probably indicates it was an easier and much more successful transfer. There certainly has been more development in the HP era already (LinkSite) but the remaining small concern I have is with the core worksite product, if you read the December 2010 post above the main change is only the release of v9. But it’s been over 3 years, shouldn’t we now be talking about v10?


Nov 25 2013

Microsoft Project Gemini


Gemini3The name of Microsoft’s latest internal project name made me smile as this was used as an internal IT project name early in my career at our firm. The project was our first look at matter centric document management, some years I’d like to add before the big two legal DMS providers were moving this way! Four years after we implemented that system we launched a “Project Apollo” which brought a matter centric iManage WorkSite 8.x into the firm.

So what are the Microsoft “Gemini” apps? These are Microsoft’s touch optimised Windows 8 Office applications. They are rebuilding the user interface (UI) of office from the ground up to ensure it works extremely well with touch devices as well as with a traditional keyboard/mouse combo. Beyond the “Touch friendly” Office 2013, think the interface of the OneNote app in Windows 8 over OneNote bundled with Office 2013.

Now I know there are many that think Office is dead, but in my opinion these people out there with those that insisted that the Y2K bug was going to be then end of the world!  Also after a good few months running a Surface after a year or more with an iPad, I think the dual touch & keyboard/mouse approach is the way forward. The iPad is excellent for annotation or a bit of editing and there are some fantastic apps in the iOS world to help this, but it just isn’t suited for heavy duty document editing, spreadsheet work or presentation creation. This is the beauty of a Windows 8 tablet and what will be the core of “Gemini”. It still looks as though Office will also appear for the iPad at some point and for the editing use cases it will be a fine addition.

So with “Gemini” on the horizon, which legal IT providers are going to take up the baton for us and allow us to launch a “Shuttle Program” within our firm? If you’re interested here are my requirements basic requirements:

  • A touch friendly DMS (document management system) app, that works with the “Gemini” UI design and has the ability to launch into Gemini Office
  • Full integration into “Gemini Office” with the simplicity of the SkyDrive integration in Office 2013
  • A well designed user interface for email filing in “Gemini Outlook”, something like simple swipe gestures to file or a OneNote like rotary menu to access actions for filing
  • A well designed reader app (like Pocket) for the DMS to allow me to build a simple offline reading file that I can swipe to turn pages

The Microsoft “Gemini” Office apps are earmarked for summer of 2014 for Windows 8, I really hope we see some innovation from legal IT in this area next year also.


Mar 15 2013

Watch out, watch out, InboxFiler is about! – explaining a gotcha in WorkSite Send & File


Send & File is a fantastic way to get email into your HP Autonomy iManage WorkSite DMS (Document Management System) – surely that brand name needs condensing!! But there is one small issue with Send & File that can crop up and bite you and that is the efficiency of the InboxFiler. Let me explain with a scenario:

John sends a email to his team about a project and uses Send and File to file that email to the project workspace. Each of the team (Sarah, Joe and Lisa) receive the email, Worksite nicely dedupes the emails in the workspace. All good so far.

Sarah then forwards on the email to a colleague, lets say with a legitimate question on the project. Because the email still has the “luggage tag” ie that part of the subject that looks like [TEST-LIB1.FID1234] when Fred receives the email the InboxFiler files it in the project workspace. Meaning John could still read this email in the workspace. Still OK as that email was related to the project and thus the project workspace holds a record of all communications on the project.

However, Fred thinks the question was a bit stupid and forwards on the email to Claire. In the email he writes a little note about how much of an idiot he thinks John is along with a few other choice words. In a normal email conversation John would never know. BUT in this example Fred left the “luggage tag” in the subject line, as soon as Claire receives it the InboxFiler picks it up and files in in the project workspace! John (who has full access to the project workspace) can therefore read this email, oops!

Thankfully in later versions of the WorkSite HP Autonomy allowed things to be configured to strip out the luggage tag if you chose “Send Only” on the send and file pop up. But if your version is not yet configured this way (How would you know? Try doing a “Send Only” to yourself and see if the “luggage tag” is still in the subject line) then be careful. You can also just remove the “luggage tag” by deleting it in the subject if you are making comments that are no longer relevant to the original subject, this will stop it being filed by the recipient automatically!

As a slight aside, I recently discovered Vine from Twitter. A rather neat App available on only the iOS platform at the moment. It allows you to record small video files and share them, a bit like Instagram for video really. Anyway whilst playing around with it I decided to knock up a short video of the above Send and File scenario, you can view it here.


For more info on Send & File see this previous post.


Jan 15 2013

MCC : No not Marylebone Cricket Club, Matter Centric Collaboration!


A Matter Centric Document Management System or MCC (apparently the other ‘C’ is for collaboration, who knew!) isn’t it all a bit old hat? I see the ILTA competitions still and wonder who isn’t doing MCC now?

I think maybe this is a US v UK thing? Maybe having using Legal IT for longer and in particular Document Management Systems (DMS) the US have lived in a profile driven DMS world for a long time and thus “searching” is more the norm, whereas in the UK we came to the DMS party late and are more tuned to browsing through folders. Therefore maybe for this side of the pond the concept of MCC made sense and we adopted it like ducks to water?

Either way though a few conversations and emails recently made me think that maybe some best practice is worth revisiting as the volumes of documents on matters increase.

To start with its worth stating something I’ve said before, Simplicity Rules! If you’re moving to MCC then I strongly suggest you start simple, there will be enough challenges to get lawyers to file documents and emails without making a hugely complex structure for them (nor is it worth getting bogged down in endless meetings to try and reach a decision on such a complex structure! What will suit Litigation will annoy Corporate etc)

But, it is worth planning in a degree of flexibility. We started with 4 or 5 “top level folders” and restricted the creation of additional top level folders to “Matter Administrators”, these were a small number of admins within the business who could control the folder structures for their depts. matters. Thus we aimed to keep a level of control and consistency. Other approaches I have seen have been to allow a specific set of additional folders to be added to matters, ie to open up the creation process to a wider audience but restrict what can be created.

When coming up with your short list think retrieval, make it obvious where things are. Correspondence, Bills etc. These can each be tagged with meta data in most DMS and so the documents placed in them will inherit this information making searching easier. The tricky issue is the Miscellaneous folder or Other documents, there are pros and cons to this which I’ll leave to you all to discuss in the comments!

To me though, documents is easy. We’ve tied a lot of our filing into the template system now. So if you create a letter it will automatically try and file this to the Correspondence folder for you. The tricky part is email!

How do you file these? Technically they are correspondence, but combining into a single document/email folder will unleash a whole heap of trouble. Just don’t! So a separate email folder is the best option, but then some matters can have thousands of emails and if you’re a “browser” this can be a nightmare. This is where you probably want to think about some best practice rather than create a default structure. You could get people to create sub folders by date, fee earner etc

Overall though MCC is not just about the folder design, care needs to be taken in training and instilling best practice. Also you won’t get it right first time, you’ll look back a few years later and wish you’d done things differently. But then it’s worth diving in as you’ll only learn this through observing and getting feedback from real world use!


Oct 22 2012

Document Management article written for Managing Partner magazine


Back in April 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.

This isn’t an article evangelising SharePoint as the next Legal Document Management System (DMS). Nor is it an article focussing on which DMS you should choose (be it HP Autonomy’s WorkSite, NetDocuments or OpenText)

No, the intention here is to look at the operational issues and challenges in running a DMS in Legal. It is written from experience of HP Autonomy’s WorkSite product, but don’t let that put you off if you use another DMS. A lot of the experiences, lessons and benefits could apply to any of the four listed above.

Key challenges to address in the DMS world

The challenges found when using a WorkSite DMS can be broadly placed into two categories. Those that are purely technical in nature and those that are related to end user usage.

The WorkSite application servers are the “hub” of the DMS and are fairly simple to maintain and monitor. From the technical view we have rarely experienced issues with these. We’ve switched from physical to virtual servers without difficulty and because more can be added as the business grows, they have proved fairly trouble free.

Sizing the other parts of the system for your firm is one of the biggest challenges. Examples of the issues we’ve encountered are problems because our database was not sufficiently powerful and in later years because our index servers were not sized correctly. The WorkSite application utilises SQL queries to work out and display your workspaces, folder structures and document content. This can be quite “chatty”, and ensuring your SQL Server can handle the transaction volumes for the size of firm and size of document database is key to a performant system. Processor power and RAM are the key variables here and if possible size the latter to be big enough to keep your databases in memory, this saves having to keep those database indexes constantly “tuned” to maintain a consistent performance. The indexer has become more an integral part of WorkSite with the IDOL engine from Autonomy integrated. As early adopters we found setting this environment up quite a challenge. Now Autonomy support provide recommendations based on specific details of your proposed platform and usage. However time taken with design of the IDOL environment will pay dividends over time.

Another challenge we have had as a firm is distance. One limitation of WorkSite is the distance of your end user to your WorkSite infrastructure, the further you (the end user) are from the servers the slower WorkSite will perform. Latency at work! (to be fair to HP Autonomy this is the case for most software!). There are a couple of technologies that can help here. Firstly HP Autonomy provide their own product to help in the “WorkSite cache server”: this is pretty much a WorkSite application server located nearer the end-user that caches documents locally; it takes away some of the “traffic” from the end-user PC to WorkSite servers, thus improving performance. The other option is to use network optimisers (or WAN accelerators). In our experience the later simplify your WorkSite environment and work very well, but this may not be the case in every environment.

Aside from the technical there are the challenges of the end user. Introducing a DMS is a big business change and this shouldn’t be underestimated. A DMS is a very structured way of filing electronic information and is never going to be as quick and easy as saving to the hard drive of a laptop. Managing this change is one of the key ingredients to success of the system.

Also once you introduce a DMS, from a lawyer’s point of view the whole of their Microsoft Office environment becomes the DMS. And from an IT point of view this can be problematic: there can be many pieces of software that all interact with Word and Outlook and getting them all to work correctly is one of the biggest challenges when upgrading.

Any tips for how to meet some of these challenges?

So what advice would I suggest to a firm embarking on introducing a DMS? And how can you address some of the challenges? I’ve broken this down into four sections:

1. Don’t skimp on the hardware!

This was alluded to when discussing the SQL Server and Index servers. Within WorkSite these are the key components to giving good performance, the rest you can scale out later e.g. by adding another application server. So take your time, work with an IT partner who can help with the sizing (or get access to Autonomy’s support site and take some time to read their guides on sizing).

Understand your likely growth, both in terms of year on year document growth and how you expect to grow as a firm. Project this information forward a number of years to get the storage size you will need, then add a bit! Also ensure you understand limitations in your hardware. You don’t want to fill that 1Tb disk only to find you can only increase the capacity by replacing hardware because the server you bought can’t handle larger drives.

What do you need in terms of resilience for the firm? Is redundancy in one environment acceptable? Do you want a hot standby disaster recovery site or do you want a full duplicate business continuity site? Each costs more than the previous, but build the best you can for what you need for your firm (talk to the lawyers to understand how the firm would cope without the DMS for periods of time).

2.Expect a trough of disillusionment after the business change

based on Gartner’s hype cycle concept

I find that Gartner’s hype cycle diagram is a great representation of the peaks and troughs of user experience when introducing a DMS. It helps to understand that you will hit a “trough of disillusionment” and prepares you to set off with the expectation that end users won’t understand or accept it immediately. This isn’t a smartphone app that is intuitive and can be picked up in no time without any training. Not only is there a big technical change, there is often a shift in how the business manages files, documents and emails. Plan for as much training is realistic; add earlier sessions a few weeks before with more of a presentation style in order to set the scene, and then do follow up training a few weeks after go-live. Effectively communicate and train the key objectives and the change as much as possible.

3. Understand your environment

Plan for the full lifecycle of your documents: understand how you’ll age your files, how you’ll retire them from your DMS to an archive, how you’ll delete files. This will usually be done in conjunction with infrastructure capacity management, but what we’re talking about here is the business view of archiving and storage not the technical. So think at what point a matter workspace will go from your live library to an archive; what will happen to it then etc?

Unicode:  if you have overseas offices (particularly in places where the Latin character set isn’t the norm e.g. Russia, China) then you’ll want to watch for “Unicode”. It’s a bit complicated to go into the technical detail of ascii, Unicode, codepages etc here, but in terms of WorkSite just remember you WILL need to consider character sets if you plan to use version 8.x.

Business first: finally when planning your environment, firstly look at what you want from your business before considering the technical limitations. This will avoid setting up libraries for individual offices/countries because of latency issues when the business requirement is for the DMS to bring sharing of documents across all offices.

4. Get a partner

I’ve mentioned IT partners briefly already, but they are worth mentioning in their own right. It really is a benefit to work with a partner when implementing and running a DMS. Firms like Tikit and Phoenix will ensure you get what you need from the DMS. But as well as thinking about the implementation also think about the on-going support relationship; understand how knowledgeable their support team is as well as their pre-sales team and maybe even get them involved in the implementation project if possible.

What’s the impact and what ROI could you expect when using a DMS?

Our objectives in implementing WorkSite to replace an existing DMS were to gain:

–          Full version control

–          Email management/filing capabilities

–          Storage of documents other than Word, Excel

–          Integration with other legal applications (e.g. document comparison)

–          Allow expansion (global)

It is easy to see that WorkSite (or any of the other DMS listed at the start of this article) fulfilled our objectives. However as the business changes so do the requirements and we’ve had a number of additional objectives to address based on the requirements of the business. The biggest has been dealing with the explosion of email. To illustrate this here are some rough stats on document numbers in just one of our libraries: in 2004 we had approximately two million documents with a negligible amount of email on the electronic matter files. We now have approximately twenty million “documents” in that library and over 80% of these are email.

The ability to serve a global firm is now taken for granted; the thought that 6 years ago lawyers in each office had great difficulty sharing a matter file with each other without having to email documents back and forth is a little hard to believe now.

These all are obvious benefits realised, however it is hard to measure a return on investment in terms of £’s. A lot of what a DMS brings is allowing end users to manage a good e-file. However if this is achieved, then cost savings can be made in the saving of paper and printing costs incurred in maintaining paper files (plus the subsequent storage of those files). Of course the truly paperless office is a bit of a myth, but a serious reduction can be achieved. And most people would be staggered by the costs incurred in this area alone in law firms!

Future challenges

So what are the key challenges for a mature DMS implementation? These will always change, but right now there are three looming large.

ILM (information life cycle management): how to control and manage the growing volume of documents/emails from creation to destruction. Planning this from day one would be a huge benefit (and a lesson learnt from hindsight!). Control can be achieved though, through use of tools like HP Autonomy’s workspace archive manager (WAM) which can move complete matter files from one library (database) to another (e.g. from a live library to an archive), maintaining meta data (like document number or document history). These archive libraries can then be moved to cheaper storage, separate archive DMS’s (which can have less resilience than the live environment where close to 100% up time is essential), backups and eventually retired completely if required.

Email: the growth is staggering and although the rate of this growth may be plateauing, even at the current rate it creates a very large volume of data to handle. Add to this the increasing number of devices emails can be created and consumed on and control can be a nightmare. I’ve seen lawyers with inboxes of 50,000 items: how on earth do you start to sort that into organised matter files? HP Autonomy have introduced the WorkSite Communications Server in recent releases that links the email and the DMS together at a server level. This allows a better experience to the user through functions like “filing folders” and “send & file”. But I can’t help think though that further work needs to be done by all DMS vendors in this area and leverage the storage that email systems are already using.

Consumerisation of IT: as the smartphone and tablet take off, then the demand for ease of use in the desktop increases, as does the demand for applications to use documents/emails from the DMS on the personal portable devices. HP Autonomy does provide an iPad application and I’ve seen impressive beta’s from companies like Prosperoware which take things one step further by adding your inbox so that you can manage all your emails on the move in one App whether in the DMS or not.

Summing up

The main piece of advice I would give if you’re starting on the journey is to both seek out an IT partner and also to speak to other firms and learn from their hindsight. These will really help with your planning. Also realise it’s a never ending journey!

A DMS is the bread and butter of a law firm. As such it is often taken for granted and seen as an “old technology”. But the demands of a law firm change over time as does the IT that is used to access the data. The challenge for the DMS is to keep up with these and ensure managing the electronic matter file is as simple, easy and efficient for the lawyer as possible.