To SharePoint or to Best-of-breed – That is the Question!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The frustration of legal departments when trying to secure budget from the business for legal-specific solutions is an open secret. Typically, in corporate organisations, the IT department holds the overall budget for technology and so has the final say in what tools the legal department can deploy. Invariably, due to a lack of understanding of the requirements of the lawyers, IT departments prefer to deploy solutions that they believe will be beneficial to the whole organisation – from an adoption, cost, implementation, maintenance and user benefit perspectives.

Therefore, often when it comes to deploying a document and email management system (DMS), the IT department opts for SharePoint as opposed to a best-of-breed solution. After all, if SharePoint works for other business departments, it can work for legal too. And it comes as part of the existing Microsoft Office subscription, which means a massive cost saving for the IT department. It’s a no brainer, right?

Well, not quite. It’s counterproductive. Genuinely, the effort it takes to perform cases and the ensuing legal expenses are a major cost to the organisation. Giving lawyers the tools they need to maximise their efficiency and reduce response times can result in tangible savings in legal costs to the business.

Here’s the business rationale why IT departments in corporates should consider deploying a best-of-breed DMS for their legal department. They too benefit from the approach:

  • Cost of ownership – The total cost of ownership of a best-of-breed DMS is markedly less compared to an industry agnostic SharePoint that has been customised to legal requirements. While there isn’t a purchase expense, the cost of using SharePoint on a daily basis is high due to the specialist skills, continuous software development, customisation, project management and support that is required to make it fit for purpose for legal. The cost rises further as third-party integrations are bolted on for additional functionality such email and records management as well as other legal specific requirements including meta-data scrubbing, document comparison, eSignatures, and so on.

  • Matter centricity – A best-of-breed DMS is based on a legal-specific matter centric meta data model. The corporate legal team can create matter-related workspaces where all information and documentation pertaining to specific matters can be stored across data sources – correspondence, images, data, presentations, pleadings, voicemails, emails, contracts and more. Even dialogues and discussions that take place via email pertaining to matters – that don’t necessarily form part of more formalised documents – can be captured autonomously from within Outlook to the DMS. Additionally, new files saved automatically inherit meta data from existing folders and workspaces, which contribute towards the advanced searching capabilities, allowing users to find their content more easily.

    In SharePoint, the meta data model needs to be designed to deliver matter-centricity and meta data has to be added to new content through forms and fields, which is very time-consuming.

  • Smart working – A best-of-breed DMS provides dedicated apps for easy access to content on any ‘smart’ device from anywhere, anytime. Moreover, things like intelligent email management, Google-like search functionality, collaboration, analytics, and matter dashboards are all standard.

    Aside from generic mobile application access, SharePoint has no specific enhancements. While collaboration-related functionality can be set up, it is heavily reliant on IT involvement for ongoing maintenance.

  • Cloud – The cost savings delivered by a best-of-breed DMS in the cloud is compelling. In fact, for some organisations, the cost of a best-of-breed solution in the cloud can be less than an employee’s mobile phone per month! Legal departments can implement a best-of-breed DMS without any significant support from IT. Also, the best-of-breed solutions integrate with Microsoft Office including 365, so user adoption of the system is painless.

    All the above is simply not an option with SharePoint.

  • Security and audits – A best-of-breed DMS offers security that addresses current requirements including data protection, content aggregation, ethical walls and much more. In the cloud too, best-of-breed systems comply with audit, data privacy and security standards such as ISO 27001 and HIPAA. Legal departments can also monitor, enforce and report on security policies at the individual, group and organisational level, which will become imperative once the GDPR comes into force next year.

Fundamentally, the budgetary savings as a result of using SharePoint for a DMS is misleading. Aside from the fact that a SharePoint solution falls way short on delivering the necessary functionality to legal departments, the approach is often burdensome for the IT department. By adopting a best-of-breed DMS, IT departments can make savings in both cost and time, freeing up the team to focus on projects that will truly deliver value to the business.

Ascertus is holding a live webinar on this topic on Wednesday, 29 November 2017, 15:00 GMT, register here.

Ascertus will also be at The Alternative In-house Technology Summit 2018, 06 – 07 February 2018, the UK’s only event focussed on delivering technology strategy to in-house legal teams. We would love to speak to you in person, you can find the full agenda and registration details here. If this is of interest, don't forget to use the discount code ASCERTUS during registration to save 20% off the full ticket price.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Change Management Key Success Factor in Technology Transformation Projects

While digital transformation projects are well underway in many corporates, their success, to a large extent, depends on how the organisation responds to the change and to what extent it adopts the new way of working. Technology transformation and cultural change in mindset, must therefore go hand-in-hand.

To this end, a well thought through change management programme is imperative. We find that often a well-executed change management programme (or lack of) can be the difference between success and failure of such initiatives. Based on our experience of working with corporates on such initiatives – with information and document lifecycle management forming a key part of transformation programmes – below are some insights and learnings that organisations will do well to consider:

  • Leadership – Change in the organisation must be driven from the top down. Business leaders must be fully on-board and committed to the transformation in a tangible way. So, they must be able to articulate to employees – in addition to the business rationale – the value the new way of working to them as individuals. The employee question, “how will it make my life easier”, must be answered.

  • Recognition of technology needs – Business leaders must make the effort to understand the unique requirements of the specific departments and employees, based on their roles and responsibilities. The right technology needs to be delivered for the digital and cultural change to happen. For instance, the document management needs of the in-house legal department are different to those of other departments. While for other departments a SharePoint platform may suffice for document management, the legal department needs a best-of-breed system to meet its specific requirements.

    Departmental heads must also ‘make their case’ for their IT requirements so that the business invests in technology that suits the needs of all. Otherwise, the technology transformation is likely to be partial or piecemeal. Furthermore, department leaders must recognise that their own technological needs may be different to that of their teams – but the requirements of the latter must be represented. For instance, the way and extent to which the General Counsel (GC) uses a document management system is vastly different to how lawyers use the solution. The former’s role is more strategic while the lawyers are focused on performing cases and so capabilities like email management and Google-like searches in the system are more pertinent to the latter. In technology transformation projects, its imperative that the needs of the lawyers and others are equally represented and delivered against.

  • Long-term view – Major technology transformation projects present the best opportunity to thoroughly review how the business does things, and address how they can be done better, with a long-term view. It is an ideal time to re-evaluate processes so that they are tuned to current, but flexible enough to accommodate future requirements. For instance, for corporates undertaking transformation projects today, understanding what type of information must be captured, in what format, what the approval processes are, how records should be saved and managed, what security and audit procedures should be followed – are all pertinent to GDPR compliance for the foreseeable future.

  • Training – This mustn’t be a one-off activity at the time of ‘go-live’ of the project. Training must be tailored for groups of people based on their roles, and delivered on a regular basis. This will enable a wider and more effective adoption of the technology. Most people use technology systems intuitively, and adopt those features that are of most use to them on a regular basis. However, by training more frequently and in bite-sized sessions, employees are more likely to adopt some of the more advanced features that will vastly improve their efficiency and productivity, which will ultimately reflect in the technology’s ROI to the organisation.

  • Impact on other internal departments and external organisations – Many corporates deploy collaboration sharing platforms, especially in their-inhouse legal departments where this capability is essential for information and sharing with internal departments (HR, Finance, Procurement, Sales etc), law firms and other external legal services providers. Any transformation programme must take into consideration the impact of the project on such third-parties, given that changes in technology could have a significant effect on the level and type of interaction. For instance, access rights, new processes and procedures may require communication to explain the options available and discuss how it may impact on external organisations’ IT infrastructure and the changes that may be required. Giving external partners visibility of the programme is a good idea.

Major IT transformations are the ideal time to drive change in the organisation. Corporates must take a step back and view the requirements of the business holistically to ensure wholehearted adoption by employees of the new way of working. This will only happen if the organisation takes its people along on the transformation journey and delivers technology that enables them to do a better job, effectively and productively.

In conjunction, with Carillion Plc, Ascertus is hosting a roundtable session on this topic at The Alternative In-house Technology Summit in February 2018. It is the UK’s only event focussed on delivering technology strategy to in-house legal teams. The session will discuss how in-house legal department heads can influence departmental culture, secure lawyer buy-in for new technology adoption and make new ways of working successful. Find out more here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Role of Document Capture and Scanning in Digital Transformation

Guest Blog by Bob Gristock, Channel Sale and Key Accounts, EzeScan

Digital transformation has become a fashionable buzzword in recent months, but to my mind it is about targeting specific areas of the organisation to ensure that business processes and standard procedures are adhered to as a matter of routine, which in turn contribute to efficiencies.

From a document management standpoint, it means automating processes and extracting data for business use and application. Take the example of invoices. An organisation may receive invoices in paper and digital formats. With the help of document capture and scanning technology, it is possible to capture all the necessary data from the invoices – e.g. invoice header, line items and totals and upload into the firm’s accounting system for processing, but then also store that data in another business system (e.g. document management) for client reporting, or as needed. Similarly, any matter related information coming in to a firm’s mail room can be scanned, the case numbers from the documents captured and saved into the appropriate areas in the case management system.

These processes when undertaken across departments and even firms’ offices can deliver substantial efficiencies. For instance, a firm could have a policy/SLA requirement that all mail is scanned in a central office, with new matters emailed to fee earners across the multiple offices and departments by 11 am. This would also help enhance a firm’s responsiveness to customers.

Key to note is that a Digital Transformation initiative doesn’t have to be enterprise-wide, right from the word ‘go’, it can be rolled out in stages. To illustrate, for many small to medium sized firms, physical storage is not only costly, it is also difficult to actually sift through the paper to find the information that is needed. This is a good place to start, if embarking on a Digital Transformation exercise. Scanning the files and extracting the important meta data can be put on a backed-up file share, in the first instance. Once digitised, the firm can decide what data should be transferred into the various business systems like document, case and matter management, finance and accounting and so on for current use. The money saved as a result of reduced physical storage – which can be substantial for firms – can be used to re-invest in technology.

Furthermore, with the new GDPR coming into force in May 2018, this kind of digitisation can assist with compliance with the regulation too. An enterprise search tool would be able to determine where the personal data of individuals is held, be it of the firm’s employees or customers.

Fundamentally, Digital Transformation and indeed GDPR compliance need to be ‘business as usual’ activities. They must also be non-intrusive. Pick the areas that are likely to delivers the most impact to the firm, and roll out in order of priority. Undertaken in bite size and gradually, the programme is more likely to be a success.

About the author

Bob Gristock has worked in the document capture space for 30 plus years, holding a variety of roles within the industry. He has worked at reseller and distribution organisations as well as for hardware and software vendors.