Firms use document management to facilitate work-in-progress (“WIP”) and serve as their electronic files. Why?
Documents are at the heart of what lawyers do. They need to be saved, secured, associated with a matter, and managed in accordance with policy. Creating matters first with simple folder structures will best help to drive adoption. The key folders include: (1) work-in-progress (in iManage this is a folder, in NetDocuments a filter); (2) correspondence (which, today, is primarily email); and, (3) administrative documents such as engagement letters, billing, etc.
Historically, many firms rolled-out a document management system then left the design as is, until years later when they realized it wasn't working for them; that's when IT started looking for a new system. Often, firms create file structures that are too simplistic, or too complex. The DMS is meant to be an interactive business system, not just infrastructure (such as mail servers, firewalls, or phone switches). Avoiding over-complicated folder structures can help accelerate adoption. Strike the right balance between too simple and too complex. Offering a limited set of optional folders, from a predefined list, helps lawyers organize their matters more efficiently and logically. Allowing some flexibility for adjustment helps simplify matter management and encourages use. Success hinges on user adoption. Adoption requires usability.
The term “agile” has been applied to many of today’s business disciplines. The concept is to provide for an iterative, flexible adjustment instead of a traditional straight line or waterfall approach to design and implementation. The core philosophy of “agile” is that you quickly design, learn, and then adjust. The process needs to be continuous. As people’s needs and processes change, so can the system. Ideally, these decisions can be made in a couple of weeks, not longer. This approach is particularly beneficial in cloud DMS deployments and helps to more quickly achieve ROI as there tends to be little time between purchase and when the firm starts paying for the service. The sooner the firm can utilize the system, the better.
The ability to adapt and change is dependent on previous experience and knowledge. Reporting and analytics can help firms gather relevant metrics to enable better decision-making. Data about system usage, what documents are being accessed and when, how edits and changes are occurring, and other aspects of behavior provides firms the necessary intelligence to understand adoption and spot organizational issues. This can vastly improve adoption as firms are better able to understand and adjust or address challenges when identified.
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