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Document Management Systems; What Is the Right Fit for You?
A. Who knows what DMS stands for, or what it is?
What it is: It will save all your documents in one place and builds an associated database that lets you work with the documents according to your own custom fields (Most often Client/Case, departments, document type, Author and Typist). It also includes a complete text index of all your documents so you can search & find quickly based on criteria certain keywords. Most accommodate e-mail as well and the more advanced also let you save web content.
Reasons firms think it isn’t right for them:
- Firms our size don’t need that: There is no argument that justifies a small business needing to work less hard or be less efficient. If anything, it’s the opposite.
- It’s too complicated for us: It really isn’t any more complicated than what you do now. It’s just a little bit different. The hardest part is adjusting and we try to make that as easy as possible for you.
- It’s too expensive: While there is a certain up-front cost, it makes sense for a lot of different reasons: You will use less paper, It helps you create a better work product, It’s an investment you easily recoup over time (30 min/day lost looking for docs x # of employees x work days per year = ?? (< 1 yr. to recover investment), When you divide the cost per user it’s nowhere near as expensive as it looks.
- Why can’t we just use files and folders? This is in some ways the biggest one to “get”. 1st, after a while, you just plain forget what you have or where you had it. Windows search being what it is, you’ll never find it again (not to mention the time lost finding it). This is where you just plain lose “intellectual property” and business knowledge/intelligence. 2nd, having 1 interface that everyone uses, with the same descriptors/search terms, over time, will get staff individually and collectively to think about documents in a “generic”, across-the-board sort of way (think if you were in a garage and you could just think “hammer”, “wrench”, “screwdriver”, “trolley”, “blanket” without wondering which bench, shelf or drawer or who's tool?) This is one of the big differences of using a DMS for all your documents (and e-mails).
- How it is part of a “complete package”: You know how big a part of your business creating documents is. It is sometimes easy to confuse Document Automation and Document Management. In some ways they seem similar; re-using your old documents is a lot like document automation, isn’t it? A DMS helps you locate more of your old documents more easily and faster, allowing you to do more “re-use”. However, a DMS is not a Form or Merge/Automation program. But it can be the first step in helping you get a real handle on what documents you have, so you can start classifying them and seeing how you can then take the next step to Document Automation.
B. What experience do you have with DMS’s?
- Present or past firms?
- As Administrators or End-users?
- What do you like about it?
- What didn’t work about it for you?
- Is there anything you needed from it that it didn’t do at all?
- Pros and Cons of DMS as part of CRM (TM, PM, Client Profiles, Abacus, Prolaw): less flexible, less robust searching, the benefit of one interface, docs stored in your “case file”, If not integrated, you have to worry about double entry for clients/matters or a way to synchronize them automatically.
- The alternatives are more full-featured, stand-alone DMS products, which fit into different categories.
C. ”Choices”- The 4 different basic Groups:
Integrated in CRM (Time Matters, PracticeMaster, ClientProfiles, Abacus, Amicus, Prolaw, PerfectLaw). Advantages: One interface is great, and when DMS is part of CRM, you tend to think of your raw data and your output as part of a whole. Conceptually that makes a difference. You also get lots of extended document features (merge, forms, integration with Contacts and Matters).
- TM – Document form (profile); all docs on tab in Matter; flexible as to where the docs are stored
- PM – Link any file type to any client /matter to create document records with its most Basic version; automatically create document records through the process of document assembly with its Premier version; and/or integrate with a dedicated document management program such as Worldox for a full feature DMS experience.
- Client Profiles – scan and view any type of document into a profile; docs stored under CP path
- Abacus – docs can be saved on file or for the record; can drag and drop whole folder onto case; can be searched by codes
- Prolaw – create, store and retrieve all types of docs and emails by client/matter; security; advanced searching, including full text and metadata tools
Mid-range: this is basically the next category out from integrated with CRM. More full-featured, stand-alone, and the best priced for your budget. In this category, the biggest most established player is Worldox, the product we have the most experience with. Worldox offers:
- Document “groupings”/Profiles,
- highly customizable Profile fields [“highly adaptable”],
- fast, good security-service-support,
- Good Price,
- low maintenance/technology overhead)
- Includes e-mail management, as well as some web content
- integration with add-ons provides workflow, PDF tools, background OCR
High-end (Hummingbird (DocsOpen), iManage (Interwoven) WorkSite) = all types of content, including web searches; more extensive security; provides a platform that supports geographically dispersed groups where people can collaborate—they can create content, share it, and even use project pages to coordinate business-critical activities
Web-based (Netdocuments) = ease of sharing (available anywhere, always, guaranteed “backup”/accessibility/”peace of mind”- similar to “High-end” with less of the “fuss”), multiple cabinets; folder and profile storage; workspace is “matter-centric”; simple and advanced searching (Also some combine web-based and CRM, such as Clio and RocketMatter)
D. ”Benefits & Players”: How to keep the parties focused on the pay-off that will matter to them. What will it mean to Meeee! ;-)
- Staff: Find your work Easily & Quickly and turn it into what you have to produce. Make you look good. Make you better at their job than they are!
- Attorneys: basically the same thing: better access to and understanding of your documents to help you turn out a finer work-product. The ‘real’ “Business Intelligence”.
- Administrators: you’re the one who said “yes”, this is what you want, and you’re the one who supervised and made sure it happened.
- Owners/Partners: “We’re getting better at what we do, and we’re better than “them”.
- All: It needs to work for as many of us as possible! The Goal is for us to think more along the same “lines” automatically, to make it easier for us to communicate & work with more (appropriate) joint assumptions, transparently; get better at “reading each other’s minds”.
E. Yes, It is “All About You”:
- We’re all “different”: what kind of law firm are you? What information/Documents do you manage? How do you produce better& more work product?
- What’s your technology “level” like? Good stable infrastructure? Good, stable, fast workstations?
- Everyone “on the same page” means: Are we thinking the same thoughts? Are we working "on the same page"? Are we all really in it “Together”?
- Manage your documents better, Find and Know what you have, turn it into what you need, Have Fun!, and be the best you can be (hopefully better than the “other guys”.!
- PDF’s? Track changes? Metadata “clean”? Versions?Do you use any of these? Which ones? What do you need?
- “Corporate Governance” & “Knowledge Management”: