Many firms are planning major upgrades to their document management system (DMS) over the next 12-18 months. This move to a modern DMS experience offers firms the opportunity to address one of the previously intractable problems of document management: lawyer adoption. Firms now realize that driving adoption is the key to enhancing security, embracing governance policies, leveraging know-how, informing pricing, driving knowledge management, maximizing the potential of artificial intelligence, and achieving other goals that cut across the practice and business of law.
The criticality of user adoption is leading forward-thinking firms to take the approach of sharing DMS ownership between a technology and a business lead. This move recognizes that a DMS is more than another piece of software – it sits at the core of how lawyers practice. At both Faegre Baker Daniels and Perkins Coie, IT owns the DMS back-end and infrastructure, while practice-facing departments are responsible for adoption, design, and configuration. We interviewed both firms to learn more – but first a bit of background on the changing role of document management.
The New, Central Role of DMS
Firms now recognize the need to achieve high DMS adoption. Wide adoption is required to achieve three key practice and business benefits:
- Security. Realistic cybersecurity recognizes that intruders will breach firewalls (often by phishing) and systems must limit the access of whomever penetrates the perimeter. Perimeter defense remains essential but inside, systems must limit each user’s access to information. That means making sure all documents are stored in the DMS and properly secured, typically to just the team working on the matter. For more on this topic, see Your New Biggest Security Threat – DMS Adoption, ILTA KM blog, Dec. 12, 2017).
- Collaboration. The ability to share documents and find them is the foundation of collaboration in law firms – and with clients. When some lawyers use the DMS and others do not, sharing work in progress becomes a big challenge, especially for lawyers who regularly work on different teams. When all documents are in the DMS and properly secured, then every lawyer knows where to look. And sharing with clients is more systematic and secure.
- Mining Know-How and Leveraging AI. Artificial intelligence (AI) in large firms is on the cusp of making a big difference in how lawyers practice. Starting in 2018, AI integration into the DMS will open new ways to serve clients and understand the firm’s business. Smart search and other built-in intelligence will alert lawyers to relevant documents, clauses, matters, and people. This will make a real difference in daily practice. Pricing teams will be better able to estimate costs. And marketing will be able to find relevant matters faster to tailor pitches. But all this works only if all the documents are in the DMS. With AI embedded in the DMS, the scale of firms will finally have a noticeably positive impact on practice: firms with more accessible and organized data will gain advantages.
These benefits accrue only with high DMS adoption. That’s why leading firms have moved to joint DMS ownership in order to combine great technology with a practice-based focus on design, adoption, and usage.
Shared DMS Ownership at Faegre Baker Daniels
To understand how Faegre Baker Daniels shares DMS ownership, we talked to Katrina Dittmer, Senior Manager of Knowledge Management. We asked her how and why the firm had taken the path of shared DMS ownership.
She explained that after the 2012 merger of Faegre & Benson and Baker & Daniels, lawyers and staff both realized that much more was involved in DMS than just technology. So management, including IT, saw the need for both the business and practice to be represented along with IT when making changes to the DMS.
At that time, Shawn Swearingen, Director of Knowledge Management, suggested the ownership change, with the support and approval of the CIO. Today, KM focuses on DMS design and adoption – how lawyers and staff use the system. This allows IT to focus almost exclusively on the operational aspects of the DMS (up-time, patching, security, tuning, backup, etc.). In contrast, KM owns the roadmap for the DMS, in regular consultation with IT.
Shortly after this change, shared ownership proved its value. Prior to the merger, legacy Baker & Daniels had not mandated the use of DMS workspaces and lawyers within and across both firms used the DMS in different ways. To bring uniformity to the merged firm, KM created a “workspace warrior” campaign to design a uniform approach and adopt proper workspace usage. And that campaign succeeded.
The KM team not only works closely with the practices, but has analyzed DMS usage data to shape how the workspaces will be designed. KM, with its close and regular connection to the practice, is able to present that message to lawyers in a way that they will understand, hear, and accept it. Data also informs day-to-day decisions: KM regularly analyzes help logs to find common issues and questions, then either provides coaching or improves the user interface to address an underlying issue.
We asked Katrina if there had been any push back to shared ownership. She reports that, in fact, the DMS system administrators were quite happy not to have to deal with user design / user issues. They can now focus more on the back end and maintenance while KM focuses more on change management.
Our final question was if Katrina has any advice for firms that do not have a dedicated KM function. Her view is that the DMS team in those circumstances needs whomever best represents the voice of users, suggesting that can include the help desk, lawyer and/or IT training, business managers, litigation support, or anyone else on staff that regularly interacts with lawyers.
Shared DMS Ownership at Perkins Coie
At Perkins Coie, we spoke with CIO Rick Howell and Director of Knowledge Management Services Gwyn McAlpine. Rick said that he was very happy to share DMS ownership with KM because he views IT as a service provider for technology. Our KM team is well aligned and integrated within our practices and has the insights necessary to help attorneys succeed, he said.
“To take advantage of AI as it becomes available in the DMS, we need all of our documents in it. We won’t get there if the DMS is prescriptive. It needs to be flexible, easy to use, and agile. Otherwise, what we deploy today, we will be rebuilding tomorrow. Working with our KM and our Governance teams, we can achieve that.” – Rick Howell
With the arrival of iManage Work 10, both Rick and Gwyn are enthused about shared ownership, so that each group can focus more in-depth on the features most relevant to each group. On the one hand, IT can focus on how to best leverage the new backend architecture in Work 10, security models with both Threat and Policy Manager, and other technology aspects. On the other hand, Gwyn’s team can transform how lawyers work, taking advantage of flexible foldering, AI, and persona based design.
We asked how the firm got to the happy marriage of KM and IT for the DMS. Rick, who started as CIO at Perkins Coie in 2016, said it matches how the firm views itself – that we best serve our customers through diverse partnerships, like KM, IT and security, working together toward shared goals. “I can’t imagine doing it any other way because it’s how we have structured our teams and overall efforts,” he said.
Gwyn agreed, citing the close relationship KM has with the practices. She observed about KM that “we are trusted. Lawyers will talk to us. We have credibility to address concerns.”
The importance of that access and understanding was recently highlighted when the firm redesigned its intranet. For that process, KM led many focus groups with lawyers and other users. The engagement from those groups pointed the way to new and better ways of working. (Fireman & Company assisted Perkins Coie with the intranet redesign.)
The firm is now applying this collaborative model to other issues, particularly use of cloud services. A governance board comprised of attorneys, risk, information governance, and KM actively engages lawyers and management to make the right decision and decide timing about all issues cloud.
We think Faegre Baker Daniels and Perkins Coie represent the leading edge of a coming wave of firms sharing DMS ownership between IT and KM.
A new, rapidly emerging tech-enabled law practice requires that business owners and IT work more closely together, with each focusing on its strengths. The old model of limited flexibility and infrequent change has been stood on its head. Software today makes customization for practices or personas easy. That flexibility, however, is a benefit only with design informed by how lawyers really work.
Fireman & Company sees this daily across our practices. We regularly work with firms on a new generation of intranets, DMS, enterprise search, and experience management. Working with IT and KM, we help ensure that the voice of lawyers is clear, and that final designs reflect how lawyers actually work. Even if you don’t have a dedicated KM group, you can emulate this shared ownership concept in your firm.
Today, law firms can no longer afford to allow lawyers to operate outside the DMS. The benefits of security, collaboration, and tapping the collective know-how all require very high adoption. Joining KM and IT to deploy new generations of software will be an essential success factor in achieving this.#KnowledgeManagementandSearch
By Tom Baldwin and Ron Friedmann, Partners at Fireman & Company