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SharePoint as a Legal Document Management System (DMS)

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SharePoint as a Legal Document Management System (DMS) The Tipping Point?

Posted on October 11, 2011 by Bill England 1 Comment

Recently, I spent the day at the Microsoft Executive Briefing Center in Manhattan (EBC) with 20 CIOs from large New York law firms as well as a variety of Microsoft field and product experts. Colligo was honored to be invited as a select partner for the SharePoint as a DMS for Legal section of the agenda, and I personally enjoyed the Wave 15 briefings on SharePoint, Windows 8/ consumerization of IT/multi-device strategy, Exchange, FAST, and UC/Lync. These are heady and exciting times at Microsoft with massive investments being made to address a heated and highly competitive marketplace.

Based on Colligo’s experience in the market and the compelling value proposition for replacing a legacy DMS with SharePoint, I expected a more rumpus group of firms looking to leap – but this was not the case. Our dataset is skewed with many smaller firms with no legacy systems in place or legal departments in a supporting/administrative/overhead role where the SharePoint expense containment and cost reduction story plays well. However, in the room today were CIOs from larger firms that were hardened veterans, having gone through the PCDocs and iManage wars with the battle scars to prove it.

These CIOs know their users extremely well and are acutely aware of the billable hours driver and work patterns in their organizations. The consensus around the table was that the CIOs really wanted to be able to adopt SharePoint as a DMS for their legal firms. They “get it” (simplify the stack, reduce cost, increase compliance), but there were a few important concerns that still need to be addressed which bore out in the findings at Clifford Chance and other early movers/dabblers.

In reflecting on the discussions over the course of the day, it was apparent that the firms were looking for Microsoft to provide the total solution as Autonomy/iManage does today, whereas Microsoft provides a horizontal platform and relies on partners to “fill the gaps” and deliver the vertical solutions. Over the years, Steve Ballmer has made this SharePoint strategy abundantly clear time and again. Additionally, the audience wanted Microsoft (and/or the ecosystem) to deliver the solution in advance of their commitment to move – a classic chicken and egg situation.

What definitely resonated with the audience was Exchange 15 and the discussion around the consumerization of IT. This sparked plenty of animated debate and excitement. While I was getting completely jazzed on the potential of Lync (due to a previous life in the telco industry), I didn’t get the impression that these legal firms would be moving quickly.

All in all a great day that was very informative and insightful.

I remain convinced that SharePoint will eventually own the DMS for Legal market given the compelling cost savings, the growing feature and productivity enhancements with each SharePoint release, and the massive investment being made by Microsoft and the ecosystem. But in terms of the Legal market, we are a little further from the tipping point than I originally thought.

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