For the better part of 25 years, I have worked with businesses of all shapes and sizes and in particular law firms on their technology and IT challenges. A majority of that time has been devoted to the world of DMS, in particular iManage WorkSite and most recently cloud based NetDocuments. My exposure spans DMS systems design, design of infrastructure, implementation, migration, integration and technical training. To read the first part of this article, click here.
It's now time to develop the initial design of what the new system should look and function like, which you then can take back to the steering group for feedback and input in a workshop-style forum.
This is the first chance users have to see, comment and request changes to what you plan on building for them. This process can take several weeks based on the internal buy-in for the project and how much selling and convincing has to be done internally to get other folks on board. The other factor that influences timing is the complexity of a firm's office structure. Multinational firms with offices in different geographies will not be as willing to provide in-person design workshops as a local firm that has all of its users in one location. Next, it's advisable to go through a hands-on user acceptance testing phase which gives users the chance to actually interact with what they are getting in terms of functionality and design. Let them do power user testing in a demo environment for as long as they need to feel comfortable with the proposed design.
Tip: When designing a system, start out by think about how you will find the content later. Designing the system with a look to the future in mind, helps build a better design.
Next, we recommend taking a subset of the firm's live data from their existing DMS and migrating it over to the new test design. There is always the question of is the data going to the right place, is it properly mapped, and is the security what you want it to be? In this phase, firm users can work with their own documents and put security, workflows and other critical aspects of their DMS to the test. This is a very critical 'peace of mind' exercise and confidence builder for the entire supplier-firm team.
Tip: It is great to test the software/workflow, but don't forget to see what your data looks like when it's moved and don't just pick the easy to migrate content, get some of the chaos migrated to see how it looks as well.
Once you are ready to go-live, begin with a small pilot group, ideally a group of 20-30, that does not have a lot of interactions and collaboration with other teams. That way, if you move them they don't have problems working with users still on the old system. It is typical to migrate all data over the weekend and then give the pilot group access to the live new system on Monday. We then recommend providing trainer-led floor walking assistance and deskside training in addition to any training they have received beforehand.
Tip: Different strokes for different folks. Small and medium firms typically prefer to go-live in one big bang and this does work very well. This is not usually an option for larger firms as it is difficult to move the changed data over a weekend and train all of the users in a short space of time before the cutover.
Tip: DMS upgrades and switch over migrations are a consistently evolving process. As products evolve, it is paramount that you never stop learning and are constantly refining processes in particular as they relate to the design document process. Evolution is based on new functionality, new user interfaces, etc.
We are often asked if there are differences of migrating a cloud-DMS versus traditional on-premise applications. In migrating cloud solutions, there has definitely been a significant change of how we work and interact with clients. Time formerly spent on a system upgrade can now be used to discuss new integrations, workflows or security features. It provides new opportunities to build client relationships and the clients in turn can focus on bigger business challenges that cloud computing can address. Take for example security, which remains a major concern and driver for DMS upgrades and switches, but in a cloud model such as NetDocuments it is so robust and ironclad that it does not have to dominate all discussions.
Tip: Take advantage of time savings gained on cloud-based system builds. Including configuration as part of 'show and tell' gives firm users hands-on ability to see and play with the data. This results in great confidence in the data since they have already seen it and worked with it and ultimately in less time spent on configuration.
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