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The State of Microsoft’s Matter Center

Keith VallelyQuietly seeing explosive growth in legal (part 1 of 2)

History -  At the end of 2015, with tremendous excitement, Microsoft released to Github all the source code for their ‘highly acclaimed” Matter Center.  The Matter Center was developed by Microsoft Legal Department for the sole purpose of providing an easy to use mechanism to turn Office365 and SharePoint online into a world class legal document management system. During 2014 and 2015, Microsoft had shown the Matter Center off at various legal technology venues to great fanfare, leading to much anticipation for its release and support to the legal community.  

By mid-2016, some of the guiding lights in the legal vertical in both the press and in the legal consultant diaspora proclaimed “the Matter Center is dead”.  Some even said using Office365/SharePoint Online as a DMS platform was now settled.  It was a failed concept.  

2019 – Fast forward to Q1 2019.  In just one vendors case, there are now approaching 500 full installations in full production use of the Matter Center in several verticals including Corporate Legal, Law Firms and Business Enterprises.  And this is just with one vendor. Several vendors have also been utilizing the github release of the Matter Center. It is believed there may be as many as 800 in production Matter Center environments and that number is growing.  The Matter Center is another example of the genius of Microsoft.  

Matter Center

When the Matter Center was released, 12 modules and 90,000 lines of code, it was designed to deploy “one kind/type of DMS on SharePoint”.  It was not as the Press and Consultants of 2015 had seemed to want:  A software product like Word, PowerPoint and Excel.  It is and was a framework software package where developers could take modules and deploy based on Enterprise/Legal (or non-legal) requirements and turn Office365 into a content management document management AND e-mail management platform.  It was a smashing success.  The Matter Center is alive and thriving, deployed as a fully

customizable web part that can be configured as a customized starting point for creating a Matter/Project Centric Document/Content Management System on SharePoint.  The original Matter Center has seen code changes by the vendors who deploy their versions of the Matter Center, such as Epona whose version does NOT require Azure to be deployed.  

What does a fully customizable Document Management System utilizing vendor developed Matter Centers look like?  It really can look any way that you want it too.  The Matter Center makes a unified systemic SharePoint matter/project centric system simple to operate.

Matter Center

It provides an easy to use, Matter/Project/WorkSpace creation interface.  It makes it so an enduser (when not fully automated by being attached to a Financial Practice or Matter Management system) can easily create a Matter/Project/WorkSpace site.  Assuming a firm chooses Office365 as the core platform, every Matter/Project site will also get a OneDrive for Business for offline access, Workflow, Calendar, Tasks, or a Planner, Document ID’s, Version Control, Collaboration capabilities and much more.  Is that all, is there more?

Matter CenterWell, that depends on the design architecture which varies from Business to Business, and Firm to Firm.  If your enterprises wants to use Microsoft Office365 Groups and Teams, each Matter/Project will get the ability to have a Team, and an Email Box.  If your enterprise has different constraints and security concerns, then straight SharePoint without O365 Groups or Teams can also be chosen.  Want an Extranet whenever a Project or Matter is provisioned?  No problem. Matter/Project Sites can also be created that provide BI information, and third-party data access on the Matter/Project landing pages.  The holy grail of fully customized Document / Content management that is fully integrated onto a single platform that also includes the entire global suite of capabilities that Microsoft provides on Office365 is now here, and it is best created using the Matter Center process.  What does this mean?  It means that by pressing a button, a Matter Center Project/Matter can have Records Management Activated, or Litigation Hold turned on, at no additional cost.  That’s right.  No additional cost, because you are using Microsoft Office365.

Are there other elements of the Matter Center that can provide value for the Firms, Businesses, or Corporate Legal Departments that someone contemplating leaving behind the legacy systems should know about?  The Matter Center by Epona (as an example) combines everything you have read here, with reporting capabilities, matter based security settings, and more.  Creating a Matter using the Matter Center (or a Project or Workspace) can be the interface where data that can be used for reporting about the matters themselves can be created.  Remember, the Matter Center is now fully customizable by technology partners so creating Matters/Projects as well as creating Clients/Categories is a matter of asking “what kind of information do you want to capture” and then determining which of that data is to be used for Matter/Project creation (as metadata) and which is to be used for reporting. Below is an example of how one Firm was able to capture 18 data elements (for reporting) and 4 matter metadata fields.   

- Part 2 of this guest post will be published on Tuesday, May 14th -

Keith has worked in the legal technology/software industry since 2003. Before joining Epona USA in 2011, Keith was the Vice President of sales for GDSI (an iEnvision Company) and DocAuto, Inc.  Initially a technical sales professional, Vallely has expanded his expertise to include deep SharePoint and Office365 experience (translatable to the non-IT professional) including DMS design, Document Management Systems, and SharePoint Training knowledge.   Vallely holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Chicago.

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