How confident are you that you really know what a document management system (DMS) can do and the additional opportunities that it can provide to the firm? I find people broadly know what it is, but their understanding only goes so far. Yes, a DMS allows for electronic filing of documents and emails into a virtual filing cabinet from where they can be easily searched and retrieved. But that’s ‘DMS 101’. What’s really powerful are the other things that become possible when paper is eliminated and the physical is transformed into the digital. This short article is about what can be achieved when you start to realise the opportunities beyond DMS 101.
To start with, a DMS enables collaboration. This means that files and folders can efficiently be shared internally between colleagues and peers, and externally with clients in a secure and compliant manner. Joint working can take place in real time, or individuals can work on files at their own pace. In addition, each individual with access can mark-up, comment or annotate shared documents that are layered as films of information, so the latest version is always on top, and the system maintains version control at all times.
What’s the value of collaborating this way? It lets colleagues work seamlessly together, even when they’re apart. It tends to eliminate a lot of ‘back and forth’ emails and speeds up how quickly contracts and agreements are made and matters resolved.
As well, and aside from the boost to productivity, the firm is able to open its metaphorical doors to each client. The technology improves service deliverability and has a positive impact on the client experience. Clients are no longer left wondering what’s happening to their matter and forced to call for updates. They’re empowered not only to check-in on their matter’s progress, but also to participate in it. Moreover, clients experience transparency around how their work is being handled and delivered, deepening their trust in your firm. And access to your slick system also underlines how technologically savvy and progressive your firm is.
Another extremely important facet of a modern DMS is that it gives you and your clients assurance of an exceptionally high standard of data security. This happens for three reasons. It’s partly because all the data is held in one container, not scattered around, so it’s easier to secure.
In addition, the way that DMSs work - as noted above and especially when people are sharing documents and collaborating within folders - tends to reduce the number of emails flying back and forth, which again reduces the risk of data security breaches.
Most compellingly of all, though, DMS providers are required to institute the highest levels of data security. The system I work with, for instance, has many global professional services and financial services institutions as clients. It provides advanced data encryption, off-site back-ups and compliance certifications as standard. The ongoing investment made in data security is exponentially higher than that which any individual firm, no matter how large, could possibly afford.
This matters because in today’s world it’s hugely useful to firms that their DMS provider takes care of data security. Especially since there’s clear evidence that cybercriminals target law firms because they’re understood to be the weak link in the information security chain. So a DMS takes the pressure and cost of data security provision off the firm’s hands, and puts it into the hands of specialists. The firm can rest easy knowing that its data compliance obligations are being met. In addition, when prospective and existing clients ask how the firm is securing their data, the firm has a cast-iron response that will reassure clients.
Next, very usefully, a DMS is a high traffic system capable of hosting the firm’s ‘matter-centricity’ initiative. This means that as well as hosting documents and related emails for any given matter, the space can also integrate ancillary applications and information like task-lists, timekeeping, project management, financials, and case calendars. In combination this elevates the speed and efficiency with which matters are handled and provides a 360-degree view of the matter at the fingertips of the professionals.
Furthermore, this single matter-centric space can be moved onto a business communications platform like Microsoft Teams or Zoom. This enables anytime, anywhere conversations with your clients in which all the elements - the latest tasks, versions and comments - are immediately to hand. Collaboration is turbo-charged, and this functionality again enhances the client experience and the firm’s reputation.
Finally, as people use your DMS, it concentrates all interactions into a high value zone that generates a rich trove of data about all the activity undertaken. This can then be mined for a host of valuable insights.
For example, to help develop the firm’s tech competency via customised training programs, data is available to highlight what apps are being used by who and to what levels. If you want to know how much time any given client spent in their folders, who’s engaging, and who’s not - you can find it out. Moreover, the beauty of it is that the data accumulates in one place, so nothing has to be hunted down. It’s all there at your fingertips: a growing repository of fantastically useful information.
All this and more is the product of a modern document management system. Yet this is just a taste of the kinds of advantages you can exploit. Plus, it’s adding real value to the firm’s prestige by way of a premium client experience.
Last year we moved the workplace out of the office and into our homes. This year, it’s time to move from an actual to a virtual workspace. Not because we have to - but rather because we can. There are huge opportunities to be realised that go far beyond DMS 101.
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