Industry case study from DocAuto: Making space

This blog post was also featured as an industry case study piece in the July 2016 issue of Briefing. To read the issue in full, download Briefing

Data retention is one of many management decisions with the potential to get informationsaturated business such as law firms into a bit of a bind.

Quite aside from the relevant regulation governing storage, there’s a need – which the IT department inevitably tries to meet – to make the details of an ever-growing mass of past experience as easy to surface as possible.

However, there’s a tension between that goal and the no less tricky matter of maintaining operational efficiency to meet growing competition.

Add to that the evidence that firms find it difficult to agree on a single policy to bridge all of their practices at the best of times – and it may well be time to do something decisive about how they’re managing data for the long term.

Archive all areas

“Our practice groups are particularly diverse,” says Craig Good, global applications manager at Withers. “A family group could typically have a decade-long content-retention policy, whereas in real estate it might be much shorter.

“That meant our only database was just growing and growing all the time. We realised we’d need to do something to maintain the system’s performance.”

The answer, he says, was simply a new system of archiving. “We literally moved anything that was marked ‘closed’ in our practice management system into a separate archived database – still completely read/write – to maintain document numbers at healthy levels.”

But the fact the solution was quite this straightforward – belying, perhaps, its strategic significance – is down to DocAuto’s WorkSpace Manager, which automates the matter-centric environment using iManage Work (managing documents and emails within a single engagement file for optimum project updating and collaboration). The firm introduced this product to its fee earners several years earlier. Archiving is just the latest example of a gradual evolution in matter-centric flexibility, Good says.

Workspace generation was already underway using another tool when WorkSpace Manager arrived – but the firm wanted to be able to do more than “publish shortcuts,” he explains.

“We’d previously offered people the opportunity to decide their own workspace structure, from templates and folders to the filing protocol. Over time, however, we realised that what we had in place as a result was too elaborate. The business groups themselves just didn’t like working with them.”

With negative user response always an especially worrying sign, Withers identified a need to completely restructure information management, he says.

“There was a lot of deleting and renaming of folders, moving documents between them and creating new search folders – and in particular we needed to add a filter to some document elements to increase accuracy.”

Overall, he estimates, there were around 20 templates to restructure and refill. As with the subsequent archiving, practice groups also had slightly different requirements of the processes depending on their sector focus.

“We were still quite new to matter-centricity when we implemented it – but our strategic archiving demonstrates that this just continues to add value.

“I’m confident this is one of the most clearly beneficial investments the business has made, and I can’t see a competitor that matches it. It’s one of the single biggest things we’ve ever done to make matters more efficient.”  

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