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Expanding adoption of document management from in-house legal to other corporate departments is a no brainer

(Image credit: Image Credit: Totojang1977 / Shutterstock)

Document and email management is intrinsic to corporate in-house legal departments. It’s no surprise, given the copious volumes of documents these departments generate on a daily basis. The capability to effectively and efficiently store and manage, often highly confidential and sensitive information, is key to legal departments’ productivity and more crucially, the ability to mitigate business risk. 

Therefore, many corporate legal departments demand and deploy best of breed document and email management systems, preferring them over less functional and inferior products, such as Microsoft SharePoint, which in many corporates are the IT chosen, enterprise option for this function.

With an already deployed and proven document and email management system in the legal department, it makes business sense to expand such solutions to other corporate departments – HR Finance, Procurement, and so on.

The in-house legal department, due the nature of the highly censored work that it does, has the most stringent business requirements for document and email management. With legal organisations being a major target of cyber criminals, the security requirements are the greatest. Capabilities such as ethical walls, need-to-know security and internal segregation are imperative to minimising the risk and impact of security breaches. The legal department also has the most need for highly secure internal and external collaboration, including sharing of restricted and confidential documents, within the business and with third parties, such as law firms on their panel and other legal services suppliers.  Add to this the substantial regulatory and compliance related requirements; and the need for lawyers to routinely work remotely and via mobile devices.

The cost rationale

Any solution that meets the extensive needs of the corporate legal department is well worth considering for expansion into other business departments. Cost, of course, is an obvious consideration. With the initial investment already made in a document and email management system for the enterprise’s legal department, the incremental costs of rolling out to a wider set of users across other functional units only pertains to adding more licences for additional PCs/desktops and mobile devices. Especially in comparison to the initial server cost (be that via an on-premises or a cloud solution) incurred for installation in the legal department – the expansion of the solution to other departments can be achieved with relatively less implementation services and resources.

Benefit of enterprise-wide document and email management adoption

With digital transformation on the agenda of most corporates, an enterprise-wide adoption of document and email management facilitates a digitised business environment. This is fundamental to wider data security, smart working, knowledge management as well as the adoption of emerging artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies.

Furthermore, document and email management are a common requirement of business in the widest sense, regardless of function or department. Look at the key requirements of any corporate department, the most common areas include email, document, matter, contract and records management. If you were to plot the functionality of these systems into a Venn diagram, you’ll find that the core functionality represented by the legal document and email management system sits in the common intersection in the middle. 

A document and email management system represents a robust foundation upon which to build and layer other document lifecycle applications to effectively meet the business requirements of the various corporate functions. Take unstructured documents– i.e. those that sit in applications such as network file shares, personal hard drives or third-party collaboration tools such as Dropbox. Because they have little or no meta data attached to them, typically only a small percentage are searchable records. However, by deploying a document and email management system, very easily an OCR (optical character recognition) service can be added so that all records, emails, contracts – pretty much any type of document – can be enriched and indexed to make findable within a single application.  This, by the way, serves as a boon to the ability to maintaining data protection compliance.

Many corporates have significantly invested in content management systems, nevertheless, a large proportion of enterprise data is non-searchable. This may be because the information is still locked within physical paper documents, or that it is in a non-searchable pdf and other similar electronic file format. This makes knowledge management – an area that is often a priority in corporates – a real challenge and even negates the effort and investment made. A major benefit of a structured document and email management approach is that the inherent search capability in the solution is available to all users, including corporate compliance officers, allowing them to easily search across enterprise data. This then also enables re-use and repurposing of information to improve knowledge sharing and enhancing productivity and efficiency of users.

Adoption of document and email management technology is in effect, the mere start to enabling genuine information lifecycle management for all departments – giving each business unit the flexibility to add other point solutions and integrations to meet their own individual needs. For example, instance, a finance department might integrate a digital signature solution for increased efficiency. Or a procurement or real estate department might add a document scanning solution to streamline contract management in the department.

Successful adoption by a global asset management company

This kind of enterprise-wide approach to deploying a single document and email management system has been successfully optimised by a global asset management company. The asset management company initially deployed the solution in the legal, company secretariat and procurement departments, and subsequently rolled it out to the real estate, human resources, tax and distribution teams. All documents and emails in these various departments are stored in specific electronic files or workspaces, providing a single central filing system and full visibility of the data. Access to information in the system is strictly based on a need-to-know basis and individuals’ authorisations. All the documents are indexed and hence the basic search capability is very similar to the keyword search in Google. Additionally, the company as enhanced its search capability with the ability to combine free text with additional rich meta-data searches.  This delivers search results in a more defined context.

Today, many enterprises are grappling with the challenge of managing unstructured data. A best practice document and email management approach can help digitise the data to support improvements in business processes, employee productivity and enterprise efficiency.

Roy Russell, CEO, Ascertus Limited (opens in new tab)

Roy Russell has over 30 years’ experience in consulting, implementing and supporting software technologies within the UK, European and North American legal markets. He is Ascertus’ CEO and founder.