Did Microsoft just kill off SharePoint as a Legal DMS ?

Microsoft has just announced a deal with NetDocuments that effectively kills off Microsoft SharePoint as a stand-alone document management system for the legal market. As part of the deal, cloud-based document and email management (DMS) provider NetDocuments announced that it will fully integrate its services with Microsoft cloud technologies, helping to transform law firm and legal department productivity in the cloud.

“Today’s announcement by NetDocuments demonstrates its commitment to using the latest Microsoft technology and delivering solutions to its customers that integrate with the productivity tools they use today,” said Nishan DeSilva, senior director, Technology Solutions & Evangelism, Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft. “By integrating its cloud-based services with Microsoft technologies, NetDocuments customers can now take advantage of the enterprise-grade cloud capabilities and global reach of both Office 365 and Azure.”

“Law firms are now looking for a DMS that can take their firms into the future – one that has direct cloud-to-cloud strategic integration with the Microsoft technologies they use on a daily basis,” Matt Duncan, CEO at NetDocuments stated. “NetDocuments’ integration with Microsoft’s new cloud technologies sets a new standard for infrastructure flexibility and productivity tools in the modern workplace.” Key aspects include:

• Azure – NetDocuments is working with Microsoft to design an Azure hosted version of NetDocuments DMS solution, which will include all existing features and functionality.

• Office 365 – NetDocuments is committed to delivering access to its DMS data through the Office Add-in model, which will allow access to core productivity activities within the tools directly. The NetDocuments email management solution “NetDocuments EM” (formerly “Decisiv Email”) will also be fully integrated with Exchange Online.

• Matter Center for Office 365 – NetDocuments is working with the Matter Center for Office 365 team to integrate additional Office 365 design patterns to provide an end-to-end robust document and email management solution on the Azure cloud platform. Matter Center development, a SharePoint-based collaboration system, will continue for use by Microsoft and will be externally available through select partners.

• ndOffice, a NetDocuments-built legal DMS application that brings the cloud directly to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook, will become more broadly and deeply integrated with Microsoft technologies by leveraging the API capabilities of Office 365 and NetDocuments. Supported capabilities include: device synchronization, mobile apps, concurrent multi-user editing, mobile security, OneDrive for Business and NetDocuments content exchange, among others.

The FAQs to the deal spell out that NetDocuments will provide the DMS element in the relationship and that Microsoft Matter Center is “Not intended to be a DMS” and goes on to add that a SharePoint collaboration service is available from third-party providers Handshake Software and Epona.

COMMENT: So, yet another twist in Microsoft’s ongoing flirtation with the legal vertical – one moment enthusiasm, the next backing away and leaving it to partners. The announcement also confirms what all but the thirstiest KoolAid drinkers have long suspected, namely that SharePoint by itself is not enough to create a legal DMS. The implications of this announcement are that as far as Microsoft is concerned, if you want DMS in the Cloud, go with NetDocuments as you will now also benefit from an integration with all Microsoft’s other cloudy initiatives, including Office 365. But, otherwise, the SharePoint pipe dream is over and, like Monty Python’s parrot, the SharePoint DMS is no more, it’s shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!

The big winner in this announcement is clearly NetDocuments while the big loser is Epona, who’ve been long promoting their DMSforLegal product as a viable SharePoint DMS for legal but have now had the rugged pulled out from under them by Microsoft. But what about the DMS industry market leader iManage Inc?

Their attitude can probably best be summed up as “Meh!” They already have law firms running iManage Work (previously WorkSite) running in a hosted environment on Azure and using 365. The iManage reseller Ascertus has been offering WorkSite on Azure for two years now and has picked a couple for law firms that have switched from DMS in the cloud with NetDocuments. The attached case study from Shepherd & Wedderburn HERE explains why that firm rejected NetDocuments as a solution.