Guest post: The future of document comparison – the age of embedding begins

The legal desktop is the most crowded its ever been with innovation hindered by the time needed to manage that congestion. In this guest post from Workshare’s chief revenue officer Nick Thomson (pictured), he argues the onus is now on vendors to work together to tackle legal process challenges from beginning to end, and he wants to hear from you.
The technical irony
Without a doubt the legal desktop is one of the most congested I’ve ever experienced. A mixture of point solutions designed and deployed over a 20-year period, all vying for airtime within the Microsoft applications, slowing them down and occasionally tripping them up.
Technology is supposed to be how we become more efficient. However, the highly complex maze of applications, add-ins and technologies can be a headache for IT. It’s also a cognitive nightmare for end users and results in inefficiency in modern legal practice, where simple activities are turned over to document processing teams or administrators to sort out using different applications.
Theory of constraint practitioners would have a field day with the inefficiencies and bottlenecks, as huge amounts of time can be wasted as files are pushed, pulled, saved and opened via a myriad of integrations, with each application or user taking time to line up and perform the action required.
This approach might have been fit for purpose when there were only a small number of core applications, but in modern legal practice, tools have evolved to be more different than similar and this has resulted in a congested desktop with a huge volume of applications needing attention.
Innovation hamstrung by noise
Congestion on the traditional desktop hinders innovation, as valuable time and resource have to be invested in maintaining it rather than thinking about improving it. Refresh cycles take longer as IT deal with multiple vendors, aligning deployment plans with product roadmaps and running important test plans to ensure the unique configuration of applications and integrations works prior to deploying the builds.
I can imagine the frustration for IT teams, keen to support modernizing the firm, but bogged down with stitching IT together. It’s frustrating for end users too who just want to make use of modern tools to facilitate the service they want to provide.
Something has to change
With the pace of innovation accelerating and the barriers to building and deploying software getting lower, there is only going to be more technology to work with in the future.
While new technology focuses on cloud applications, which offer simplified deployment models, the sheer volume of solutions will still result in frustrations for IT and end users who have to switch between applications to get the job done.
Vendors need to do more
Using a platform designed for each legal discipline, containing a single user experience, that has best in class features is the nirvana. An uber jack-of-all-trades solution isn’t the answer though.
Instead, a solution designed specifically for the end-to-end needs of an individual practice area is where the rubber will meet the road – time savings will be gained and adoption rates rapid.
Realistically for one provider to give all the answers is unlikely, so it’s on us as vendors not to be precious and to come together and commit to tackling legal process challenges from beginning to end, instead of myopically looking at our piece of the pie.
A great example of this is the partnership between HighQ, RAVN and Neotlogic to provide insight into the risk associated with expiring lease agreements. Three best in class providers working together to deliver tangible value and benefit for a specific legal practice.
The cognitive load shouldn’t be on the client to work out which platforms to bring together or how – it’s on us as vendors to commit to solving these meaty problems in an elegant and maintainable way.
Our Mission – Embedding is more than integrating
At Workshare, we recognize we’re one of those applications that has traditionally congested the desktop. Working with end users, looking at ours and our competitors’ tools, we’ve seen how they consider taking two documents to a standalone comparison tool dated and frustrating. It leads to too many clicks, load time delays and context switching. While for IT, it represents yet another application that needs to be managed.
That said, Comparison is a hugely valuable service in all practice areas, provided it’s easily accessible in the flow of operations.
We’ve taken the view that Comparison should be embedded inside the core applications that solve end-to-end use cases for fee-earner, rather than being a standalone application.
We’ve broken down the Comparison capability into a series of robust services and java script libraries that can be easily embedded in a platform, rather than simply integrated. This is done with minimal effort from the technology provider, thereby shielding the user from switching application, or loading delays, while also ensuring IT has fewer applications to manage directly on the desktop.
Commercially we’ve made it easier too
To get over one of the other traditional hurdles that prevents technical collaboration, we’ve altered our commercial model to make it a no-brainer for technology vendors to embed our solution inside their application. We’ve removed the need for any form of OEM agreement by allowing them to embed our technology for free, should the desktop or user already be licensed with Workshare.
For cases where the end users or desktops are not currently licensed, they can enable the full experience for 3 months without any additional charge.
So far, we’ve built our application seamlessly inside Outlook, Office 2016 / 365, iManage & NetDocuments. Behind the scenes, we’re working on a bunch more and we’ll be announcing those over the Summer as we extend the solution to other leading technology platforms.
At this point I’d love to hear from other vendors that would be interested in working with us to help, or if you’d simply just like to see the technology in action feel free to drop me a note –