nd:Elevate 2019: CollabSpace unveiled amid a raft of big announcements

The future of productivity is under the microscope here at ndElevate 2019 in Utah, where NetDocuments yesterday (7 October) formally launched CollabSpaces (which replaces ShareSpaces) to an audience of around 400 attendees, including a large and growing number of partners.

As NetDocuments celebrates its 20th anniversary, big announcements flowed thick and fast on the first day (7 October) including the launch of a new data centre in Germany, bringing the number of jurisdictions that NetDocuments has data centres in to four.

It’s the topic of CollabSpaces, SetBuilder and the launch of ndMail for Office 365 and mobile (which comes in around October) that are grabbing the interest of the delegates at Grand America Hotel here in Salt Lake City, including the new ability to provide access control based on CollabSpaces. That and the launch of quantum entropic encryption, which two CIOs here tell me now ‘future proofs’ the technology.

Kicking off the conference, CEO Josh Baxter told the audience that NetDocuments has grown over the past year by 31% including 400 new customers, bringing the customer base to 2,700+. That includes an expansion into the corporate sector, with regard to which Baxter said: “You can partner with your outside counsel – you will see more focus from us there.”

Corporate clients notably now include one of the five biggest banks in the world as well as pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. Publicly traded agricultural company Corteva Agriscience is swapping out eDocs and Documentum from OpenText for NetDocuments. Speaking to Legal IT Insider in between sessions Baxter said: “One of the new corporate clients selected us and their law firm immediate followed; it’s all about wanting to collaborate.”

“Legal professionals and their clients need to communicate,” said Baxter in his opening remarks at ND Elevate. “NetDocuments is the connective fabric to increase productivity, all the while ensuring that governance and need to know is in place.”

He added: “We believe you want to come on a journey that is more than just about the documents but managing all of your content.

“You’ve known us as a place to manage your documents but it’s way more than that, it’s a place you do work. Let’s get to work.”

If you’ve ever attended a keynote by NetDocuments chief technology officer Alvin Tedjamulia, you’ll know that there is always a theme and ndElevate 2019 is no exception. In keeping with NetDocuments 20th anniversary, the theme this year is platinum – a metal that is “more rare, more pure, higher value, more durable and stable than gold, just like NetDocuments.”

Like Baxter, Tedjamulia was keen to reiterate NetDocuments client base growth – 491 new clients since the last Elevate. “We are the only platform built into Microsoft Office 365 and used within the integration that Microsoft has built,” Tedjamulia said, adding, “We are the only true multi-tenant cloud in production, not just hosted cloud.”

Tedjamulia benchmarked the past year against NetDocuments promises at Elevate 2018. “How did we do?” he asked delegates.

As mentioned above, NetDocuments is now delivering on its promise of a German data centre, adding to those in the UK, US, and Australia. It also formally launched at the conference NDFlexStorePro, meaning that content can be stored where the end user is located, be that a global or a remote data centre, solving the issues of speed for people working in areas with poor internet connection and helping to overcome issues of sovereignty. This will appeal to NetDocuments international firms.

“For the first time in our history we have been able to place and distribute content anywhere and eliminate the distance factor.”

2019 is also the year when NetDocuments switched from laser to quantum physics for its entropic encryption – which has already been implemented in the US and the UK. Clients say it’s a game changer – you can read below the comments of Judi Flournoy, CIO of Kelley Drye & Warren and Gene A’Aversa, director of project management IT at Husch Blackwell.

The release of Workspace Security Manager enables you to more easily build ethical walls and need to know security. Today there is a fair amount of user complexity around setting and administration of these security rules, but using CollabSpaces, users will be able to attach permission to, for example, a project or matter. Speaking to me during one of the breaks yesterday, Jed Cawthorne, newly appointed director of security and governance solutions at NetDocuments, said: “The whole idea is to make it easier to set up access on a workspace basis. We are moving away from document level access control to creating a policy for the workspace.

“This is where CollabSpace comes in, because it is already there as a mechanism for sharing documents. We’re trying to make things much more simple.” It’s anticipated that Workspace Security Manager will be available in Q2 of 2020.

NetDocuments also during the year implemented OCR in collaboration with DocsCorp, making sure that all content is searchable and is stored in NdOffice.

As a general observation, NetDocuments is making progress in leveraging its partner channel and it will be important to communicate and work closely with them where there appears a risk of eroding their margin.

Delving deeper into the new collaboration tools, Dan Hauck, founder of ThreadKM, which was acquired by NetDocuments in 2017, explained that the functionality of NdThread, launched in May of 2018, has been extended to make it easier to take emails into the messaging world, with Office 365 integration coming out next year.

Going into beta is ndTasks, effectively a transaction management platform where you can see all of the things that need to be done in a project and you can populate those with subtasks and deadlines. Continuing NetDocuments key message from this conference, Hauck said: “We’re allowing you to not just store the documents, but plan all the work associated with those documents.”

NetDocuments announced in November that it had acquired SetBuilder, and in May that went into production, allowing users to complete and export binders (integrating with DocsCorp pdfDocs).

CollabSpaces, meanwhile, allow you to move files without having to send them to a third party, which means improved governance and security because the document stays within the NetDocuments platform. In a move that is expected by the clients I spoke to here to eat into the market of existing deal room providers, users can create spaces where they can share documents and Hauck said: “We now have unlimited ability to add documents and create folders: it’s a fantastic way to start sharing documents externally.” The new functionality is available now.

Speaking to me over drinks, Flournoy and D’Aversa said the new collaboration tools are extremely welcome. “Information governance is so much easier to manage within one platform rather than disparate and siloed platforms,” Flournoy said. “We can create one set of rules in one platforms, which makes it easier to enforce.”

Productivity is also expected to increase and D’Aversa said: “This means attorneys will be able to stay in one platform and not have to shift between different platforms,:” adding, “We can store documents of record in one place, which improves the governance.”

With regard to the new quantum encryption, Flournoy said: “Quantum makes a huge difference. They are changing it to make it completely random. It’s in every data centre and will be in Germany when that goes online.”

D’Aversa added: “It gives our clients the comfort that their data is impenetrable, even against a nation state.”