NetDocuments Inspire 2022 – Document process automation takes centre stage 

NetDocuments’ London user conference on 2 November was an energetic affair attended by corporate clients such as Nomura and Saffery Champness as well as UK law firm clients including Keystone Law, Lewis Silkin, Winckworth Sherwood, Forsters and Hogan Lovells. The latter firm’s global CIO Gareth Ash joined myself and NetDocuments’ CEO Josh Baxter at the end of the day for a fireside chat, with Ash reflecting on the transatlantic firm’s recent transformation and harmonisation efforts as it goes live globally on the NetDocuments platform. 

Chaired by NetDocuments’ new UK-based head of international business, Kerri Dearing – more on Dearing and the growing UK office in a moment – the conference was heavily focused on PatternBuilder, NetDocuments’ new native no-code workflow automation solution that it launched following the acquisition of AfterPattern in November 2021. PatternBuilder works natively with no setup required, and it understands key concepts in NetDocuments like client-matter workspaces, access controls, profile attributes and other characteristics of the system. 

One roadmap teaser from chief product officer Dan Hauck during the conference was that the focus for PatternBuilder next year will be enabling users to connect the apps you build with other apps, to create multi-user workflows, based on logic triggered by events in the NetDocuments platform. 

Since launching PatternBuilder 10 weeks ago, Baxter tells me that NetDocuments has 40 customers in production. Speaking to me ahead of the conference, he said: “It has happened so fast. That’s the value of just being able to turn it on. There’s no deployment time, you can just turn it on and start developing patterns.” My understanding is that in the UK, PatternBuilder customers are in beta.

Patterns or ‘patterns of success’ is the way that NetDocuments talks about repeated activity that can be automated within a workflow to enable firms to operate at greater scale and efficiency. During the conference, Scott Kelly, co-founder of AfterPattern told attendees: “If you do something more than twice a day you should consider automating it. You can design a workflow from engagement to billing, including onboarding, document creation and time capture.” 

The widest adoption of PatternBuilder to date has been among mid-market firms of around 50 to 100 lawyers, but some larger firms are also among the new customer base. Typically, work with PatternBuilder starts with the innovation team, but Baxter told me: “What we see is that within advanced-thinking small to medium size firms it’s high-tech associates that can really get value from the product.” 

One key advantage of PatternBuilder from a security perspective is that documents never need to leave the NetDocuments environment. Baxter said: “If you look at the document lifecycle, there are so many moments where the document gets sent out.” Many of the recent NetDocuments product launches have been to combat that same issue – ChatLink and eSign address Teams provisioning and the need to send a document out for signature. Baxter said: “PatternBuilder is another example of engaging across the document lifecycle and making sure that documents stay inside your governed platform along the document lifecycle.” 

While in the UK it is early days for PatternBuilder, and it will be helpful when there are more use cases to consider, customers appreciate NetDocuments’ efforts to grow its ecosystem. Keystone’s director of technology and innovation, Maurice Tunney, who was on a panel discussing some of the biggest trends and challenges for industry leaders, told me: “There has been a major focus, by NetDocuments, on getting the functionality and security of the DMS right, but the logical next step is to add value – which is where PatternBuilder comes in. From my perspective, they have all this valuable data on their platform, and now they are giving firms the opportunity to make better use of it and create operational efficiencies.”

NetDocuments’ ecosystem now includes 500 ISVs as well as channel partners to help with integration. The two head sponsors of the London Inspire 2022 conference were cloud practice management system Actionstep and Accesspoint, which helps to onboard new NetDocuments customers and also offers a new integration with PMS Partner For Windows (P4W). Actionstep’s regional director for the UK, Oliver Tromp, gave an excellent demonstration of how NetDocuments data is surfaced within Actionstep’s own ecosystem, leveraging NetDocuments’ open API. 

Another interesting session was from Hauck and LexisNexis, talking about Highlights, which makes available LexisNexis legal content and analytics capability from within the NetDocuments platform. Note that Lexis and NetDocuments are looking for UK pilot customers to work with them. 

My fireside chat with Baxter and Ash focused quite heavily on Ash’s ‘playbook for success’. Hogan Lovells has gone through a significant period of global harmonisation of technology, of which its NetDocuments implementation is one of the last bits of the puzzle. Ash is currently in the process of putting together his four-year strategy, which now sees Hogan Lovells enter a digitisation phase, where it will be focussing on the ubiquity of the device; more intuitive and easy-to-use solutions; a unified comms experience to drive seamlessness of communication between different devices; apps to digitise workflow; and more niche technology in the bot space, where Hogan Lovells has been working with UiPath to drive solutions for clients. 

Back to Dearing, and she joined NetDocuments one month ago as VP of international (replacing Guy Phillips), leading a fast-growing UK team. One of the longstanding criticisms of UK NetDocuments clients is that the Utah-headquartered company doesn’t have enough people outside of the States. However, Dearing told me: “We’re fully set on building a strong team and headcount in the UK has doubled. We’re really investing in customer success, support and sales.” Baxter adds: “When we look at our opportunity, we’re growing at a high 20% in annual revenue and our expectation is that EMEA will be one of our fastest growing regions for the foreseeable future.” 

Thanks to its Worldox acquisition, NetDocuments now has around 500 staff which includes additional people it has hired to help move Worldox customers to the NetDocuments cloud. Baxter said: “Straight out of the gate we added 30% to the Worldox headcount. We’ve hired people to help Worldox customers move, and we have more channel partners that can help; more tools to enable those migrations; and more training for end users to make that journey.” 

Overall, the feedback from attendees is that the conference was very well received, and at a time when we are still relishing face-t0-face gatherings, NetDocuments are good people to spend time with. Personally I welcomed the high energy presentations and demos throughout the day, although my one criticism is that I would like to see more female speakers next year. Congratulations on a job well done to the NetDocuments team, who now take the conference to Denver.

caroline@legaltechnology.com

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