This article appeared in the March Orange Rag.
After the first exhaustive side-by-side evaluation of iManage Work 10 in the cloud and NetDocuments, Clifford Chance has selected iManage, we can reveal, following what CIO Paul Greenwood is at pains to stress was such a close-run selection process that it had to be extended.
The process, which began around 18 months ago, saw the magic circle firm led by Greenwood evaluate four options: upgrading its current SharePoint document management system (DMS); a Netcompany application built on SharePoint; iManage Cloud; and NetDocuments.
Greenwood told us: “We were only looking at the cloud with the option of on premises library an essential feature.”
The due diligence was led by a project team that included a wide variety of people from across the business, and which has been praised within the firm for its extensive efforts. According to Greenwood the team worked with 300 lawyers across the firm to ensure a detailed assessment of what ultimately came down to an iManage versus NetDocuments contest. That input was then passed to a business advisory group to assess, verify and give an overall view to the project board, which was chaired by structured finance partner Jessica Littlewood and included four other partners, plus Greenwood, two members of the IT team, and the head of procurement, Nancy Apcar.
Greenwood said: “The business advisory group’s view was that both systems were good. One of the points I’d like to make is that this is the first time in decades that law firms have a really good choice – we have two excellent vendors and systems and they are both viable options, and that’s almost the first time we’ve had that. It’s great to have choice.”
The final decision was made by the project board and Greenwood said: “We really did say ‘Well, this is not a bad position to be in, but we have a positive decision to make’. We went through a lot of different factors, including the overall vision and strategy; the detailed user feedback in terms of the user interface and the usability; a detailed evaluation of the merits of the different security; performance; implementation; and obviously the commercials. Both won in some categories but iManage won in slightly more categories. In fact, we had to extend the process because it was so close.”
The project board’s decision then had to be signed off by the international firm’s executive leadership board and Greenwood said: “They obviously wanted to understand the process was correct and that the project board was properly constituted and were happy to accept those recommendations.”
While NetDocuments is known for its incredible encryption, it is interesting to note that iManage came out on top for security. Greenwood said: “You can’t fail to be impressed by [NetDocuments’ CTO Alvin Tedjamulia’s] vision and what he’s done in shaping the conversation. But what we liked about iManage was the maturity of the basic operation such as how much effort they have put into their Belfast centre; the security model of the new architecture; and security policy manager (SPM).” The iManage Belfast office was launched in 2016 to focus on how to provide professional services firms with the highest level of governance and security.
While Clifford Chance has yet to make a final decision on SPM, Greenwood said the team is impressed by the fact that, if a document is blocked by ethical walls, you can still see that it’s there and take steps to access it.
Interestingly, the need for a hybrid solution was not a big deciding factor as between the two main systems, and Greenwood said: “Both offer the ability to have on premises libraries: just look at what Orrick has done with NetDocuments. They approach it in slightly different ways so there are pros and cons. The beauty of iManage’s storage and processing is that it’s on premises. So, in a given jurisdiction if you need to guarantee that a document never leaves that jurisdiction, you can guarantee it. The downside is that it is a separate library and you have to switch to that library. With NetDocuments, the beauty is that wherever you are it’s one library, but the downside is that it’s in a single location.
But whereas the NetDocuments versus newer iManage Cloud offering would, until recently, likely have left users far preferring NetDocument’s interface, Greenwood said: “The lawyers really liked the iManage interface; they have managed to get the equivalent UI in the cloud as they have on premises, they have done a lot of work.” He added: “Going back to the point about it being great to have a good choice, the amount that both vendors have done in the past two years is phenomenal and that is down to healthy competition, it’s really impressive on both sides.”
Clifford Chance will use the RAVN search engine but has not yet taken any final decision on using its extraction technology.
The 6,000 global user firm is the largest law firm to move to a cloud-based DMS, although Dentons has secured iManage Cloud licenses. Greenwood told us: “We had a lot of conversations with our project board about the cloud and they met with each vendor. We went through the technology generally and the security. On everyone’s mind is that you’re making this decision for the next 10 years: do we really think we’ll be running an on premises document management system in 10 years? No-one thought we would be and, if we were, it wouldn’t be a good position to be in particularly when it comes to collaboration with clients and innovation.”
Clifford Chance, which was Microsoft’s test case for a legal DMS, is one of the last of the original big law firms to move away from a SharePoint DMS and Greenwood told us: “It was an option to upgrade and would have been cheaper and given people less change: quite a few people asked why we need to change and, if we did change, we wanted to be sure it was worth it. The biggest reason for moving was being able to see email and documents in the same place. In SharePoint you need separate email filing. Our lawyers didn’t want that. There’s also a number of different ways of accessing iManage: through a traditional web browser; through Outlook or through a folder on your laptop.”