December 6 2019

DMS and the basics of Knowledge Management Project

Jose Paulo Graciotti

An organized information – well-indexed and easily found – is the key to improve performance, efficiency and profitability. DMS is the base. Without a good DMS system you are lost!

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Is the history of Document Management System (DMS)interesting? How was the first DMS born?
The concept of Document Management System started with the company SoftSolutions, in Chicago in the year 1984 (Chicago ABA). At that time the document management was carried on by theWord Processing Centersand it was common for departments in the USA to have dozens of people just for typing texts as, an evolution of typewriters. The softwares used were Wang, IBM Displaywrite, and Lanier.
In 1994 SoftSolutions was purchased by WordPerfect, which eventually discontinued that DMS system. This ended up leaving a huge market space: a company called iManage seized the opportunity and launched its own DMS based on the three-tier-architecture (client-matter-folder) . Another curiosity: iManage , which was initially ,in 1998, owned by an Indian-American group joined the Inter-woven (2003), later acquired by Autonomy and this one finally acquired by HP (renaming Products for Worksite and Desk- site). In 2015 iManage was able to acquire the DMS back from HP, and this way it returned to its origin.
In 1997, the original owner of SoftSolutions developed a DMS called NetDocuments that was absolutely ahead of its time, i.e. 100% on a cloud, , which was based on the concept of Electronic Management Documents of theword processing center and used the management database technology.
NetDocuments was inaugurated as Cloud DMS in 1999 and today, after 20 years, still is one of the four major players in the global market for Electronic Document Management (iManage, NetDocuments, OpenText, WorlDox).

How would you describe the Knowledge Management concept? What are its key elements?
At the moment, Knowledge Management (KM) represents a decisive factor for the competitive positioning of offices and – more in general – for surviving in a more and more technological, digital and robotized future. The fundamental piece for the KM implementation process is its “sponsoring”, plus the active involvement of the company’s senior management in the process itself. As any change or innovation involves the changing of behavior and habits of the people, sponsoring will provide the motivation and incentive so that the organization will embrace the process. And, as we are discussing motivation and engagement, the participation of the HR department is highly important: it will serve as multiplier and facilitator of this behavioral change. Obviously, the participation of the company’s productive sector will be necessary so that they can effectively define which data, information and knowledge must be catalogued, indexed and made available; which processes, practices and procedures must be addressed; and which professional knowledge must be explained. The sectors that coordinate and keep registries, libraries, files, norms, manuals and the profiles of each professional also play an important role, as they will be the ones that will have the task of updating and keeping the integrity of all those pieces of information. Last, but not least, the members of the IT department will have the hard task of creating and implementing operational tools so that everything can run smoothly.

The vast majority of our current business processes use DMS. What are its main advantages?
I always repeat the concept clearly stated by author Patrick Di Domenico in his Knowledge Management for Lawyers. According to him, knowledge management is “delivering the right information to the right person and at the right time”!
In other words, KM goes much beyond drafting documents and creating storage areas that some law offices have been using on their Intranets. There are many reasons to use KM, but I will just focus on two strategic examples for a Law Firm.
First example: “management of the information’s life cycle”
The correct identification of the client’s activity field and the type of work performed (type of procedural suite, audit, acquisition, merger, etc.), the person in charge of the generation, the maintenance and timely update of all the documents, new requests by the client, final amounts received and spent, terms effectively fulfilled and relevant documents that are part of the work (final contracts, relevant opinions, legal theses, etc. which are much more important than background drafts). All this information permits a deeper analysis of the matter in question, creating important insight for the future and present time.
Second example: “records management”
All companies have pieces of information contained in traditional records which are usually neglected, but if well organized they may generate some very important statistics in relation to the past of the business, its evolution and the current development. For example:

  1. What is the main field of specialization of the law firm. Currently many law firms are specialized in a variety of new fields such as “life sciences”, telecommunications, (satellites, etc.), security on the internet, compliance, in addition to the traditional ones (tax, litigation, labor, etc).
  2. Where and how the office is using its resources and, most importantly, which is the most most efficient and more profitable field of activity.
  3. What kind of work has accomplished the best results.
To discover and access all this information, in both examples, it is crucially important is to have a good DMS system with an even better search engine inside (preferably with AI algorithms embedded).

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