As we developed MacroView DMF one of our key objectives was to enable solutions on the Microsoft SharePoint platform that were a viable alternative to the big-name ‘traditional’ DM systems, such as iManage FileSite, OpenText eDocs / Hummingbird DM – even Documentum. Over the past 12 months more and more people are telling me that their new MacroView DMF + SharePoint solution is actually better than the traditional DM systems that they had been using previously. This blog post outlines the reasons (in no particular order) they give for saying this.
Web-enabled access to documents and emails
The web-based nature of SharePoint means that the documents and emails that you save and manage by using MacroView DMF are also accessible via the native SharePoint web browser UI. You can also configure an alternate access mapping for the SharePoint web application wherein the documents are stored so that those documents can be accessed securely via HTTPS: when you are away from your regular office location.
Excellent Email Management
From the get-go MacroView DMF was designed to do a good job of managing Outlook emails in SharePoint. Today the Outlook integration and email management capabilities of MacroView DMF are excellent. You get all the features that everyone expects of an email add-on for SharePoint (such as drag and drop to save, automatic capture of email metadata, storing in MSG format so that emails re-open in Outlook with attachments preserved, automatic naming to prevent duplicates, etc). In addition MacroView DMF provides a number of email management features that are ‘best-available’ in the market, including efficient bulk saving of emails in the background, powerful searching based on metadata and / or keywords direct from Outlook, support for very large email stores in SharePoint and soon, predictive filing of both incoming and outgoing emails.
By contrast people tell me that email management in their traditional DM systems feels like something of an afterthought. So much so that they are not surprised when their users do not save many emails.
Removes the Artificial Boundaries between Intranets, Extranets and DM
Typically a traditional DM system handles just the management of documents and emails, and you need something else to handle your Intranets and Extranets. This can be frustrating when you consider that there is quite a lot of document content in Intranets and Extranets – e.g. procedure manuals, precedent documents, emails in a deal room, contracts being collaborated on with external parties, etc.
Increasingly organizations are using SharePoint to implement their Intranets and Extranets. MacroView DMF extends and enhances the document management capabilities of SharePoint so that SharePoint can be used to manage all the documents and emails for an organization, including those documents that are published on Intranets and shared on Extranets. The benefits include fewer systems to learn and maintain and more up-to-date intranet content.
Flexible Profiling – No more Need to use Dummy Client and Matter Codes
Law firms are enthusiastic users of traditional DM systems. Typically when you save a document in a legal DM system you are presented with a profiling dialog that asks for Client and Matter. Too bad if you happen to be saving a document that does not relate to a client matter – you still have to enter something into the Client and Matter fields – such as 999999 / 999999 or Office / Office. Much the same rigidity applies to the remaining fields in the profile – because the profile is common for all documents it tends to be less than optimal for any particular class of documents. The result is that many profile entries are effectively useless.
SharePoint enables DM solutions that have much more flexible profiling. Potentially every document library can have a different profile. In practice, different Practice Groups tend to end up with a profile that reflects their own requirements, with Transactional areas having profiles that are quite different to those in Litigation areas of the Firm. Non-client-facing areas such as HR, Finance and Marketing can now save documents without needing to enter values for Client or Matter at all.
Minimizes Profiling Fatigue
The inherent nature of SharePoint as a tree of containers leads to DM designs that have dedicated nodes for Clients / Projects / Accounts / Transactions, which in turn enables much more use of automatic metadata. For example the document library that is dedicated to a Project can have automatic metadata columns for Client and Project. When combined with the flexible profiling ideas outlined above, this use of automatic metadata really helps to reduce the amount of metadata that a user is prompted for as they save a document.
As you drag and drop to save an email, MacroView DMF can automatically select the Email Content Type and automatically record the attributes of the email into columns within that Email Content Type. The overall result is that you can drag and drop an email to a Project library and not be prompted at all, yet have metadata recorded comprehensively and accurately.
Consistent, Hierarchical, Extensible Taxonomies
This benefit relates to the Managed Metadata capability of SharePoint, which is well supported by MacroView DMF from a user interface perspective. Valid values for a Managed Metadata column are stored in a central Term Store, which means that they are consistent across all document libraries in a Server Farm, and can also be syndicated to other Server Farms so that they are consistent across a global enterprise. A Managed Metadata taxonomy can be hierarchical, which in my experience nicely reflects the way a lot of businesses think about their classificatory data. Furthermore, a Term Store can be made Open, so that suitably authorized users can add additional valid terms as they save documents.
MacroView DMF allows users to type ahead to choose values for a Managed Metadata column – including type-ahead of synonyms (e.g. by entering Email a used can be efficiently prompted to select Correspondence).
This taxonomy capability is a real advantage of MacroView DMF + SharePoint solutions as compared to traditional DM systems.
Familiar, Intuitive Tree View
I used to think that this point only applied to organizations that were still using file shares and Outlook folders to store their documents and emails, rather than a traditional DM system. For such an organization, the way MacroView DMF provides a complete and accurate display of the tree-structure of SharePoint certainly makes moving to a SharePoint-based DM solution feel more familiar than moving to a traditional DM system. MacroView DMF further increases the attractiveness of SharePoint by the way it lets the user search and filter to navigate efficiently around a large SharePoint tree. As a number of MacroView DMF customers have noted, navigating a large Windows Explorer tree was never as easy as navigating a SharePoint tree with MacroView DMF Filter and Search Site Tree commands.
However as I hear from more and more customers with new SharePoint + MacroView DMF solutions I am beginning to realize that the tree structure is actually something that also makes a lot of intuitive sense to users who are coming with traditional DM systems. With their Folder features traditional DM systems have gone some way to providing such a user interface experience. My view is that a well-designed tree structure in SharePoint can actually increase the attractiveness and utility of a SharePoint + MacroView DMF solution for users who are managing documents and emails, even users who have come from a traditional DM system.
‘One-Stop Shop’ for all Project Information – not just documents
This point is based on input that I received from a large professional services firm that was looking to replace their existing traditional DM system with MacroView DMF + SharePoint. Their SharePoint design used a sub-Site for each Project, with a document library in that sub-Site to store the documents and emails for the Project. The reason for that design was that the SharePoint sub-Site allowed them to store data for the Project such as Task Lists, Event Calendars etc, and the front page of the sub-Site could have web parts that provided a convenient display of data extracted in real-time from their ERP system, such as Actual Billings, Target Billings etc.
As they worked in Outlook, clicking on the Project Site in the MacroView tree-view pane caused the front page of that Project site to be displayed in the central pane of Outlook. The user could expand the sub-Site and then click on the document library for the Project to see all the documents and emails that had already been stored for that Project. They could also drag and drop from their InBox to save additional emails and attachments, and right-click on already stored documents to have them sent as links or attachments in a new outgoing email. By using the MacroView pane in Search mode the user could also perform a range of metadata and content searches across the Project or across the whole document store and see formatted previews of search results. Talk about convenient!
In effect the combination of SharePoint and MacroView DMF is enabling a ‘one-stop shop’ for all information relevant to the Project. The Firm saw this as a real advantage of SharePoint over their previous traditional DM system, which was limited to working with just the documents for the project.
Enables Integrated Solutions
As part of implementing their MacroView DMF + SharePoint solution, Mountain States Employers Council (MSEC) designed a metadata capture (profiling) dialog that allowed the user to select the relevant customer by retrieving a customer record data from their CRM system. MSEC commissioned a customization to the MacroView DMF profiling dialog so that the user could click a button and add a new record to the CRM system, in cases where the customer record they wanted did not already exist. With their previous system they would have had to stop the save of the document, go to the CRM system (in the browser), add the record for the new customer, then go back into Outlook or Word and try the save again. Thanks to MacroView + SharePoint, MSEC users could now add a new customer record to the CRM system as part of saving the first document for a new customer.
This is a benefit that we hear mentioned quite often. MacroView DMF extends SharePoint so that it can be the platform for full-function document management. This in turn enables the replacement of purpose-specific DM systems. The versatility of SharePoint means that it can replace a number of other systems – e.g. for Electronic Forms and Workflow processing.
An excellent example of this benefit is AEGIS Insurance Services, where the move to SharePoint + MacroView DMF enabled the retirement of the UNIX platform that they were using to run their previous DM system.
Contact MacroView for more information about MacroView DMF and how it improves visualizing and navigating a SharePoint document store.