Having a clear and effective document management strategy is absolutely critical to the success of many organizations, especially those in the law firm and association arenas. While in some cases a file server with strict file naming conventions will do the trick, many organizations will opt for a specific software application that comes with a comprehensive management strategy built into it.
These software solutions are affectionately and aptly referred to as Document Management Systems (DMS). When it comes to choosing which of these software packages is the best fit for your organization, though, the flood of options that are out there is enough to make your head spin.
But there’s good news: after serving the DC law firm and association community for over two decades, we’ve not only managed several DMS selection projects, but we’ve also had the chance to hear quite a bit of feedback from our clients about the software they use, what they like about it, and where it may fall short.
So, to help you start down the right path with your own selection, we’ve taken all of that experience and boiled it down to a few solid recommendations on software packages that we feel may serve your organization well.
Reviews of the best document management systems
Here are four solid document management systems to consider when you’re evaluating the options that are available to you:
1. Worldox. Worldox couldn’t get much easier to use--this software will take over your existing file structure, index it, and you’ll be on your merry way to structured management. This package has a very small technical footprint, in that you can install the software on your file server and run the indexer from a workstation (translation: you don’t need to buy a new server for it to work). This is one of the less expensive options you’ll find on the market, partly for that reason. Our clients that use this software love it, and have no desire to switch any time soon.
2. iManage. Compared to Worldox, iManage requires much more power and equipment to run. At minimum, you’ll need an application server and an indexing server. In some cases you’ll also need a database server. If you want communication features (send and file), you’ll need another server. Licensing and implementation are also costly. If, however, you have the means to get this package up and running, it is very, very good—the architecture is matter-centric, meaning that you can search by client or by matter and all of the relevant documents will be at the ready. Law firms in particular find this configuration to be extremely user-friendly and efficient.
3. NetDocuments. NetDocuments, unlike the other packages listed here, has been a fully cloud-based document management solution from the start. This package was developed in 1999 by the previous owners of Soft Solutions, a “traditional” DMS solution—1999, when the nebulous “cloud” was not something law firms were ready to waltz into. Though it took a while for firms to get comfortable with the idea of placing their documents into someone else’s environment, today the solution is all but exploding (ultimate mobility and freedom from hardware really is quite appealing). A feature of particular note with this solution is the ability to set your documents up in a basic file structure, or in a matter-centric configuration—it’s up to you and what works best for your users.
4. Hummingbird DM (now OpenText eDOCS). This solution is very similar to iManage in its architecture and its functionality. We've seen both law firms and associations use this platform successfully.
While these are certainly not the only good software options out there, they are a good place to start when you’re looking to implement a new solution.
As is always the case with software selection, it is critical that you take the time to figure out exactly what your requirements are, and which solution makes the most sense within that specific context.
Talk to the vendors. Have them run a demonstration. Test the solution out before you commit. Make sure that, if you move forward with a package, the vendor will train your people on how to properly use the system in its full capacity.
And, if it all seems too much for your organization to handle in-house, don’t hesitate to engage an outside consultant to drive the selection process for you; you’ll be looking at an additional investment, but the costs will be much lower than that of trying to force-fit a software package that isn’t right for you.