Document management software for professional service firms is a critical tool. It helps professional service firms keep their documents (including emails and attachments) organized. Professional services share the same benefits because when documents are well organized, teams become more productive and clients are better served.
Yet, it’s not an easy job to find the right document management software. There are a lot of companies out there. The different options can make finding the right one overwhelming. And randomly choosing one to try can result in serious problems for the professional service firm.
In this post, we’re going to compare a couple of popular document management software solutions. Before we do, though, we’d like to share some things you should look for when evaluating your options:
- Is it workflow-centric? Most document management system software options are made with multiple industries in mind. So, it may not be workflow-centric. You may need to do a lot of tweaking to get the software to work in way that makes sense to your users. When your document management software is truly workflow-centric, it makes it easier for users to save, search, and work together on specific documents with excellent project execution capabilities.
- Does the software offer the features you need? For example, does it provide collaboration capabilities for your team to track and communicate project progress? Can you create permissions or security based on user? Can you set-up the ability for documents to be checked-in and checked-out? Can documents be indexed and searched? Of course, that’s not a full list of questions about the features you may need, but it’s a good start.
- Consider accessibility. It’s certainly no surprise that professional service firms are looking for cloud-based solutions to improve accessibility. When considering document management software, determine how it will be installed and used. If the software is meant to be installed to an on-premise server, it’s not going to be available to you when you’re not in the office. If the company says that their software is cloud-based, or has a “cloud option,” do your research. It could be that they provide you with a web browser-based log-in that provides limited functionality when you’re accessing it. If you want to access the document management software when you’re away from the office, look for something that can either be hosted and ran from a private cloud or something that is a cloud native (meaning it was made specifically for use on the cloud).
- How are searches performed? Does searching rely on the folders, file names, file body or tags? Does the software have the ability to read the inside of the documents (OCR)? OCR is key when it comes to easily locating what you need through the search process. You can use a name, word, or phrase and OCR will search the inside of documents saved within the software as well as any tags, folder names.
- How hard will it be to move your data? Data migration is an important part of the process, and can make or break your experience. Depending on the document management software you choose, you may be required to move your own data. If you don’t have the ability to do that, you may need to hire a professional to help. Look for a solution that provides data migration as part of its package, from the company that makes the software (rather than farming this function off to a third party).
So now that you know some of the things you should look for when evaluating document management software, let’s look at a couple of commonly used ones: NetDocuments vs. iManage.
NetDocuments is a cloud-based document management system that serves several industries, including healthcare, financial services and law firms. Documents are arranged by workspace. A professional service firm may need to create a workspace for every client or client matter. They may also opt to create a workspace for each lawyer to manage all of that lawyer’s projects. Then, the lawyer would provide access to each person with whom they work. NetDocuments manages documents and email (with an added extension), allows users to work together on documents, allows users to compare previous versions of documents or approve changes, and includes a mobile app.
NetDocuments charges per user and per gigabyte (GB) of storage for each user. Each user is $20 / month, and comes with only 1 GB of storage. More storage (which you’ll undoubtably need) will cost more. Professional service firms must consider their number of users as well as have a good idea of how much space they’ll need to determine the monthly cost.
iManage is a (mostly) on-premise-based document management system allows professional service firms to store, organize, and manage their documents and their emails. It is a trusted document management system by many industries, including the financial industry and the legal industry. Documents are arranged under projects. Every project can hold all of the documents, emails, and data necessary to successfully manage a client matter. iManage integrates with scanners and Microsoft Office. Users can also set up document change alerts, document check-in and check-out, as well as create tags and profiles. Documents are indexed as part of the searching feature. iManage also works well with Dropbox and other third-party storage programs. It also has an app available for Apple users.
However, iManage, depending on the version you need for your professional service firm can be quite expensive especially when compared to other document management software options that have the same features.
iManage does a lot, but it also requires a lot. It requires a lot of money to purchase the software, and it requires a lot of powerful server infrastructure to successfully run.
Benefits of NetDocuments
We like that NetDocuments gives users the ability to access their documents from anywhere. That’s important, especially for professional service firms. It’s also very user-friendly. You can start with using pre-named folders and create sub-folders as needed. It is also easy to sort and save emails, documents, spreadsheets, PDFs, and photographs. When professional service firms purchase the additional extension ndMail, they can save emails and attachments directly into matters. We also really like that NetDocuments allows users to open documents considered checked-out as a “read only” file. This help ensures that everyone stays on the same page when it comes to making changes to documents.
Benefits of iManage
We like that iManage has a great search function that makes it easy for users to find what they need by bringing back relevant documents. iManage also has a significant amount of functions to help improve the editing of documents for users. Users can also edit documents while they are inside of iManage (and you don’t have to overwrite the original document). Tagging and setting security levels (permissions) for documents and data stored is quick and easy. iManage will also ask you questions to make sure that you don’t accidently lose or overwrite important documents.
Choosing the right document management software is crucial. Both NetDocuments and iManage have their strengths and their weaknesses. NetDocuments needs additional extensions to integrate directly into Microsoft Office and Outlook. If your professional service firm is small, you may find that the $20 per user per one gig of storage is ideal. This program also has ShareSpace which can be used to work on documents with another person. It works best if there are fewer than 25 documents and fewer than 25 individuals using ShareSpace. ShareSpace cannot be used or even viewed through the mobile app. We believe that NetDocuments may be ideal for smaller professional service firms, but it’s still important to review all the features to ensure it’s a good fit.
iManage is a nice program, but it is extremely expensive, and often just “too much software” for most small and mid-sized firms. It also needs specific technical requirements or it won’t work. It does have a cloud version as well as an app, but the app is only available for Apple. The program operates very similarly to using Windows Explorer. iManage can be used for large professional service firms even if they have offices scattered across the state, nation, or world. Its strong email functions are extremely beneficial for professional service firms that collaborate over the internet. We believe that while cost may be a significant factor that prohibits some professional service firms from using it, it’s a great program that may be a good option for larger professional service firms or professional service firms with multiple locations. Just keep in mind that the app is only available for Apple devices.
Take a Look at LegalX
Both NetDocuments and iManage are capable platforms. But if you’re looking for modern document management software that was born in the cloud and built for professional collaboration and execution, accessible seamlessly in China, take a look at LegalX.
LegalX provides workflow-centric document and project management, enabling your professional service firm to go paperless, get organized and work anywhere. We are not just a Document Management System, but we extract the best from shared network drive, cloud native interface and top productivity tools such as Asana or Smartsheet. In addition, we are built with detailed audit trail and access control to accommodate professional settings, apart from a novel feature that truly helps you automate highly repetitive processes organised as a workflow bank.
To learn more about the suite of LegalX features, contact us to talk to a LegalX Practice Advisor today.