4 Ways A Document Management System Makes Life Less Frustrating

As a busy legal professional, your documents and emails are your world. So why do so many document and email management systems make finding, accessing, and working with those critical files an exercise in frustration?

Vendors have a golden opportunity here to incorporate AI and other smart features into their offerings to smooth out the user experience, eliminate the frustration, and make it easier for professionals to carry out these key daily tasks.

Frustration area: finding what you need

To begin with, the document management system (DMS) should present you with an easy and intuitive method to access documents, matters, and even clients that you have most recently worked with. That will get you off on the right foot every day.

But what if you need to retrieve a legal brief you edited sometime last month? Do you remember the exact date you worked on it? Of course not — because the human brain doesn’t work like that. Search shouldn’t work like that either.

Intelligence opportunity:

Searching your DMS should be as easy as searching a good Internet shopping site. There should be a simple, yet powerful, search interface with filtering options that let you easily winnow down large result sets — for example, showing you only Microsoft Word documents you’ve edited in the past seven days, or only PDFs that you’ve printed in the past 30 days.

The system should also be smart enough to offer personalized search results based on your past behavior.

Frustration area: previewing large files on-the-go

Have you ever tried to download a 100-page document to your mobile phone over a 4G network? This exercise can be particularly excruciating if there’s only one part of the document that you actually need to reference — and you need to wait for the entire file to download.

Intelligence opportunity:

What if your system knew what you were trying to do and had a smart document preview function? Large documents on mobile devices would download quickly starting at the page or pages you want, so work wouldn’t slow down. When you accessed a previous version of a document, in order to compare it to the current version, it would open to the same page, anticipating that is probably what you need to review. 

Frustration area: understanding “the big picture” with a document

Let’s say you need to quickly understand what’s been happening with a huge merger agreement. How has the document evolved over the past month? Who has changed it or viewed it? In most DMS systems, the best you can hope for is a list of usernames stacked on top of each other, most of them saying something like “jsmith edited the document at 14:27:54” or “vbaker printed the document at 06:32.33.”

Intelligence opportunity:

Humans are visual creatures. A better approach to conveying this information would be to provide a timeline showing a visual history of the document across versions. At a glance, viewers could see peaks and valleys that expose critical points in the document/ matter lifecycle, by user activity (Edit, View, Print), for easy visualization, intuitive understanding, and better decision-making. 

Frustration area: “I’m stuck — what do I do now?”

As the name suggests, the “Help” function of any DMS should be helpful. But more than that, it should be smart.

Intelligence opportunity:

Part of being smart means being contextual: the Help function should provide simple and useful assistance to you when and where you need it, and otherwise stay out of the way. Moreover, it should keep track of what help it has already doled out so that it doesn’t repeat itself and waste your time. After all, you’ve got work to do.

At every stage of professional workflow, there are opportunities for DMS vendors to build in intelligence to provide a less frustrating experience for end users. To learn more about solutions designed for the way modern legal professionals want to work, visit the iManage Work website.

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