In the first article in this series, we examined the technical criteria that Dentons used to assess records management software options. Now in Part 2, we’ll take a look at some of the other important assessment questions it asked before ultimately selecting FileTrail.
What is the vendor’s history and reputation?
Large technology providers with diverse software portfolios try to wow potential customers with irrelevant company and software statistics. However, annual revenues and total employees don’t necessarily translate into whether they really “get” information governance. Nor do they prove that the company creates software that’s easy-to-use or that it meets process support and IG automation needs. Keep in mind:
- Very large and complex IT companies don’t necessarily deliver governance know-how or a best-in-class product
- Smaller companies have the ability to hone-in on their specialization, as well as stay nimble and cost efficient thanks to their lower overhead
- Smaller companies are also more often skilled at ‘playing well with others’, including your desired document and business platforms
When Dentons was assessing vendors it asked many questions, including:
- What was the total number of revenue generating clients for each of the past 3 years specifically for their records management solution?
- What is the total number of full-time employees allocated to the records management solution? How many are dedicated to enhancements? What portion of development and support engineers are ‘employees’ versus contractors?
- Does the solution offer ready integration with other governance and managed data platforms? Or are there proprietary design leanings?
Don’t be satisfied with squishy verbal replies to these important decision qualification questions. Ask for written feedback—written responses are always more accurate.
What does the overall deal look like?
Knowing the terms of the deal early in the process can prevent awkward or deal-ending issues surfacing later. A great IT solution with bad commercial terms is a non-starter. It’s unwise to rely on the assurances of sales team members for specific license and use terms, fees and price escalator clauses, and security/confidentiality provisions. Review critical documents before making a decision. A good technology partner will put security provisions, service levels and financial terms on the table right up front.
The bonus about looking at the contract early on is that any terms in the ‘standard agreement’ that are insufficiently complete or disadvantageous can be favorably resolved from a position of strength. The threat of not making the short list of finalist vendors focuses the mind. Plus you get to be a hero! You’ll give your contract administrators and risk managers a head start on their work, and they won’t be put in a last minute position of trying to fix a bad deal.
Does the vendor offer a test drive?
Records services team members and other users will determine the business value of your new system. By taking a test drive before signing a contract, you can estimate how much efficiency you’ll gain.
Here are some important guidelines, which Dentons followed during its test drive phase:
- Move beyond vendor-controlled demos. Make sure users can test-drive a live version of each system, configured with your data.
- Users should be able to sign-in and navigate easily. A well-designed solution needs to be intuitive to use.
- Governance staff should be able to take charge. Changing process workflows, limiting system access and use rights, and generating reports should come easily.
Well-designed records management systems require little-to-no customization and little-to-no training downtime for either the governance services team or users. This is another opportunity for you to become a hero for the entire records services team, secretaries, paralegals and lawyers.
Is the cost of ownership vendor-validated?
Before making a final decision, create a 5-year financial model that captures both the initial and ongoing costs, including annual price increases. Ensure your model takes into account the economic impact business changes your organization may experience over time (such as firm size changes due to mergers and growth), as well as changes in the working model of the firm (e.g., outsourcing).
It’s always prudent to consider negative factors too. Project what would occur if the firm experienced a contraction in revenues or employee numbers. And make sure to project savings if the firm undertook profound changes in how it governs its data, such as shifting from paper to digital records or applied retention policies rigorously.
Check whether the vendor contract terms facilitate fee ‘true downs’, so that benefits received are relative to operating costs of the platform. Also, share the model and supporting details with potential vendors for confirmation. This avoids awkward costs revelations after you’ve recommended a solution to leadership. Once you’ve done all this legwork and finally chosen a solution, you’ll truly be a hero for your finance and other investment approval leadership.
Take stock, and then take action
Do you need a new records management system? Start by taking stock of your firm’s information governance situation. Identify your IG compliance exposure for key client sectors before your clients or regulatory auditors do. Here are some questions to ask:
- Do you have a documented chain of custody for all client-shared information?
- Are outside counsel information governance and retention guidelines captured, communicated to relevant parties, and acted on without exception?
Next, ask why you’re not meeting your IG goals.
- Where are your resource pressure points within your records management services department?
- What are the inbound workloads, and are there opportunities where processes can be automated or re-engineered so that the department can become more efficient?
- Does your existing records management system provide the means to address these business needs?
If you don’t have a records management solution that can get your firm on track, craft a investment business case for acquiring and implementing one that does. Then, select a software vendor based on your unique business case requirements, as well as relevant provider company and platform credentials. Don’t assume you’ll need to add governance services staff to close the gap. Even if your team is stretched at the moment, a new records management system can completely re-engineer and automate their inbound work.
Find out why Dentons selected FileTrail
Thankfully, modern solutions like FileTrail address your needs right out of the box. From Day 1, you know what your investment will be, and what you’ll get right up front. Take a test drive today and learn why law firms around the world are choosing FileTrail to update their new records managment software.