Paperless or Less Paper? by Leonard Johnson
Consider how technology has really made us more efficient over time. In 1986 I went to Europe and managed the european operation of a computer company. I remember around 1987 we got a fax machineâ€¦.wowâ€¦.it changed our lives. Then about 1992 we got emailâ€¦. What a savings in time instead of printing and faxing, we simply typed and sentâ€¦ I worked at WordPerfect and Novell with Groupwise in its early stages and now we all recognize how email has truly changed the way we do business and how we communicate. Its drastically helped us reduce paperâ€¦. (now of course I hear how many attorneys tell their secretaries to print their inbox for themâ€¦.) Isnâ€™t it sad to run across this item on the ABA's Site-Tation that states: " According to the 2006 Legal Technology Survey Report, 61% of attorneys save email related to a case or client matter by printing out a hard copy." Actually, it's probably a good thing that we didn't find the percentage of lawyers who later scan those printouts of emails as TIFFs to reconvert them to digital form. This isn't even a step toward a paperless office - it's a move toward a "papermore" office. OLD WAYS DIE HARD! By the way, one of the major lessons from the Katrina and Rita disasters was the vulnerability of paper records in disasters. The fetish for paper runs against technology and business trends. It places law firms and their clients at an unnecessary risk. Paper is not the most efficient mode of communication and it is no longer the most secure method of retaining informationâ€"but you CANNOT protect paper. BUT it sure a lot easier to READ!! Right?
NetDocuments Moving Ahead
One of the key benefits of the SaaS model is that it allows better, more frequent, stable, and comprehensive updates to the software being served up to all customers at the same time. This has certainly been the case with NetDocuments. As you hopefully are aware, the NetDocuments Service consists of the following four fully integrated services: 1) Document Management, 2) Email Management, 3) Extranets, and 4) Digital Records Management. The Service continues to be aggressively updated at a pace of 9 releases a year. Our largest enhancement ever, the implementation of FAST as our primary search engine, is scheduled to be released later this summer when we run FAST in "parallel" with our existing search engine. The FAST search engine will support relevency ranking, phrase and proximity searching, snippets, and later this year lemmatization, lingustics, entity extraction, and topic based searching. FAST will be the base search engine for all four NetDocuments services.
SaaS-based Development Platforms â€“ Is there any market value?
Salesforce.com has AppExchange, NetSuite has Suiteflex and WebEx has WebExConnect. I recall reading something recently that referred to this trend as SaaS 2.0, where SaaS vendors extend their Software-as-a-Service applications to third-party software vendors and customerâ€™s in-house developers, proving that customization is possible with hosted apps. Is it really much different than the good oleâ€™ days when Novell extended their network with NLMs to encourage vendors to write applications to NetWare which helped Novell solidify their market positioning? I recall working at Novell during a turning point for the company when Microsoft NT was threatening that market and Novell walked away from that position despite the resistance of its own sales force. And do you all remember the hot trend in the mid-nineties of â€œGroupWareâ€ applications lead by Lotus Notes with Novell GroupWise getting into the mix? It was all about bundling a suite of apps into a common UI, and then allowing third-parties to integrate with it. It grabbed market attention at the time, but did they succeed? Document management was in many ways considered a middleware app where many vendors wrote integrations to it as well. We had many vendors in those days write to our SoftSolutions application. Did these groupware applications and document management integrations provide true customer value and are we simply now experiencing a maturity in the SaaS world as it follows the same evolution? After all, SaaS is proving that its becoming the future in software? Where is it heading and is there truly customer value or simply a market ploy? Itâ€™s very interesting watching Salesforce.com and NetSuite making attempts to do the same. I have to admit that I quickly became curious with the Salesforce.comâ€™s strategy and their commitment to itâ€™s third-party vendor â€œchannelâ€ as they have aggressively recruited partners to their AppExchange program. We jumped on the bandwagon and have enjoyed relative success as we offered â€œsolutionsâ€ to our joint customers. Salesforce.com has been building such a large partner program but then at the same time is clearly trying to take over the world by extending their own functionality, which in the end creates a channel partner conflict. An example of this is their announcement this week regarding the purchase of a small document management start up named Koral, despite enthusiastically partnering with NetDocuments and other document management services as listed on their App Exchange program. As the late Ray Noorda coined the word â€œco-opetition,â€ is this the posture that companies such as NetDocuments have to take to work with Salesforce.com as its loyal partners and now perhaps competitors? After all Salesforce.com has helped solidify and draw attention to the SaaS market. But do these decisions truly weaken their partner program and relationships with the market? Do they care? What should be the keys to a successful development platform that allows third-party vendors and more importantly, our joint customers, to truly leverage and take advantage of the virtures of SaaS? What are your thoughts? During the coming days I will share our NetDocuments perspective regarding a document services development platform and how our strategy fits into this SaaS 2.0 trend.