A migration that matters for NortonRose Australia

DocAuto delivers WorkSite consolidation

Philip Scorgie, Director of Business Information Systems at law firm Norton Rose Australia, goes behind a massive migration to a centralised deployment of Autonomy’s Interwoven WorkSite.

More than 1000 users of Autonomy’s Interwoven WorkSite at NortonRose in Australia are now able to access a centralised database of WorkSite content that is available nationally and internationally through a customised portal that also integrates content from the company’s CRM platform and practice management system.

A document management system is the equivalent of a factory assembly line for law firms, especially major entities such as Norton Rose Australia (previously Deacons Australia) that specialise in providing corporate legal service, where documents effectively represent their transactions.

The process of drafting a complex contract that can run to hundreds of pages may take months of collaborative development, and the document management system is essential to its success.

WorkSite was initially adopted in 1998 by Norton Rose (formerly Deacons), and its use had evolved over more than 10 years to encompass an extraordinary volume of content held in separate databases in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

In 2009, the firm’s IT professionals realised the critical need to combine databases from its multiple locations into a single, centralised system. After a considerable period of trial-and-error, Norton Rose selected the WorkSpace Manager (WSM) product from DocAuto to achieve the desired result.

Of more than 18 million documents held across the country, NortonRose eventually chose to migrate more than 7 million to a centralised Autonomy iManage WorkSite repository that related to current matters, while archiving the rest.

Philip Scorgie, Director of Business Information Systems at Norton Rose Australia, said, “We used Workspace Manager to perform our data migration into the new matter-centric system. This saved weeks of work if we had needed to develop custom migration scripts. We now have full control over our WorkSite system.”

At first, centralisation seemed overwhelming. The firm sought a comprehensive tool to replace a manually run and error-prone migration process. What was needed was a move to become matter-centric – involving a replacement for the existing multiple State-based databases, while preserving features for cross-office collaboration, an overall classification structure, with consistent standards and effective security.
The firm worked with multiple outside resources to achieve a solution. Elaborate scripting tools were developed, but ultimately with less than acceptable results.

“We had quite a large investment in WorkSite as a product and there was no real reason to look at another product, it would have been too disruptive and WorkSite is very strong in the legal market,” said Scorgie.
“When you migrate from one database to another you must merge documents and generate new document numbers using some sort of process, there are a number of ways to do this.

“When you put all the documents in the new database you want to be able to generate the matter-centric folders and the relevant folder structure where to put the documents and who has access to them. There’s a whole bunch of security that needs to come across and that security is quite complex because within a WorkSite database you can have different levels of security on folders and documents, etc.

“The third thing is you need to identify what you need to bring across during that process, so you don’t slow down the process by bringing across unnecessary content. This needed to be determined by our practice management system so it could tell what files are open and which ones are not, so they don’t need to be brought across.

“It might just be a lot of data sitting in a SQL database but it could not be solved just by writing a few scripts to do it. After a few weeks attempting the job ourselves we realised it was going to delay the whole project so we went to DocAuto and their WorkSpace Manager (WSM) tool.

“We took one look at it and realised this does what we wanted to do out of the box.

Norton Rose then turned to DocAuto and its Australia partner, Office Information Australia (OIA). OIA is the regional distributor for Autonomy iManage, as well as for DocAuto.

DocAuto analysed the firm’s current situation and proposed improvements that would be achieved by applying Workspace Manager “out-of-the-box” to meet specific needs. WorkSpace Manager was used to create temporary “holding” WorkSpaces, which could be used to drive the centralisation process in a controlled and phased approach. This was necessary due to Norton Rose’s huge volume of content.

DocAuto applied the concept of “differential ageing” with the temporary WorkSpaces, to achieve bulk copying of content at the desired pace. Thus, content could be moved as modified, over time, to the new databases. This approach presented a controlled, safe and gradual way to migrate from a distributed environment to a centralised single database.

Norton Rose became able to identify and prioritise source, content, and data; migrate it to the centralised destination; and manipulate the metadata on the way. Within two weeks, the firm realised better results than they had achieved with the previous five months’ effort.

The firm reported saving months of time while WorkSpace Manager took only overnight; and also claimed the saving of $50,000 in consulting fees.

Norton Rose had already developed a sophisticated e-mail management system in-house, effectively capturing and filing millions of messages per month by using a simple Wizard in Outlook. This further increased the need to have a robust process for centralisation.

“The content of our WorkSite database has changed dramatically since we have implemented the email management system in the last two years,” said Scorgie.
“In 1998 when we first implemented WorkSite we were adding 50,000 documents a month and 98% of these were Word documents.

“The ratio has switched wildly since we have begun filing emails in the system. Email volumes have exploded, and now we create about 350,000 objects a month and 75% of these are emails.”

NortonRose has developed a layer “dashboard” on their intranet that brings together all data pertaining to a particular matter including contacts from the CRM system, client data from the practice management system and documents and emails from WorkSite.

“Moving to a matter-centric platform means that when lawyers are working on a national file they are able to access all related documents held in the one centralised location, which requires them to be held in the one database,” said Scorgie.

“The matter-centralisation has made it easier to present information via the portal, as it now only needs to go to one central database instead of four.”

“What we are achieving here is the ultimate aim of a completely electronic file, migrating away from the traditional physical version and that is quite a mountain to climb. The move to electronic courts has had a big impact on that. Often courts will want to discover files and when they are physical files or not covered by a matter number then it is very difficult to do that.

“Another major benefit for us of having a comprehensive electronic file it that it allows us to devote resources nationally and internationally to work on that one file, whereas if that’s a physical file it’s only able to be worked on by the staff in one office.

“Now it doesn’t matter where they are located, which means we can now pull in experts from around the world to work on matters where we couldn’t have done that in the past.