How to Start Your Company ECM Program with Legal Document Management

When last we met, I made the case for dividing the document management (DM) capabilities required by the Legal function into three categories: Baseline, Standard, and Advanced. I also outlined some criteria by which you can evaluate the ones your own organization requires.

But I also mentioned that for some organizations, one of the most pressing enterprise content management (ECM) priorities is getting a handle on document management within the Legal function. So this time around, I discuss how to start your company’s ECM program if you plan to start with legal document management.

In a nutshell, here’s how to do it.

  1. First, even though you may be starting with a small implementation of DM, use a Program Framework as a tool to plan, manage, and implement your DM/ECM initiatives.
  2. The most important Program project to complete first is to create a formalized DM/ECM team to plan, manage, and implement DM/ECM. It should include representatives from IT, Legal, Records Management (RM), and the key business units.
  3. Go through the standard methodology steps of understanding and documenting your current state, defining and documenting your desired target future state, and then developing the roadmap for how you will get from the current state to the future state. There’s a little more to it than I just described, but the methodology is well-trodden ground.
  4. My next recommendation is a best practice that’s unfortunately rarely adopted: Define a standard ECM portfolio with clear “routes” for supplementation and other customization. We typically recommend that companies start by segmenting their usage patterns and portfolio into four basic types: Basic ECM, Standard ECM, Collaborative ECM, and Specialized ECM.
  5. But what if your first application is Legal DM? Begin with an understanding of the ECM usage patterns I indicated immediately above. Then determine what kind of Legal DM-specific capabilities you need. (See my previous post for descriptions of “baseline,” “standard,” and “advanced” Legal DM.) You will start with Standard ECM or Collaborative ECM, and then add the additional DM capabilities you need.
  6. What about records management? Information management – appropriate control of access, security, retention, and disposition – is a set of capabilities that should be applied on a continuum. Electronically stored information (ESI) that has low value, low risk, and low cost should get minimal information management, while ESI that scores higher on those three attributes should get appropriately more information management. Each of the ECM usage patterns and packages described above has appropriate information management and RM capabilities assigned to them.
Rich Medina
Rich Medina
I’m a Principal Consultant and co-founder of Doculabs, and the resident expert in using ECM for information lifecycle management.