My prior posts on outsourcing focused on cost. But not all outsourcing is driven only by cost – functionality can be the key factor. Yesterday I had occasion to be in touch with Curt Meltzer, CIO of Dorsey & Whitney, which reminded me that his firm is in the process of outsourcing their document management software. Instead of installing Hummingbird DM (aka PC DOCS) or iManage, D&W has chosen NetDocuments, a hosted DMS.

I’ve heard Curt speak twice about the firm’s decision. While I suspect they considered cost, the decision was driven by functionality. Three factors stand out in my mind. First, NetDocuments offers a single repository for the entire firm, which means lawyers only need to search a single database for documents. This facilitates lawyers working together across offices and practices. In contrast, most large law firms I know have set up their DMS as multiple “libraries” or “databases,” each covering an office or a practice. This makes it relatively difficult for lawyers to find documents outside their office or practice.

Second, setting up client access to documents with a single repository and a hosted solution is easier than with the traditional, on-site solution.

And third, with NetDocuments business continuity is assured. The company has two separate facilities, one of which is built inside a mountain and both of which are operated with extreme security and back-up measures.

The decision to outsource is not simple, of course. D&W had to re-engineer its network and upgrade it to assure that each office has high-speed and redundant access to the Internet so that documents are always available. Also, the firm had to work hard to integrate NetDocuments into the various desktop applications (e.g., Word and Excel).

I think this decision illustrates that it is possible – even with seemingly basic elements of tech infrastructure – to think creatively and gain potential strategic and practice advantages.