Perspectives on document management

Commentary by Steffen Schaar, Member of the Management Board of The Quality Group GmbH, published in Legal Technology Journal/2017_2

Steffen Schaar, member of the management board of The Quality Group GmbH, is a graduate computer scientist and an expert in the field of data management. When it comes to document management, he sees the big picture: 

“In the past, we filed information. But that’s simply not enough anymore. Nowadays, we are trying to deal with risks, from the aspects of management, administration and recognising them. To documents, we attach appointments, people, responsibility and risk metrics, metadata, as the computer scientist says. This is data that describes the whole picture. We allow the text of the document to be recognised in full, even down to the smallest letter, so that we only need to enter one word, for example, ‘colour’, and the system spits out 37,000 documents in which ‘colour’ appears.

Tomorrow, that won't be enough. We must be able to establish compliance-safe, rule-consistent behaviour through organisational processes. And document management simply is not enough for this. Documents must also be integrated in a process-orientated and operation-orientated manner. In concrete terms, this would mean, for example, that, in a company, only one and the same NDA template should be available to be accessed at all times.

Today, we have to discuss how to find the document and how to make the risks visible to the auditor at the touch of a button. IT already has very simple tools available to do this. The buzzword Legal-Tech is not a technical solution, but describes the approach of making the concept of digitisation so useful in the everyday processes of corporate lawyers that those processes becomes simpler.

In this context, smart does not mean ‘with just a few clicks’. Smart means intelligent.

Imagine that an employee no longer has the aim of storing and searching for a document. As part of their everyday process, they enter their ‘business app platform', log in, have their personalised tiles (apps) and click, for example, on 'Create/Send NDA'. Behind this, a semi-automatic workflow/process starts, in, for example, seven to eight steps. When you click on the tile, the various tasks are simultaneously passed on to their colleagues, collaboration is set in motion, the document is designed, released and stored. All of this is done automatically by the software. At the end of one year, the process was completed 1,000 times in one company, completed 938 times, and each NDA only took three weeks on average. The efficiency effect is enormous, the operational reliability almost 100 percent. When that happens, the company, especially the corporate lawyers, can rightly say “wow, that's cool and the ‘digital strategy’ is not just a theoretical phrase!”