Winckworth Sherwood – DMS Selection & Implementation

Project type: DMS Selection & Implementation

During 2015, Winckworth Sherwood (WS) undertook an IT review which identified that while providing sleek integration and automation between various systems, the existing SharePoint Document Management System (DMS) was no longer meeting the needs and expectations of a growing business


Head of IT and Partner, Christel Aguila, outlined the major drivers for change:

  • enhancement to the firm’s disaster recovery / business continuity provision;
  • improvement in the integration with various applications already in use;
  • improvement in collaboration internally and with clients and external Counsel;
  • standardisation of document management practices across all teams and all offices;
  • even greater efficiency through better system functionality;
  • provision of easier and faster searching for the documents and emails;
  • reduction in IT resources (time, licences and infrastructure) needed to maintain the solution which could be
  • redirected at adding value to the business;
  • introduction of advanced security technologies.

WS considers its document management capabilities to be its lifeblood. It was therefore decided to undertake a formal document management system (DMS) selection process which entailed:

  • reviewing of the DMS market to identify the solutions available. In particular, to identify solutions that would reduce the hidden cost of ownership in terms of maintenance, upgrades and support;
  • a review of systems that enable the IT team to focus on the front-facing “Value add” aspects of the solution provision;
  • assessing the viability of DMS solutions which support WS’s “Cloud-First”, infrastructure light strategy;
  • identification of improvements to the service provided to clients by introducing innovative collaboration tools.

Given the importance of the project Baskerville Drummond was engaged to support the WS’s team by providing strategic advice and bringing a rigorous selection methodology. We:

  • undertook an exercise to ratify the WS team’s findings;
  • analysed the benefits and risks of a Cloud vs On-Premise hosting strategy and make recommendations;
  • identified the requirements for a DMS and defined a selection process;
  • organised demonstration agendas around the firm’s requirements and ensuring the feedback from partners & staff was included in the selection process


About Winckworth Sherwood

A full-service law firm with a diverse client base, Winckworth Sherwood prides itself on providing market-leading advice across a broad range of sectors and markets. Delivering a first class service is key to everything we do.

Their clients range from some of the UK’s largest businesses and institutions, housebuilders and developers through to investors, professional partnerships, family offices, not for profit organisations and private individuals – all of which benefit from the flexible, practical approach of their lawyers.

The firm can trace its history back to 1777 and although much has changed in that time there is one constant: our desire to be a dependable, trusted advisor to our clients. We are proud of our ability to adapt and truly understand the needs of our clients at any given point in time.

Winckworth Sherwood has earned a reputation for successfully delivering high value, high profile projects throughout the UK and demonstrating the highest levels of client service.

BDC’s focus

To support a critical DMS selection process, provide strategic advice on Cloud SaaS delivery, and provide implementation services

  • Undertook review of WS IT teams own market research and findings
  • Developed methodology of undertaking a collaborative DMS selection process
  • Undertook analysis of On-Premise, Cloud or SaaS consumption models
  • Supported strategy execution by providing Consultancy, Project Management and Data Migration service

Project Aims

To replace a highly bespoked SharePoint solution with a industry standard DMS platform

  • DMS infrastructure stability and scalability
  • Stronger data security
  • Agility and better business continuity
  • Modern and intuitive interface
  • Visibility for matter-based key performance indicators
  • Continuous innovation

System Selection Phase

During the IT strategic review WS were advised that iManage was the “gold standard” when it comes to DMS solutions. The WS team recognises iManage as an established product, however, having looked at the benefits of Saas-based solutions in the past, the team felt that the NetDocuments option needed to be explored also. The conclusion of this initial review was that iManage and NetDocuments were the only two viable options.

Baskerville Drummond’s review supported the WS team’s report findings and identified that:

  • from a basic DMS functionality point of view (creation and storage of documents, filing and de-duplication of emails) then it is fair to say that the products would provide the required functionality;
  • both solutions have a range of integrations which offer a lot of additional functionality not provided natively;
  • the significant differences between them are:
    • the user interface;
    • the way the data is stored and accessed;
    • the security provided;
    • the vendors strategic vision;
    • in particular the maturity of the vendors Cloud strategy their definition of “true” cloud.

It was therefore our findings that the system selection will be determined by financial, technical, political and risk factors rather than end-user functionality.

On-Premise, Cloud Hosted or Software-as-a-Service

The consideration if the new solution should be delivery via a traditional On-Premise, Cloud hosted or a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) consumption model was a critical element of the consultancy that Baskerville Drummond undertook.

It was our recommendation to implement a “Software-as-a-Service” (SaaS) Cloud based solution rather than traditional On-Premise


  • There is an increased resilience in the system with providers offering “uptimes” which would be impossible to guarantee in the On-Premise model. Most SaaS providers guarantee availability time of at least of 99.5% annually.
  • It simply would not be possible for WS to deploy the same level of security protection and business continuity within an On-Premise solution unless a full replicated “hot” business continuity datacentre was deployed.
  • The total cost of ownership of a SaaS solution is less than the traditional On-Premise solution as it does not require investment in infrastructure.
  • There is major advantage in terms of scalability, security and business continuity to be gained by using a SaaS solution. A non-specialist firm simply cannot afford to use the systems deployed by SaaS providers to deliver this level of protection.
    • Scalability – the number of users can be changed without needing to change hardware requirements.
    • Security – SaaS Providers hold the highest data protection certification and have specialist equipment and staff constantly monitoring systems.
    • Business Continuity – a true SaaS solution is delivered from multiple data centres and will continue to operate should one or more of those data centres go offline.

iManage “vs” NetDocuments

The fundamental decision which WS needed to make was whether to implement iManage a solution used by 63% of the top 200 UK Law firms, or to use NetDocuments a solution which was less familiar in the United Kingdom legal market but due to its true Cloud SaaS delivery model and enhanced security provision had growing market interest.

The WS Team conducted their own POC and further due diligence of ND and results were all fed back into BDC’s own research and report.

It was our recommendation that NetDocuments was the best DMS solution for Winckworth Sherwood for the following reasons :-

  • Security – The full “end to end” NetDocuments service is accredited with ISO 27001. All documents are encrypted at rest and in transit with quantum encryption technology and then stored in fragments to ensure they can never be read outside of the system.
  • Resilience – NetDocuments is delivered from three different UK datacentres. Each one of the data centres has redundancy and built in continuity. To lose one such data centre is rare to lose two would be almost impossible.
  • Strategy – NetDocuments are a dynamic and focused company and is much more aligned to the adoption of modern IT consumption and expectations.
  • Product Strategy – NetDocuments provides all functionality to all users. As and when there is new functionality this becomes available to all WS users without any additional cost. This also means that WS will benefit from all product developments without the need to “reinvest” as newer versions become available.
  • Flexibility – As NetDocuments is a true SaaS solution it can be used on many different devices and support fee earners working in a way which suites them. For example existing firms are enabling fee earners to use tables (e.g. iPads & MS Surface Books) to access the system and edit documents using the Microsoft Office online toolkit.
  • Financial Model – NetDocuments is a true SaaS solution and therefore can be scaled up and down quickly and at no cost other than a change in the monthly licence.
  • Business Continuity / Disaster Recovery – The NetDocuments platform provides the highest standards in terms of business continuity planning. There are no single points of failure. In the event of a business disaster, such as the London Bridge terror incident in June 2017 and the Kingsway fire in April 2015 both requiring office closures the offices staff will be able to still access the solution.
  • Platform– The NetDocuments platform is already delivered via technology which will in the next few years become the accepted “norm” for Cloud based applications (e.g. Microsoft Office 365 and Salesforce are other examples). This type of true SaaS gives a flexibility that On-Premise solutions cannot match and this means that WS’s DMS will be as futureproofed as you can be with any IT investment.

Implementation Phase

The WS internal IT team is highly technically skilled and self-sufficient. It was therefore essential that the firm worked with a implementation partner who could work collaboratively and seamlessly complement the existing skills.

Given the scale of the project, we also sought recommendations from experienced UK based NetDocuments consultants and were subsequently introduced to Paul Hoffbrand, who, having been involved with the Farrer & Co implementation among others, is one of the UK’s most experienced NetDocuments implementation consultants.

Project Approach

As with any major software implementation, project management was important to the overall success of the project.

At Baskerville Drummond, we recognise the importance of matching our project management style to the unique needs of each client. Some clients are small or lack experience or for other reasons wish their consultants to run with a project with minimal input from the firm. Other clients have larger, more sophisticated IT teams as was the case with WS.

The WS team is extremely capable with clear leadership and a well-structured approach to project delivery. Our approach therefore was tailored to this with Kevin Goosman, the BDCL project manager, worked closely with WS’s internal project manager throughout the project.

The advice David Baskerville provided the WS team during the selection process was seen as comprehensive, pragmatic and objective in its presentation of both the pros and cons of two strong solutions.

The firm subsequently asked if Baskerville Drummond would be able to fulfil the role of implementation and project management consultants.

Baskerville Drummond had not originally envisaged progressing from selection to assisting with the implementation and so to be able to provide the consultative project management required, Kevin Goosman undertook training and became certified to carry out NetDocuments implementations whilst the internal team kicked off their own project planning and further internal user engagement processes.

  • Control mechanisms and project governance were agreed and put in place to ensure both parties were continuously aware of all key aspects of the project such as progress to date, outstanding actions and issue ownership / resolution.
  • Key project documents such as a detailed system design, a data storage cabinet setup grid, a data import process, an import mapping, a data import log and a testing plan were created and maintained.
  • These mechanisms allowed the project to be undertaken with clear agreement on the system requirements and design specifications. They also established clarity regarding how the data to be imported would be handled and represented.
    The WS IT team was keen to learn about the software and its capabilities and to become involved in both the implementation and use of the software well in advance of the actual go-live date. The BDCL approach was therefore tailored to ensure there was knowledge transfer throughout the project.

This situation allowed the BDCL and WS teams to work jointly to make rapid progress and to resolve issues effectively. However, it also required rigorous project management and control to ensure clarity regarding who was making changes to the system and who was responsible for individual project actions at all times.

The project was run following the tried and tested approach of Design, Build, Test / Acceptance and Execute.

These processes together with the professionalism of both the WS IT team and the Baskerville Drummond consultants ensured a smooth and conflict free project.

Configuration Decisions

NetDocuments is an extremely flexible product which allows for various configuration options. Baskerville Drummond guided WS through the set-up process throughout several stages of the project.

In the early stages, a design requirements questionnaire was used which allowed Baskerville Drummond to ask a series of questions in a single meeting with the relevant teams present. The meeting provided us with the majority of the information to be able to set various configuration parameters such as matter workspace presentation, security and administration authority, how data might be made available outside the organisation, integration with other products and many others.

Other configuration options took longer to define. One important feature of NetDocuments is that it stores documents in ‘cabinets’ and it allows these documents to be organised in Folders or Workspaces. Folders are hierarchical and operate much like Windows Explorer. Meanwhile Workspaces are based on various ‘profile’ attributes such as Client and Matter with documents and emails grouped by type such as Correspondence, Emails, Leases, Core Documents, Ancillary Documents, Anti Money Laundering etc. to provide a single matter view.

We guided WS through the pros and cons of both the workspace and folder methods and setup example cabinets to allow WS IT and other staff to experience the different methods before committing to the go-live configuration. This process allowed the system to be setup to meet the needs of the individual departments thus allowing the staff to own their solution and to buy-in to the product from the start.

Data Migration

As with any DMS implementation, the migration of data from the existing storage solution was one of the biggest challenges.

The success of the project hinged around the data migration aspect. WS was responsible for exporting the data and populating the migration platform with BDC undertaking data cleansing and upload to NetDocuments.

In this project there were three sources of data with each data source requiring a different migration strategy:

  • The live SharePoint 2013 solution.
  • Other client data held in Windows file shares.
  • Various support function documents also held in Windows file shares.

The SharePoint data import was carried out with the use of our Microsoft Access/SQL Server application as noted elsewhere.

For both the support function and the client data held in Windows file shares, we provided WS with a template for the creation of the required CSV files.

When the resultant CSVs were delivered back, it was noted that many of the documents were saved in subfolders and there was a requirement to replicate this in the relevant NetDocuments workspaces. This required using some of the data in the CSV’s to create the folders followed by further manipulation in order to set the CSV’s up correctly for the import to take place.

Into the future there is a plan to import further documents from the SharePoint Archive as a separate project but using the same technology as used for the live data.


The majority of the data was stored in the Microsoft SharePoint environment. As there is no direct SharePoint to NetDocuments interface it was necessary to extract the data from SharePoint before uploading to NetDocuments from a staging platform.

WS sourced a third-party product which:

  • Copied items from SharePoint to a standard Windows Explorer directory environment.
  • Read the file metadata and produced Microsoft Excel workbooks containing the relevant metadata.

Extracting data from SharePoint was very slow and resource intensive. If run during the working day it impacted SharePoint performance to an extent it impacted end-users so care was given when extraction and migration tasks were performed.

WS had initially estimated that around 6 million documents would need to be exported. The process of exporting was estimated to take 3 to 4 months. It was obvious that the data migration needed to start well before the target go-live and the process needed to support :

  • the creation of initial exports over a number of months;
  • the identification of files which had changed or been added since the previous export;
  • the management of tens of thousands of metadata files and millions of files stored in a flat file structure.

BDC created a data import tool that:

  • imported the individual Metadata files into a single Microsoft SQL database;
  • removed inconstancies in the meta data and addressed issues with the data files;
  • controlled the process to ensure each file was uploaded with a full audit trail traceable back to the original document;
  • managed the multi version document process ensuring the versions were linked together when imported;
  • created CSV files as required by the NetDocuments mass import tool, ndImport;
  • managed the replacement of documents altered in SharePoint after their initial extraction.

Document Upload

Regardless of the original data source all files were uploaded to NetDocuments using NetDocuments mass import tool, ndImport.

Further to advice from NetDocuments and ratified by BDCL, WS had purchased five well specified PCs all running Microsoft Windows 10. Once importing started in earnest all five computers were importing files into NetDocuments simultaneously. By following the importing best practices as designed by NetDocuments, the file transfer rate was in the region of 5,000 documents per two hours.

This was a sharp contrast to the time taken to extract data from Microsoft SharePoint. It was often possible to import a week’s worth of SharePoint extraction effort within one business day.

The entire importing process took approximately one month of real time to fully achieve with over 5 million documents imported together with their connected versions – over 8.5 million individual items in total.

Go-Live & Acceptance

User training was carried out by the WS internal training team. User training commenced approximately four weeks before the go-live date. Despite this length of time between training and go-live, the acceptance of NetDocuments caused very few issues due in part to refresher sessions offered before go-live and the use of floor-walkers.

WS also has its own template management system ribbon within all the Microsoft Office applications and took the opportunity to tidy this up and to integrate it with ND. The familiar interface added to an easier transition and minimal loss of productivity by making the NetDocuments system the invisible DMS.

Read more about Winckworth Sherwood’s Cloud-First strategy in their own compelling article “Winckworth Sherwood Goes Cloud for their DMS”.

“A DMS swap-out project is always going to be tough. Getting a project partner who has the right work ethic, technical expertise and management experience to complement the internal team’s ‘can do’ attitude was going to be essential.

David and his team (Paul and Kevin) worked extremely hard alongside the WS Team to meet the expected business delivery outcomes. David has the technical creativity, calmness and fresh thinking needed in situations when things don’t always go as planned.

We have rarely used consultants for this sort of project in the past so I am pleased to have worked with BDC and value their contribution to the project’s success.”

Christel Aguila

Head of IT and Partner, Winckworth Sherwood

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