Open Text appeals to lawyers with e-mail toolset

Available in Outlook and possibly for Lotus Notes users.

Open Text will release an integrated e-mail management offering targeted at law firms that aims to help boost the productivity of lawyers with capabilities that take advantage of users' existing Outlook folders.

The offering from the company combines the basic e-mail filing and archiving features through its E-mail Archiving for Microsoft Exchange software, with features for lifecycle management from e-mail creation to disposal.

The technology comes with several e-mail profiling tools. For instance, auto filer and bulk filer tools allow customers to use the Outlook folders that they already created for different clients or projects. The user can tag a folder so that new documents are automatically profiled, making the typical drag-and-drop process easier and faster, said Mohit Thawani, business development manager with Open Text's legal solutions group.

Furthermore, the feature relies on a server-side process that doesn't occupy a user's system, said Thawani, because often dragging and dropping bulk e-mails "means until the process completes, they really can't do anything."

"Everyone has a different work style and this really addresses the different scenarios where people want to create an outlook folder or a hierarchy based on client matter or projects and file e-mails into it," said Thawani.

Another profiling tool is the e-mail marker, which boosts productivity by marking archived e-mails so that other viewers of that e-mail won't duplicate archiving efforts on the same document.

E-mail filing assistant is another tool that recommends to a user, based on metadata and past archiving actions, where a particular e-mail should be filed. The tool basically "understands e-mail threading," said Shirin Leclere, product manager for Open Text.

The fact that the system works in an Outlook environment means that e-mails are also available on BlackBerrys, and, said Leclere, "that has become a key productivity tool for lawyers at this point. They need to know that they have complete access to those documents for the 30 days that it would naturally stay on their BlackBerrys."

A version of the technology for Lotus Notes users is not yet available and the company is "fleshing the roadmap out," according to Thawani, who added to expect more details on that front near the end of November.

The offering "is just another step in integrating the different products that we're bringing in," said Thawani, referring to DM (Document Management) and LegalKey technologies from Hummingbird and E-mail Archiving from Open Text.

Thawani continued: "So our users who are really using all these different features can get a better return on investment and take advantage of all the features that Open Text has to offer."

And users can expect to see yet more integration of technologies, said Leclere.

According to Vince Londini, research analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group Ltd., with this release, Open Text is approaching the problem from a business side, top-down view. "The issue here is Open Text is saying we can work with whatever client program, whatever software you happen to be using in your business," said Londini.

That top-down approach, he explained, presents an overall records management approach that can hook into an e-mail software and bring that content back into the records management program, as opposed to focusing solely on e-mail as an isolated problem.

While Open Text has rivals in this space including IBM and EMC's Documentum, its primary competition is the IT department, Londini said, which has traditionally assumed the bottoms-up approach to e-mail management by saying, "we have an e-mail program so let's buy an email archiving solution."

For those businesses that have already bought into the top-down approach, proceeding as is will be easier than those coming from the opposite direction, said Londini. But while the records management approach requires the upfront planning that most organizations prefer not to invest in, he said, there are advantages to treating important data as records.

That being the case, Londini added "but you're an IT guy in a firm that doesn't have that kind of an approach, and you're just trying to solve an immediate problem of discovering your e-mail for the next lawsuit, you're probably not trying to sell them on a whole enterprise solution."

Differing approaches aside, Open Text is making a play at the large proportion of its customer base that is comprised of legal firms with this offering, said Londini, and is "looking to continue to show that they're relevant" in light of rival Symantec who is selling its Enterprise Vault platform as one that addresses several areas including e-mail, instant messaging, and files from a bottom-up view.

Leclere said the offering is broken down into multiple levels to cater to businesses' differing needs, therefore pricing depends on capabilities chosen and number of users. The product will be released in September.

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