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When iManage became an independent company just over a year ago, we spent hundreds of hours talking to our customers, getting their feedback about what was working and what wasn’t with our Work Product Management products.

During these conversations, we learned that there were a few areas where we needed to “Raise the Bar”. Co-Authoring was one of those components.

When content management systems were first introduced, decades ago, the “checkout” concept was designed because editors did not allow multiple users to edit content simultaneously. This began to change several years ago when Microsoft Office and other competitive editors started introducing co-authoring features.

However, during our multiple “listening” tours, the CIOs and heads of IT shared with us that the idea of having multiple professionals in the document at the same time raised several concerns about the risk associated with one person making changes that the other would not know about, especially if a section of an agreement related to or had a dependency on another clause.

We also learned, from a different set of customers who were under considerable pressure to put together large agreements in a short timeframe, that their biggest challenge was coordinating the team working on the agreements.

As you can imagine, the key method for doing this was outsourcing sections of the agreement or whole copies of the agreement with the hope that someone did not make edits which conflicted with the other users. If you had time, you would be able to perform a serialization of work to ensure that each person had his or her opportunity to amend the agreement. Both methods are fraught with risk and siphon valuable time coordinating these edits.

After listening to customer frustrations, we embarked on building an integration with the co-authoring features available within Microsoft Office. We wanted to do this in a way that allowed these users to make their edits from the Office interface of their choice.

We know that these professionals have several key tools on their desktop that assist with the creation of work product, so limiting them to a browser based version of Office was not an option. At the same time, there is a need to have a light-weight editor, for example, in the web browser or on your mobile device, which enables one to provide quick feedback on that critical agreement which is being formulated under time pressure.

iManage Work 9.3.1 now offers an add-on module to support co-authoring with Office 2013 and later. The principal under which this works addresses concerns raised by both types of professionals, those that do not wish to have multiple people in the document at the same time and those who need to collaborate with a team of professionals to finalize an agreement using the interface of their choice.

This new feature offers users the ability to explicitly checkout a document for co-authoring and invite specific individuals to contribute instead of making it an open session for anyone with permissions. This ensures that one individual has complete control over the versioning process in iManage Work with all activities during this collaborative session being audited in iManage Work on the original document.

iManage links (NRLs) function in the same manner as before, allowing users to simply double click and enter the co-authoring session if they have been granted permission to do so. Once all users have completed their necessary edits, the master controller has the choice of bringing the edited content back into the system as a new version.

What this has done to the work product production process is “de-serialize” work and allow professionals to contribute and finalize content when they are ready and from an Office interface of their choice. Our new co-authoring module does not impede their ability to produce content because they are not forced to use a web version that doesn’t have the tools or features they need to complete their work in time.

As we move forward with the iManage Work roadmap and MS Office technology evolves, you will see many changes in the way co-authoring is performed. Co-authoring is not something that will be limited to the MS Office suite, you will see similar features in our integration with the G-Suite of products.

Stay tuned for more to come.

If you are an iManage support customer and would like more information on iManage Co-authoring, log into the support portal to learn more.

About the author

Shawn Misquitta