Home-cooked data management

Kraft Canada’s legal department has come up with its own document management recipe: Consult one like-minded enterprise, add technology and serve.

The Canadian arm of one of the world’s largest branded food and beverage companies got even bigger three years ago when it acquired Nabisco Ltd.

The consolidation meant the local operations of both firms doubled almost overnight. It also meant twice the paperwork, particularly in its legal affairs department, where an old PC Docs implementation had failed to manage the company’s data effectively.

“”It wasn’t mandatory, it could be turned off, and the person who had really championed it had left,”” says Kelly MacGregor, Kraft Canada’s senior counsel. “”We had always had the usual paper overload — which is part of being lawyers — but we found with the acquisition we had hit the brick wall.””

Like many organizations, Kraft thought the best way of scaling that wall would be to form a small committee to assess its document management needs, then approach the appropriate consultants and vendors.

Once discussions began, however, MacGregor says there was confusion over vocabulary. To MacGregor, for example, a “”document”” refers to a letter or memo, while a “”file”” refers not to an item stored within a word-processing program, but a physical file folder organized by a predetermined numbering system. Even once they were speaking the same language, MacGregor says many vendors found the group of approximately 15 lawyers too small to justify the cost of a consultant.

“”They were always enthusiastic until they learned how large we were,”” he says. “”They were polite, but they clearly lost interest at that point.””

That’s when one of Kraft’s committee members, a former administrative assistant at Toronto-based Blake, Cassels & Graydon, remembered a popular document management system she had used at her old office. Martin Fingerhut, senior partner at Blakes, says Canada’s sixth-largest law firm had gone through some of the same technology headaches, and was prepared to offer some on-the-fly consulting expertise as a special service.

“”It’s not the usual relationship you have with a client,”” he says. “”It was an opportunity to cement the bonds a little more.””

Through interviews with Kraft legal staff, the two companies modelled an implementation of Hummingbird software on the same system Blakes had created more than five years ago. The system includes PowerDocs, a document-management application that works in a Windows environment, and Docs RM, a record-management system that allows full management of electronic and physical corporate records, including e-mail tracking and records administrations. This time around, MacGregor said the firm spent much more time on training and making the application an integral part of the department’s workflow.

“”If you want to work in documents on your computer and you want to save them, you have to save them in the system,”” he says.

Fingerhut says Bla

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