One of the most anticipated new features of Microsoft’s upcoming Office 2010 release is the ability to perform simultaneous editing on documents — in other words, allowing two authors to work on a document at the same time. Those of you who have used Microsoft Office OneNote 2007 are already familiar with the concept. A OneNote 2007 file can be placed onto a network share, and multiple people can access the live version. I’ve personally found OneNote’s co-authoring functionality an extremely valuable tool for note-taking during a group meeting or brainstorming business ideas.
Office 2010 brings this concept to Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. For a preview of the look and feel, check out this Microsoft Office Word Team Blog post.
However, in the legal industry, the transition to allow simultaneous editing is not as simple as you may think. Even after leading DMS products such as Open Text eDOCS DM, Autonomy iManage, or Worldox announce their compatibility with the Office 2010 platform, companies and firms won’t be able to just upgrade to 2010 and start editing documents simultaneously. These systems are built on the idea of one person accessing a live document at a time — check it out of the system, work on it, check it back in. So let’s assume developers did re-write their code. Even that wouldn’t be enough for this functionality to work. According to what we’ve heard from Microsoft, the simultaneous editing will likely require working in either a Microsoft-hosted cloud, or having SharePoint 2010 on the back-end. This doesn’t mean that a migration from a DMS product to SharePoint is necessary, but it could mean that the DMS vendors would have to support a SharePoint document repository. Open Text has already hinted that their releases in latter half of 2010 may support this.
As an aside, the whole idea of checking-out and checking-in documents has been ingrained into the minds of all attorneys, paralegals and administrative assistants for more than 20 years. It won’t be easy to shake, and it might not even be accepted in the legal vertical. Anyone know of any attorneys out there interested in this feature?