Mar 14

Simple Case Status Reporting with Alfresco Share

A common need for law departments is a mechanism for team status reporting on open matters.  Some departments leverage other platforms, including popular invoice routing and approval systems that also have light case management tools.  Even some Service of Process portals provide light case management tools that facilitate status reporting.  As Alfresco has become a base platform for this project, what does it have to offer?

Out of the gate Alfresco Share provides a tool that can be used for basic matter status reporting.  The Data Lists tool comes with a pre-built option called Task List (Advanced).  This list can be edited by Site members, and includes the following fields, each shown with recommended use for law department use.

Title Matter name.  Use a naming convention before the matter name such as practice area if you want to be able to sort by practice area i.e, (Customer Contract – Jones Corp. Support Agreement)
Description More detailed matter description.
Start Date Same
End Date Same
Assignee Matter owner.  Can be any Alfresco user.  Allows Multiple values.
Priority Same – Limited out of the box to Normal, High, or Low.
Status Same – Limited out of the box to Not Started, In Progress, On Hold or Completed
% Complete Same – a little arbitrary for legal matters.
Comments Current matter status.
Attachments Points to anywhere in the Alfresco Repository, whether a single document, a set of documents or even a space.  Allows Multiple values.

If desired, a separate status list could be set up for a particular team, individual or practice area.  A couple of Alfresco extensions facilitate dumping this data to a spreadsheet or CSV if there is a need to preserve prior report states or move data to another reporting tool or format.

Out of the gate, this is pretty useful for matter status reporting with minimal heartburn.  We are going to explore and post later on extensions that enhance Data List functionality without mucking in XML.  If customizing lists is reasonably easy, we will add one or more legally tailored data lists to our base Alfresco Community VM (and make them available here as well).

Actual Case Management is a topic for another time.

“Case Management” in the generic sense is a popular focus of developers improving process driven workflows.  Rather than a legal ‘case’ these tools breakdown business processes around specific work instances ranging from help desk requests to loan processing and beyond.  A case oriented approach to looking at workflows focuses on a particular customer (whether internal or external) and a particular need.   There are a handful of promising and interesting looking open-source projects that may lend to easy repurposing for actual legal case management, some standing alone, others tied to content systems.

Alfresco itself provides a powerful but complex tool for role-based case management through its Workdesk application.  We will definitely be looking at whether this is a tool that can be tailored to legal workflows without the need for a full set of Java/Spring coding skill.