T3 2014: How a $5 billion RIA’s Laserfiche conversion generated time savings of 40%

Jim Anderson of CLS Investments, LLC: "We were living on borrowed time."

Jim Anderson of CLS Investments, LLC: “We were living on borrowed time.”

One $5 billion RIA converted 1.5 million documents to Laserfiche in less than a year, saving the company 40% of its collective time

One of the more practical general sessions at T3 2014 was presented by Jim Anderson, Chief Systems and Project Creator at CLS Investments, LLC.

CLS Investments is a third party investment manager and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of NorthStar Financial Services Group.

You may recognize NorthStar for its Orion Advisor Services, LLC subsidiary, serving advisers’ needs as a portfolio management service bureau for more than a decade.

On the investment side of NorthStar, CLS Investments is an SEC-registered investment adviser and maintained more than $5.6 billion in assets under management as of mid-2013.

“Living on Borrowed Time”

So what was the most appealing part of Anderson’s general session presentation? He detailed the process of transitioning out of an aging IBM FileNet enterprise content management system to a more robust platform powered by Laserfiche (see How Laserfiche is used in the family office environment).

“We were living on borrowed time,” Anderson said to a room full of T3 Conference attendees.

What frustrated employees of CLS Investments the most was the fact that documents could only be retrieved based on their metadata, or document descriptions, added Anderson.

Should a document get misfiled or labeled incorrectly, it was as if the document had been permanently deleted with no possibility of retrieval.

According to Anderson, FileNet was that much of a black hole that employees didn’t have any confidence in the system.

Laserfiche Rises to the Top

As Anderson and other project leaders surveyed the content management marketplace, Laserfiche was the one solution that consistently offered answers to CLS Investment’s many requirements.

CLS Investments wanted a platform that could push the administration and management of documents back to each business unit in the organization. Roles-based workflow, integrated compliance functions, and full-text search capabilities were also must-have requirements.

Accelerated Information Systems was the Laserfiche value-added reseller selected by CLS Investments

Accelerated Information Systems was the Laserfiche value-added reseller selected by CLS Investments

While the product was promising, Laserfiche is primarily sold through a network of value-added resellers, or VARs. Anderson knew that the success of the pending project would largely be determined by the quality of the Laserfiche VAR.

“We wanted to work with a partner who thinks like we do and speaks our language,” said Anderson.

And in its search for a Laserfiche VAR, CLS Investments selected Accelerated Information Systems based in the New York City metro area.

Doubling Licenses Twice in One Year

As CLS Investments was just beginning its due diligence on Laserfiche, Zaheer Master, founder of Accelerated Information Systems, invited Anderson and his colleagues to attend Laserfiche Empower, the content management provider’s annual conference (watch Laserfiche Unveils Product Roadmap at Empower 2014).

Zaheer Master

Accelerated Information Systems founder Zaheer Master: “It’s not what you don’t know that can hurt you; it’s what you can’t find.”

Anderson commented that after seeing the size of the worldwide Laserfiche community as well as the network of add ons, plugins, and third party developers, he and his team had much more confidence that Laserfiche could be the best fit for CLS Investments.

Anderson originally planned to start with 25 licenses for the pilot phase of Laserfiche implementation, but based on his conference experience, he doubled the pilot size to 50 licenses.

Nine months into the implementation, CLS Investments once again doubled its number of licenses to 100.

“The growth of Laserfiche at CLS is a result of the successful change management process applied by the CLS project team and Accelerated Information Systems,” said Master.

“By addressing the most visible pain points early on in the project, we gained momentum for bringing the benefits of Laserfiche to more departments,” he added.

“Everyone’s Hair Was On Fire”

Nevertheless, not all employees of CLS Investments were completely sold on Laserfiche. Any change can be challenging, said Anderson, but changes that affect everyday workflow and habits are especially hard to embrace.

But one scenario in the middle of implementation acted as the pivot for Laserfiche adoption.

Anderson described that one day, accounting had an urgent need for a fee schedule, but was unable to find any trace of the document in its legacy systems.

“You’ve all seen it before. It was as if everyone’s hair was on fire in a mad scramble to find the missing fee schedule,” Anderson said.

But during the conversion of more than 1.5 million records from FileNet to Laserfiche, Accelerated Information Systems applied optical character recognition, or OCR, to every single record.

“With full-text search, we found the fee schedule and everyone calmed down. It was then that our managers knew that we had the right tool,” he said.

The scenario is not too uncommon among Accelerated Information Systems’ clients, says Master, adding, “It’s not what you don’t know that can hurt you; it’s what you can’t find. CLS now knows they can find every document, every single time, even if it’s filed in the wrong folder.”

A 40% Time Savings

Throughout the implementation process, Anderson described how CLS Investments was able to create workflows to compliment and streamline existing processes, not interrupt them.

Also, as an enterprise user of Salesforce, CLS Investments is able to leverage the Laserfiche integration that allows users to view their Laserfiche repository directly from Salesforce.

Anderson closed with an impressive statistic about the return on investment CLS Investments has realized in the year since its initial Laserfiche implementation.

“By leveraging the workflow rules to structure processes and validate steps along the way, we estimate that we’ve saved roughly 40% of our time by switching to Laserfiche,” said Anderson.


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