In our previous article we explained about the link between successful system transfers and preparedness.
The project team assembled to conduct any systems review in your firm should make a list of the critical processes that they want any new system to perform. While firms share many similar characteristics, they are different in many ways too. Your firm should know what it wants for itself rather than waiting to be told by a supplier. If you’re unsure, ask questions. A supplier who takes a consultative approach to selling and puts you at ease in the pre-sale consultation phase, will likely be a good choice as a long term partner.
The 2019 PWC Annual Law Firms’ Survey* reported that for the third successive year, the top priority for business support is “improving the use of technology”. It is a recurring issue which suggests insufficient progress has been made to date. Our question is: Whose responsibility is it to improve the use of technology? The supplier to improve development or the practice to adopt more of the features? We think the answer lies between the two. A successful partnership between supplier and firm will lead to better use of technology.
Finding the right software supplier
There are questions to ask and things to look for that will indicate the efficacy of any supplier.
1. The pre-sales experience
Expect a supplier to be able to demonstrate its software to your project team clearly and concisely, whilst tailoring the discussion to your firm’s wants and needs. The demonstration should be slick. The interactions during the online meeting will be just as instructive. A presentation of what the system can do is not as useful as a discussion about what it can do for you. An accomplished sales executive will be able to do an effective job and take a consultative approach, without making you feel uncomfortable or pressurised. Remember, you are seeking a partnership, not a one-time transaction.
How the software is priced should be easy to understand. The words “subscription” or “software as a service” (SaaS) means you pay a monthly fee for a licence to run the software. This purchasing model is replacing the traditional way which was to buy the software up-front and pay an annual support fee. SaaS is by far a more cash flow-friendly alternative.
3. Contract terms
It’s not for us to explain contract terms to lawyers, but our advice is to be wary of long-term contracts that tie you in for three or five years. The future is impossible to predict, and our view is the more flexibility your firm can be offered in terms of contract length, the better.
4. Ongoing support
As with pricing, the service levels you can expect to receive should also be clear. A supplier should have a plan about how to onboard a new law firm client, including how training will be provided and over what period of time. It is also helpful to ask what the process is for how support calls are handled. Expect a degree of automation, but you want to know there is someone taking responsibility for resolving your problem.
5. Existing levels of customer satisfaction
Independent data is available to provide a good indication as to the reputation of a software supplier. Basic factual indicators include number of years trading, awards won, and directors’ and shareholders’ experience within the industry. The views of other law firms through online review platforms, website testimonials and case studies can help too. Finally, take soundings from peers in other firms. Sometimes the grapevine can prove the most insightful channel of all!
6. Plans for ongoing development
Software evolves as clients’ needs change and as regulators stipulate. You can and should ask about software development and how frequently software updates are released. Knowing the plans for the future of the product is essential to reassure yourselves of the long-term suitability of the solution you are buying in to.
Deborah Witkiss, Chief Operating Officer at Insight Legal Software
Next time: Part 3 – Data transfer. Understanding how the data in your current system will move across (known as migration) to whichever new system you choose.