Changing your legal software supplier has always been difficult and on occasions, acrimonious. Each software system will have different ways of setting up clients, names and addresses and other characteristics, entering financial information, managing the handling of cases (with different case management systems), managing the security of the data, restructuring management reports, how long to keep “old” data, stylistic matters in all reports … and so on.
This has always involved major efforts from the law firm in the preparation of data ready for transfer, and from both the original software company and from the target software company. Each side has to “understand” the other side of the operation and convert or structure the data accordingly. It has been, and still can be, not only a difficult operation but an expensive one. It is certainly a good idea to make absolutely sure that your existing supplier cannot provide what you want, before embarking on the process of changing supplier!
The good news in those days (although we did not realise it at the time) was that the data was on a computer in the firm’s premises and although it would be moved to different software, it was still “there” on the firm’s computer and not somewhere else entirely.
How different it all is now! All the methods of handling data have changed and, with a cloud system, the data belonging to “your” firm is probably integrated into some much bigger system with multiple users and no fixed borders.
A key term here is “multi-tenanted”, which is explained on the TechTarget site:
“Multi-tenancy is an architecture in which a single instance of a software application serves multiple customers. Each customer is called a tenant. Tenants may be given the ability to customize some parts of the application, such as colour of the user interface (UI) or business rules, but they cannot customize the application’s code.
Multi-tenancy can be economical because software development and maintenance costs are shared. It can be contrasted with single-tenancy, an architecture in which each customer has their own software instance and may be given access to code. With a multi-tenancy architecture, the provider only has to make updates once. With a single-tenancy architecture, the provider has to touch multiple instances of the software in order to make updates.”
I discussed this issue with a number of suppliers and the two below were kind enough to provide a short description of their own views and experiences:
- Martin Rounce of InTouch Conveyancing Software explains the types of cloud systems, distinguishing hosted desktop solutions and “true cloud systems”. He goes on to describe the stages and processes needed to change software supplier, once you have decided to do this.
- Adam Pembrey of DPS describes the practical issues to consider when changing legal software suppliers, including but not limited to cloud systems. He provides examples of how DPS deal with the issues involved.
There is basic information on many legal software suppliers, both cloud and non-cloud, on my web page at www.venables.co.uk/software.htm.
Types of cloud solution and how to change supplier
By Marvin Rounce of InTouch Conveyancing Software
Over the last half a dozen years, “cloud” has become a marketing buzzword with almost all legal software providers now offering a cloud solution to the legal market. Indeed, when InTouch came to market back in 2014, the “cloud” was something most firms wanted to avoid. Now, those same firms are embracing it with open arms.
Originally, “cloud” computing meant that whatever software system you were using, it was hosted, run and maintained somewhere else, ie up in the clouds, and you didn’t care how.
In the “cloud”, hosting and maintenance are somebody else’s problem. The interpretation of the “how” is open for the provider to decide. It’s this “how” that is often full of technical jargon and that often leaves the user without real understanding of the pros and cons.
Cloud systems operate on a spectrum; the one end being hosted desktop solutions and the other end being what we at InTouch like to call “true cloud systems”.
Having some understanding of this spectrum can help you decide what’s right for you.
Hosted desktop solutions
Do you need to log in to your perfectly good desktop PC and then remotely log in across the internet to another desktop PC?
We argue that these are not cloud systems: they don’t take advantage of the processing power you have sitting idly by on your desk; they are inflexible in their abilities to scale with work; there is a server running (probably in your provider’s office) that is identical to one your firm could run itself; maintenance is difficult; and often you’ll be left behind the latest streamlining and time saving features available.
Hosted desktop solutions are limited by:
- operating system updates;
- the underlying hardware;
- a slow and dated software deployment process; and
- more costly hosting & maintenance costs.
This can mean that, after a year or two, your system becomes painstakingly slow, dated, and often can be something that holds your firm back from expansion.
“True cloud systems”
Modern cloud applications are designed from the ground up to work in the cloud. Building software for the cloud is a paradigm shift; the architecture is very different, with a single piece of software spread across multiple different servers.
This new architecture allows for software to run and be maintained in a much more streamlined and effective way; often individual parts of the software can be updated, without requiring the entire system to be re-installed.
This leads to the true cloud system providers being able to update their software much more often and much faster, with zero downtime; we update our InTouch system almost every Friday with the latest fixes, security improvements and new functionality.
Thus, true cloud systems have less down time, can improve quicker and innovate more. This can translate into a big advantage for forward-thinking law firms.
Changing software supplier
Changing suppliers is not something you want to do too often. But with a true cloud system there are three major components you will be involved in; most else will be handled by your provider:
- data migration;
- set up (workflows, accounts etc); and
- staff training.
Relatively speaking, the data migration is the easy part, but it may cost extra. The complexity of this task is hugely dependant on the export from the existing system. You’ll need to speak to your existing and new providers to find out about the export/import capabilities between systems and also to plan the changeover date.
The technical set up of your new system is usually very straightforward with a true cloud system, as you are not installing complex software; you’re simply downloading a simple app or opening a web browser. Assuming you do not need bespoke workflows to be created, you can get up and running with systems like InTouch in a matter of minutes.
That leaves staff training, and without preparation this can be major hurdle in improving staff processes. Staff who have always worked in a certain way are often opposed to change, even if the change is an obvious improvement.
Fortunately, with the right preparation your staff can be trained on the new system before the “go live”. Generally speaking, the more modern software is easier to use, which they will appreciate.
Marvin Rounce is Director of InTouch Conveyancing Software. InTouch is a client-focused conveyancing case management system that automatically keeps everyone in touch, reduces progress-chasing phone calls, streamlines staff and workflows and automates tasks. Email email@example.com. Twitter @intouchmatters.
Changing legal software supplier: points to consider
By Adam Pembrey of DPS
Switching from one legal software provider to another shouldn’t be an onerous task. The whole point of modern technology is to make your life easier and that shouldn’t change when the time comes for something new.
That said, the ease and speed of transition should be one of the first things you consider. If you aren’t satisfied with your current system or are looking at implementing more advanced software, why not speak to your current supplier? It may be that they have something already that would suit your needs perfectly.
If, however they don’t, or the reason you are moving is because you are not satisfied with the service you have received, then there are several points to consider when switching systems.
The terms of your current contract
What is the notice period you are required to give? Will you still have access to a read-only copy if required? What happens to your data? Will there be any financial penalty to switch suppliers? With DPS you will always own your data and we will never charge you to extract it from our system. If you provide notice as set out in your initial contract there is no penalty to pay. We can easily provide access to a read-only copy of your system should it be required.
Will your new supplier and legacy supplier work together? Generally speaking it is the responsibility of your new supplier to convert any existing case data into their system however the legacy supplier should work with them to make it possible. DPS are able to convert data from all the major legal software providers (and some minor ones too) into our system and if the need arises we will work with an alternative supplier to ensure they can convert data from DPS into their system. I strongly urge you to check exactly the terms in your contract for what happens if you want to convert your data to a rival system. Make sure you are absolutely clear on this issue before you commit to any supplier.
Something else you should take into consideration when switching legal supplier is the rest of the onboarding process, such as configuration, training, go live dates etc. With DPS we have an 8- to 12-week lead time to onboard new clients due to high volumes of new legal teams joining the DPS family, as well as the care and precision we take in getting them started. We always hold “config” meetings where we sit down with the client and discuss exactly how they want the system to be tailored to meet their specific needs. We also provide administrator, user and cashier training, as well as developer training where we teach the client how to alter the system to their liking.
This is another vital point to consider. Everyone needs a bit of help sometime, however good you are at using a system. When you need to speak to someone, how easy is it? Can you pick up the phone and get through to a human being? At DPS, we have several teams of support technicians right here in our London office, talking to DPS users and helping them with any issues they have. If a query comes in regarding upgrades, training, contracts or anything else not related to technical support, we have a client services team who are also right at the end of the phone.
Will the new supplier forget you exist as soon as you’ve signed on the dotted line? Are they proactive in getting in touch with you and ensuring you are getting the best out of the software? Or do you only hear from them if you pester them?
At DPS we have our annual user group meeting where clients are invited to join us for a day’s training and networking. We also have our User Area where you can login to find the latest software updates as well as any important messages about the company. The User Area also hosts the DPS Academy where we have created online video tutorials of how to maximise your output from the software.
With the speed at which technology changes, if a software company isn’t constantly moving forward then they are being left behind, don’t be stuck on that boat with them.
Adam Pembrey is Marketing Manager at DPS. He has over 8 years’ experience marketing software to law firms in the UK. DPS have been producing practice, case and document management software for solicitors for over 30 years and are the largest legal cloud supplier in the UK. Email APembrey@dpssoftware.co.uk.Twitter @AdamPembreyDPS.
Delia Venables is joint editor of this Newsletter. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter @deliavenables.Tweet