What to look for in a new product or supplier – Blog 2

Thursday 25 February, 2021

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Blue Message

Insight Legal Chairman, Brian Welsh continues his thoughts from Blog 1 on the many factors to consider when you’re looking for a new legal software product or supplier

What to look for in a legal software supplier

In my last blog, I talked about what to consider when you’re looking for a new legal software product. Today, I want to discuss finding the right legal software supplier.

But, if you’re already working with a supplier and you’re about to start looking for somebody else, here’s a question to ask yourself first:

What went wrong with your existing provider?

Understand clearly why this relationship failed, because you don’t want history to repeat itself. Were you unhappy with the software, the service you received, or both? Or is it because your software supplier has been taken over, and you don’t want to work with the company that acquired them? Look back to before things went wrong; are there any flags you can see, any lessons to be learned before you dive back into the supplier shark pool again?

What’s involved with leaving your existing supplier?

  • What are the termination and renewal/notice terms?
  • Will you incur any charges for the return of your data?
  • Will your data be returned to you as a complete ‘dump’ that’s easily migratable to a new system, or will it be returned in a report format that could leave pools of data inaccessible to your existing system?
  • What happens to any data that’s left on servers or in the cloud? Make sure that it will be managed or disposed of per GDPR regulations.

Give yourself plenty of time to find a new supplier

Between contracts and onboarding, there’s a lot to consider. Don’t be rushed into it, and ensure that all the key stakeholders are involved in the process. I recommend giving yourself at least six months to plan the move, locate a provider, and introduce your new system.

Find a supplier that is easy to do business with

A reputable supplier will go above and beyond to make your life as easy as possible because they’ll understand the complexities you’re facing.

They should be able to demonstrate their software concisely and thoroughly, either in person or over the internet. They should also tailor the demonstration to meet your specific needs, so you can immediately see what their software can do for your business. If it’s a one-size-fits-all demo with a lot of bolted-on promises, be very wary. Assess how comfortable you feel with their sales executive because, ideally, this should be the start of a long-term partnership, not a one-off transaction. Trust your instincts, and the instincts of your fellow stakeholders; if the sales executive is making you feel pressurised, or something about the pre-sales experience doesn’t quite gel, move on.  Also, time-specific discounts and offers are common sales industry tactics but don’t be lured in by them. Think them through carefully to be sure they serve your business’s best interests.

As I hinted heavily at the end of my previous blog, the ‘wrong’ software supplier will be focused entirely on making the sale, and they’ll tell you whatever they believe it takes to get you to sign on the bottom line. If you have any suspicion that the supplier is putting sales before customer experience, listen to your gut and move on.

Find a provider that has a big presence in your industry, and that is their sole driver

Reputation is everything. If they’re an established supplier with a portfolio of satisfied clients, that’s a strong indicator they’re in the industry for the right reasons, and you’ll be satisfied too. Do your background research to confirm the number of years the provider has been trading, their directors’ and shareholders’ experience within the industry, and any awards they have won. Look at testimonials, case studies, and online reviews, and use your grapevine to find out your peers’ opinions.

Find a supplier with a strong ‘This is why we exist’ vision…

…and an equally strong mission statement explaining how they are going to get there.

Are you solely looking for a provider who’ll give you the best deal, or are you looking for a provider who’s on the same page you are and shares the same values you believe in? The latter is much more likely to produce a mutually beneficial partnership. The former could mean there will be rocky waters ahead.

I will talk in much more detail about the importance of a software supplier’s ‘why’ in a future blog.

Look for a supplier that sees migration as a necessary evil

This point highlights one of the biggest differences between Independent providers and Venture Capital (VC) backed businesses when it comes to professional services (PS).

Two of the most important metrics to monitor in any PS firm are utilisation and realisation. In other words, the ability to measure the effectiveness and profitability of its people when they’re a chargeable element in a software project beyond the cost of the software itself, i.e. migration, training, project management and consultancy.

Where a VC backed provider is concerned, utilisation and realisation metrics have a bearing on the company and are also set as KPI’s. As a result, a twenty-day migration can drain an eye-watering amount of their hard-earned cash.

On the other hand, an independent provider knows that migration work offers no real value to their client other than being a means to an end, so they’ll have a fixed cost for migration regardless of how much time is involved. That’s because they’re much more likely to be focused on their client’s lifetime value, instead of the immediate financial bottom line. It’s an approach that is the stuff of nightmares for a VC, but a major advantage when you’re working with an independent supplier.

Choose a supplier that takes your security seriously

Cybercrime is on the rise, and cybercriminals are getting smarter. Ask the supplier:

  • Are they using the latest in cyber protection technology? Do they back that up with regular penetration testing, to check for any new weaknesses that could give a hacker access to your invaluable data?
  • Do they offer cloud-based solutions? According to a 2019 survey conducted by the domain name registry Nominet, the majority of security professionals believe the cloud is safer than on-premises infrastructure. However, that still does not mean the cloud is completely secure. Who does your provider use for their cloud services, and what level of security do they offer?
  • How much do they spend on servers? Will your data be automatically encrypted during transfer, and what are their back-up protocols? Is the data stored in the UK or another country?
  • Are they registered for data protection? Have they had any GDPR breaches?

What level of support do they offer?

Be sure that help will always be available whenever you need it, and know how much ongoing support will cost you. What are the provider’s response times?

Remember, choosing the perfect legal software provider is just as important as choosing the perfect legal software technology. At Insight Legal, everything we do is supported by a team with both law firm experience and technical expertise, which is one of the many reasons we’re the software of choice for more than 1000 law firms in the UK and Northern Ireland. When you’re looking for a new software provider, make sure they can offer you the same experience and commitment.