What to look for in a new product or supplier – Blog 1

Thursday 4 February, 2021

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

Because it is such a big topic, today I’ll discuss what you should think about when looking for a new legal software product. I’ll talk about looking for the right supplier in my next article.

When you’re sourcing a new product, some of the following advice might seem obvious. Other parts, not so much. Let’s take the points in order:

Before you even begin searching for new software, clearly identify the problems you want the new software to solve. That means making the people who use the software an essential part of your purchasing decision.

Sometimes, a law firm will pay more attention to finding software that matches their budget than they will to ensuring the software thoroughly meets the key stakeholder’s requirements. Or they will find a product that ticks most of the boxes, and figure they’ll retrospectively add the other functions after it’s been installed.

Neither of those scenarios is realistic. They will both result in purchasing a product that won’t properly meet your business’s needs.

Know what you need your new software to do before you start looking for it.
By taking time to understand your user’s wants and frustrations, you’ll have a much better chance of sourcing software that has value, longevity, and addresses all the requirements. Don’t rush your purchasing decision.

Look for new efficiencies, but make sure they offer genuine value. 
Everybody wants to wring extra efficiencies out of a new product to streamline operations, save money, and preferably free up time so users can concentrate on other work. But make sure those new efficiencies really do deliver the advantages they’re promising. As a good rule of thumb, ask yourself this: will the new software increase the productivity and efficiency of the people who earn the fees by shaving a few hours a week off their current processes? If the answer is yes, then the new software should quickly pay for itself.

Make sure the new software utilises the best technology available. 
Technology is advancing all the time, so make sure your new software doesn’t rely on technology that will quickly go out of date or contains components that are no longer supported. The operating system, software language, encryption and security tools should all have a proven and reliable track record.

Will your new software provide a seamless, fully unified solution?
Some software tools are marketed as ‘fully integrated’ when they are really a patchwork of disparate interfaced modules communicating awkwardly with each other. Sometimes, those modules might not even sit on the same platform, or even be supported by the same team. Either way, that’s not going to be good for your business. Not only are more things likely to go wrong, they may also take you a lot longer and be more of a headache to sort out.

The best way to avoid that? Before you purchase the software, be sure it provides a unified solution that meets your company’s needs. Know what modules the new software’s composed of, how up-to-date those modules are, and who you speak to if things go wrong. In other words, make sure the unified solution is exactly that, from a service as well as a software point of view. If it isn’t, you could potentially be storing up problems for yourself in the future.

And, talking about the future…

Don’t leave any functionality behind that you might need in the future.
Competition is fierce, and your business must remain as efficient as possible while keeping your overhead costs as low as possible. That’s what legal software allows law firms to do, and it’s a significant reason why more and more law firms are embracing new technology, so their lawyers can spend less time on paperwork and housekeeping and more time focusing on their clients.

But change is constant and inevitable, in technology as well as law.

So, make sure your new software is as futureproof as possible. Check it can be easily upgraded, so when technology changes – or the needs of your users change – your software can quickly incorporate the new functionality with minimal disruption to your business and processes.

Remember, futureproofing doesn’t just mean staying up to date. It also means staying at least one step ahead of the curve.

Look for features that ‘surprise and delight’ but be sure they add genuine, worthwhile functionality. 
i.e. avoid novelties that look interesting but don’t serve any legitimate purpose other than ‘being a bit of fun’. Remember the ‘Tamagotchi’s’ that were so popular in the early 2000’s? People went crazy over them for fifteen minutes, and then quickly realised they were just an attention-sucking waste of time. Don’t get distracted by features that are the legal software equivalent of a Tamagotchi.

Before you purchase the new software, have a plan and budget to implement it. 
Don’t take the supplier’s word for how easy the new software is to implement. A lot of new software can seem like an excellent idea until you realise how much resource is required to get it up and running, and then you either can’t use it to its full potential or you eventually leave it to gather dust on the IT shelf.

Ask the supplier to give you a demo that is tailored to your specific business needs rather than a ‘one size fits all’ generic pitch, and make sure the new software is something you can self-manage and not just a ‘service revenue’ trap in disguise. Purchasing the software is one thing, but if your people can’t use it without costing you a lot more money and time that’s a recipe for disaster and a badly blown budget.

There are many reasons why finding the right supplier is essential, and I’ll go into detail about those next time. For now, bear one key thing in mind: while you’re focused on the buying process, the ‘wrong’ software supplier will be focused entirely on making the sale.

I’ll pick this up in my next article…