Comment: Thomson Reuters Elite – the oil tanker turns

Am Law 100 firm Akerman this week (10 October) became the latest firm to announce that it is upgrading its Enterprise practice management system to 3E, following Thomson Reuters Elite’s announcement in February that Enterprise will be sunsetted in 2022.

Elite will not, by its own admission, be able to transition all Enterprise customers onto 3E but it’s giving it a good shot and, if Vantage London showed us anything, Elite appears to be very clear in its wider direction of travel, including into the cloud in 2017.

Akerman is an important win for Elite, and it is no wonder that Bill Burch, vice president, global sales for Elite said: “It is very gratifying to be selected as the right business partner for this prestigious firm.” A leading transactions and trial law firm, Akerman has more than 650 lawyers and government affairs professionals and a network of 24 offices.

Other recent Enterprise-3E switches include Florida firm Stearns Weaver Miller and New York City’s Kleinberg, Kaplan, Wolff & Cohen. The latter firm has selected Elite’s ‘Express Service Package’; a highly configured version of 3E that has also recently been selected by Irish law firms Mason, Hayes & Curran and LK Shields.

Speaking at Vantage London, Eric Ruud, managing director of TR Legal Enterprise Solutions said: “We are under pressure to provide a lower cost solution and be quicker to implement it. The days of heavy customisation are behind us.”
He added: “My background is SAP where it’s very rare to want to do lots of customisation. The desire to do more out of the box is there even among the biggest firms.”

This is a reflection of Elite’s wider direction of travel as it prepares to move onto Microsoft Azure in 2017. Speaking at Vantage, vice president of product management and marketing, Elizabet Hardy said: “We’re trying to make sure that we include all the changes to templates so that you don’t have to customise. Without that we can’t really go into the cloud.” 3E 2.8, unveiled at Vantage, will focus on a range of standard workflow templates.

Many of Elite’s systems will move into the cloud next year but 3E is inevitably by far the most complex. Ruud said: “Cloud is going to be a big thing for us. The legal market is way behind in their adoption of cloud-based solutions and we want to be a leader not a follower.” He added: “Will the market take off next year? No. But people are already interested and it will continue to grow.”

Elite’s CTO Eric Sugden said: “We’re starting to think cloud first, on premise later.” Although he noted: “We will still support on premise for a long time.”

eBillingHub, which going forward will be more embedded in 3E, will also be reconstructed and launched in Azure.

Elite’s push on third party integrations means that customers will have access next year to a ‘data warehouse’ within Workspace from which they will be able to pick and choose the data they require while remaining on one platform. Elite has partnered with Microsoft Power BI, which is accessible through Workspace, and as of mid-to-late 2017, Elite expects that customers should be able to take advantage of a new integration between 3E and Intapp. 3E already has integrations lined up with iManage.

Overall, what is notable is that Elite – often perceived as an impenetrable “oil tanker” (as described by one head of IT) and, quite frankly, at times terrible at communicating its message to outside world – is listening to its clients and others in the industry.

While the practice management market is still crying out for new entrants, Elite is unquestionably under more pressure than ever to listen to its users as newer ERP-based entrants Microsoft Dynamics-based platforms LexisOne, Peppermint Technology and, to a lesser but ‘watch that space’ extent, SAP Fulcrum GT gain traction.

In a departure from Elite’s ‘release it and they will come’ approach, 3E 2.8 was notably launched after a pilot with Oklahoma-based law firm GableGotwals; Washington IP firm Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox; and litigation boutique Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. Both GableGotwals and Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox are live on the new version of 3E now, while Quinn Emanuel is moving into production with 2.8 as a result of its experience in the pilot program.

Elite is also finally working to leverage its wider stable of products and The Elite Business Management Suite will incorporate elements of its tax and accounting products.

Elite’s customer advocacy department led by highly personable VP Patrick Hurley is undoubtedly helping to open channels with its clients. Hurley is the lead contact for the MatterSphere user group, which represents 7,000 seats via its 50 members, one of which is Duncan Eadie, IT director at Foot Anstey, who says: “From a MatterSphere user group perspective, 70% of what we’ve asked Reuters for they’re going to do.