Intapp acquires OnePlace: The analysis

We speak to Intapp’s CEO John Hall and OnePlace founder and CEO Tim Smith about the acquisition, which as we exclusively revealed in the May Orange Rag, will see OnePlace retained as the brand for the legal sector, and DealCloud within financial services.

Intapp on 23 May announced that it has acquired Salesforce-based client lifecycle management rival  following the acquisition only last year of professional services CLM DealCloud.

The surprising new acquisition inevitably set the market alight given that Intapp now owns two products that a) compete; b) have very similar objectives; and c) did we mention that OnePlace is built on Salesforce? It doesn’t take a genius to conclude that ultimately two products will become one and that it’s unlikely long term to be hosted on a third-party platform.

We spoke to Intapp’s CEO John Hall and OnePlace founder Tim Smith about the acquisition, which we can reveal will see OnePlace retained as the brand for the legal sector irrespective of platform, and DealCloud within financial services. Lawyers don’t just do ‘deals’, after all. Baker McKenzie, which was the first firm to buy DealCloud, will going forward be using OnePlace.

Hall and Smith are reluctant to give away too much about the underlying roadmap before they have spoken personally to clients but we can say that the ambition is to build a best of breed CLM leveraging the capabilities of the OnePlace team, which has a long pedigree in this space: many, including Smith, have come from leading CRM vendor LexisNexis InterAction. Intapp has in effect bought the IP and expertise of OnePlace, which was beginning to gain some serious traction in the legal market, having been founded in 2012.

Hall says: “Intapp has never been religious about specific technology, we have been pragmatic and taken a business orientated approach.

“We are going to be consistent and we are going to work with all of OnePlace’s clients to help them achieve their client lifecycle vision.”

Intapp and OnePlace share the same vision for CLM and it’s difficult not to get caught up in their enthusiasm. Much rests on the name OnePlace, and Hall says: “OnePlace is such a great name and the name says it all. The firms recognise that we are trying to create one place for partners, so our two companies completely agree on the vision.”

If Intapp gets its way, the vision will mean the ambitious and acquisitive Palo Alto-headquartered company will be one platform for almost all of law firms’ technology needs and Hall says: “Over the past 10 to 20 years the legal technology industry has grown up in silos, with different vendors selling different systems to different budgets. The impact has been to put the burden on the firm – especially IT – as to how they integrate all these different systems to help their partners achieve better insights and deliver work more profitably.

“We believe that firms have been historically underserved by this approach. No-one is looking at the firm leaders and partners – somehow IT was supposed to integrate an ERP and HR into some kind of unified experience and it has placed a huge burden on firms because they are not set up to do this at scale. It’s important for us to service each of these business services but the opportunity today is to help firms take a better, more integrated approach, and bring the business service teams together to enable them to serve the partners better.”

Note that the ambition is to raise CLM – we’re toeing the party line by not referring to it as CRM, which has become something of a four letter word (pun intended) – so that it becomes the prevail of the most senior business leaders and partners. “The OnePlace team understands CLM and the marketing and business development community and increasingly has built relationships with the leaders and the partners to help them achieve their strategic goals,” Hall says. “There is a tremendous history of this team building the right solution for these firms using the technology that is available to them.”

Intapp is used to selling software and to reach partners the language it uses will need to focus very much on the end goal – increasing revenue and profit. But Hall knows that. He says: “Our theme is modernisation and 49% of clients say that their primary law firms’ biggest weakness is the lack of collaboration among partners and fee-earners to deliver the right information at the right time. It’s the number one critique. So, if you take a step back and say, ‘what technology can help that?’ you start to understand the Intapp platform. What we’re trying to do is to provide for the first time a purpose-built industry cloud for professional services. For the first time to handle the whole client lifecycle from the perspective of the partner. To deliver client insights on revenue and profitability and risk. All on your mobile device.

“The strategy is that these firms need to break out of the history of siloed departmental systems that don’t talk to each other if they want to compete.”

Smith said: “Our business growth is about identifying the opportunity and capitalising on firms’ relationship with clients. We’re a growth tool.”

Hall adds: “Another core part of the Intapp strategy is a deep investment in AI. Our zero-entry capture is all about passively collecting information from the system the lawyers are using.” Intapp not only bought DealCloud but also gwabbit, which includes signature scraping capability. We recently published a report on the CRM market, including an analysis of DealCloud and gwabbit, if you haven’t read it yet you can download it for free here:

In June, Intapp will announce a pricing solution that uses AI to look at a firm’s work history and help lawyers work out more accurately what price they should quote.

Intapp is undeniably building up a very compelling offering but it has grown extremely fast and has a services issue, with CIOs in the UK particularly reporting their frustrations to us directly. CIOs love a good vision, but if you’re not delivering today, the long-term strategy is just noise.

In 2017 Intapp took “significant investment” from Temasek, a Singapore-based investment company and Hall says: “We have made two or three important steps. We have assembled the financial backing to support us and a strategic team to work with firms at a strategic level. We have a much larger services organisation in London, and there is a big emphasis on cultivating the partner ecosystem – we have brought in hundreds of Intapp trained people, many of whom know the firms well.”

Intapp is also regarded as expensive and as it looks to increase its client base it will be interesting to see if smaller firms are priced out. Hall points out that with 1,400 clients, many of them are mid-market firms. While we have moved on from assuming that cloud = cheaper, Intapp’s progressive march towards becoming a cloud vendor means that firms increasingly won’t need to pay for infrastructure and will be able to consume its products as online services. DealCloud came with hundreds of mid-market customers.

We have recently obsessed about the impact that the private equity sector is having on the legal market and how it is driving consolidation and Intapp is arguably yet another example of that. We would bet good money that it won’t be long before it announces an IPO.

Our assessment of the acquisition of OnePlace? Intapp has taken out a competitor. Its platform strategy is intact. Delivering on all of its promises is going to be a challenge. But it is becoming something of a juggernaut.