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ACUA chair comments on IRIS strategy

This comment has already been posted under the IRIS strategy posting however in cse you missed it, here it is again. It was posted by Dave Grattage, the chair of ACUA (and the Finance & IT Director of Lanyon Bowdler)…

“I would like to add my thoughts on the recent Iris announcement and provide a response to some of the other comments.

“First of all let me nail my colours to the mast and declare my
interest. I am currently the Chairman of ACUA, the INDEPENDENT Aim
Computer Users Association, which means that sometimes I am biased
towards Aim/Iris and sometimes biased against them, but I have spend
the last 15 years using the Aim product. These are only my personal
views and may not necessarily reflect the views of other committee
members.

“Evolution has evolved though perhaps not in the way anyone
expected. There’s no point moaning about it because here we are.
Charles Christian predicted there will be a consolidation in the legal
software marketplace and so this is the effect. Other legal firms
are/will be going through the same uncertainty as their “independent”
provider is either swallowed up or takes on another provider. Either
way in the short term users lose out as too much management time is
spent on the merger rather than the product. We have clearly seen this
to our cost with the CS Group takeover of Aim.

“There has been a lot of criticism of Iris and its roadmaps, but
who really are the bad guys? CS Group bought several providers,
increased their individual shareholder values and then sold to Iris.
I’m not convinced Iris are bad, although their due diligence process
must be in need of a review! However, Iris need to prove themselves to
the user base, especially Aim users who are sacrificing their product
for the Videss one and one thing we have in common is loyalty to Aim,
albeit in hindsight, naïve loyalty!

“There have been a few comments about firms losing their investment
in Evolution. I do not accept this, as investment should always be in
staff and processes rather than software. Using an analogy if you can
drive a Ford Mondeo you can drive a BMW 5 series although a thorough
test drive is always recommended before purchase!

“Previous commentators have suggested that as Iris is owned by US
private capital firms who want a high rate of return on their
investment; prices will increase and customer service decrease. Well if
this was a model for success we would have all suggested it to our
Partners years ago. No, the best model of returning a high Roi is
increasing customer value by working with them to increase efficiency
and so profitability; then increase your prices.

“My advice to Aim users and other firms who find themselves in this
situation is to set out clearly what you want from a pms and its
provider. Then clinically review the marketplace to see who can best
provide that in the most cost effective way. After all you have at
least two years to evaluate the marketplace before you start to plan
your move; but whether you should take this long is a matter for your
own firm.

“Beware of believing grass is greener on the other side, as it
rarely is and other providers’ assurances they can transfer all data
seamlessly to their system; they can’t. To those who have seen and read
the Iris’s vision and strategy but now want to see the details along
with an honest independent view, I urge you to come to the ACUA’s event
on May 13th in Coventry; details of which can be found at
www.acua.co.uk You don’t have to be a member of the association to
attend but it is cheaper if you are, and if you want to come please
email Penny Hamlin on secretary.acua@btinternet.com

7 replies on “ACUA chair comments on IRIS strategy”

Agree with some of this. The real “culprit” was CSG. Iris have simply inherited the mongrel dog which Vin gave birth to. They were then between a rock and a hard place with whatever strategy they decided upon, but one thing is for sure…they had to decide on one !!

Mr Grattage makes some very good points in this article however I would like to make an observation on a couple of them.
The point is well made that law firms should invest in staff and processes rather than in software however the software is usually the framework around which many of the processes are hung. Very little software is perfect and capable of being adapted to follow any process so I would argue that however much one might try and break the link between processes and the software that drives them I have never come across a firm who has not modified or completely rewritten their processes to fit around the application in which they have made a substantial investment. Whether they intended to do this when they purchased the system in the first place is a moot point.
The article is quite right to point out that it is impossible to carry out a complete data transfer. In fact the one area where the transfer is particularly difficult is over the workflow and processes. Transferring clients, matters and postings should be very straightforward for any decent supplier these days but transferring workflow logic is very difficult and fraught with danger.
As a result upgrading to another system (even one from the same group) will incur a huge amount of management time which would not have been anticipated or budgeted. It would also have been unnecessary had the underlying software not been issued with an effective end of life statement. I suspect that firms who have invested heavily in Evolution over the last two years after relying on the “no end of life” statements might be feeling particularly aggrieved.

Dave Grattage says:
“There have been a few comments about firms losing their investment in Evolution. I do not accept this, as investment should always be in staff and processes rather than software. Using an analogy if you can drive a Ford Mondeo you can drive a BMW 5 series although a thorough test drive is always recommended before purchase! ”
There are two obvious holes in this analogy:
(1) Quality comparison. The fact that the Mondeo and the BMW 5 series are both cars says nothing about their relative qualities. I know which one I'd rather have in my drive! More to the point, if I purchased a BMW 5 series, then was told 2 years down the line that my BMW was being “upgraded” to a Hyundai I'd have a right to feel extremely aggrieved about my loss of investment. Mr Grattage has made an assumption that the two products compare favourably in terms of quality. I don't know enough to know whether this is the case, but it seems to me to be a sizeable assumption.
(2) Fitness for purpose comparison. What if I purchase a BMW 5 series, then after 2 years the dealership says “we're upgrading you to a Hummer stretch limo”. The Hummer might be of superior quality but it may well not be suitable for my circumstances – e.g. “it won't fit in my drive”, “my elderly grandmother can't get into the back seat”. A firm that has selected its case management software carefully will have had a series of generic AND specific requirements and will have gone to the market place with these in mind. There is no guarantee that the “upgrade” system will meet these requirements.
Of course it was inevitable from a product strategy perspective, that IRIS would end-of-life some products. What has lost them a lot of credibility is the way that has been announced. Working for a firm that is considering its case and practice management software, there is no way we would look at any IRIS software at the moment, as you can't rely on the strategy not changing again, and that's essential when taking a decision that will affect the firm for the next 5-10 years at least.

Har, har! Last post was spot on. Iris can spin the news all they like but when it comes down to spending serious money on new software, no one in their right mind should go near them.
Continuing the car anaolgy for a bit: if the Hummer won't fit in your drive, surely there is something wrong with your drive? If you upgrade your drive, the Hummer will be fine. You'll see. Honest, guv. And so what if your elderly grandmother can't get into the back seat – just what the hell are you doing with a grandmother? Can't you see your grandmother is obsolete? Grandmother 1.0 has been replaced by Virtual Memories 3.3 (beta).
At the firm I work for, we spotted the inevitable requirement for an “end of life” strategy before AIM were even bought by CSG. Consolidation might be good for investors but, at least in the short term, it sucks for customers.

Loads of good long posts on all this but in summary it appears to us users on the front line as follows:
1. Put 4 decent companies who were competing together under 'consolidation' – result being disastrous for at least 3 and the jury's out on Videss.
2. Judging by the approach you really wonder if IRIS know or care.
3. CSG managed a great conjuring trick when they headed for the hills with the loot. Whoever was responsible for due diligence really should be taken to an appropriate wall at dawn.
4. The competition obviously got in quick with comments but many users back in 06 thought 'well let's wait and see it could be good.'
5. Roll forward to 08 and you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks it's going well.
6. For the first time there is also talk amongst us that this one might not be capable of turning round – too much collateral damage has been done and the hearts and minds have gone…………most people I meet now view this as the likely outcome.

This (and these) somewhat rambling, all too often anonymous and sometimes negative threads and comments have been running more often than not … and similar ones too…
It holds a certain morbid interest but …
Am I the only person who thinks that The Orange Rag is becoming no more than a Vendors and interested parties (mutual) slagging off shop?
I seriously appreciate what Charles is trying to achieve here as a WIKI, but I can forsee a time when no-one other than vendors etc will come here because of the 'hidden venom', and despite Charles best efforts to post relevant and interesting items this site might only be populated by tumbleweeds …
Charles … Is this what you intended, or is just a free for all?

Hi Andy
And thank you for not being an Anonymous commentator – there are two sides to the Blog – the general postings and the comments. From the user data (and including the geographic spread of our readers – about 40% of our 16,000 visitors in April were non-UK) it is clear that the general content has its own intrinsic value. The comments side is more of a niche/parochial area so far from detracting from the value of the site, it adds to it by giving vendors and users a forum in which to vent their spleens. Where else can you have a good grumble about the legal IT industry?

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