We seem to have started something with our Campaign for Real SaaS – here is another response, this time by Paul Payne* of Ad Coelum Technology…

Large established legal IT vendors with an on-premises customer base face serious challenges retaining customers as they attempt to move legacy applications to the cloud. But what about new smaller vendors? Vendors who have no legacy and live in a ‘cloud-first’ world?

Uninhibited by the effects of inertia, they will be the ones to drive innovation and force the big players to change. The implications of the Legal Services Act, combined with the cloud computing era, represents an unprecedented catalyst for innovative new technologies to emerge. But in order to capitalise on this opportunity, smaller vendors must be disruptive. Leaders of such companies must cast aside the principles and values that once brought them safety inside corporate super tankers of old and make bold new decisions that reflect the agility provided by their new leaner vessels…

How do we get there?

Dealing with the headache of legacy assets, portfolio consolidation attempts and the need to support multiple product versions for many existing customers makes cloud adoption an uphill struggle for incumbent vendors. Smaller vendors on the other hand, find themselves in the luxurious position of being able to make bold decisions that not only drive innovation, but also set a precedent that established vendors must meet in order to survive.

Here’s a thought…

The legal industry has become a beacon for innovation and high productivity enabled through a shift from complex, time consuming and costly software projects to a thriving market place for commodity services consumed by law firms in the cloud.
Sounds good? We all want to get there, but we need to accept a few harsh realities first:

•    Vendors can’t host legacy applications in a data centre and call it ‘cloud computing’. True cloud means elasticity, broad network access (e.g. mobile), resource pooling and self-service. See the definition of cloud provided by NIST. http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistpubs/800-145/SP800-145.pdf

•    Law firms can’t expect SaaS to deliver savings if they demand an end-to-end environment all to themselves. Multi-tenancy is the key to significant cost savings. Law firms and vendors must work together to analyse data storage and processing at a more granular level to identify candidates for cloud resource pooling.

•    Data is not necessarily safer in the law firm than in the cloud. How ‘safe’ is a law firms on-premises infrastructure compared to the multi-billion dollar cloud data centres operated by the likes of Microsoft and Amazon? Security is multi-faceted – people, hardware, networks, buildings. Very few firms can compete on all these levels and should they even try when it is not their core business?

•    Diehards should not stifle innovation. If mid/large law firms continue to insist that the PMS system must remain on-premises this should not hinder adoption of cloud elsewhere. Enhanced connectivity scenarios and higher user volumes make front-office systems perfect candidates for migration to the cloud. It shouldn’t be all or nothing.

The clue is in the name

When you hear the term Software as a Service or SaaS, what do you think? Most people concentrate on the hosting aspect as being the ‘service’. To drive SaaS adoption in mid/large law firms, we must concentrate on how SaaS improves the lives of end-users not just IT professionals.

Ultimately it is the software and the way functionality is consumed by users that should constitute the service. With that in mind, I propose the following new principles for vendors of modern legal SaaS offerings:

•    Don’t sell a product, sell a service. Better still… an experience.

•    There is no such thing as a version – all customers are on the same version… the current version.

•    Allow services to evolve continuously in direct response to customer feedback.

•    Allow new features to be configured so users can manage how and when they receive them.

•    Identity components fit for multi-tenancy to maximise resource pooling.

So what does this all mean? It means we are on the verge of a new era of legal technology, where the end user is in much closer contact with the vendor.

Introducing Matter Management as a Service from Ad Coelum Technology

Users of our cloud-based Matter Management solution will experience something drastically different. They will consume Matter Management as a Service:

    Continuous delivery of new functionality. Why should users wait months or even years for essential matter management features? We keep users productive and competitive by ensuring our service accurately reflects the current needs of the legal profession. No scary big bang upgrades. Continuous smooth evolution where the user remains in control. http://adcoelumtechnology.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/continuous-delivery-iteration-and.html

•    Users own the roadmap. We will use technologies such as UserVoice.com to manage feedback from within the service itself, allowing users to suggest new functionality and/or vote for functionality proposed by others.

•    Same day bug fixes. If an issue is identified with our service, all users receive the resolution as soon as a fix has been identified and deployed. Because everyone is using the same service, many users will not even notice the issue existed.

•    No long-term tie in. We must all learn to live and die by the quality of service we deliver. The days of large capital-led deals are over. Need some service guarantees for a period of time? No problem – let’s talk, but we won’t lock anyone down who desires the freedom to switch off at will.

A law firm’s matter management needs, addressed through a single service. That’s what real SaaS is all about.

* Paul Payne
Chief Technology Officer
Ad Coelum Technology Limited
@paulpayne1
www.adcoelumlegaltech.com