The UK's Institute of Legal Cashiers & Administrators (ILCA) has just announced the results of its annual Software User Awards – the formal announcement appears next however, as we discuss in our commentary, do the results raise more questions than answers?
…The survey results are in and the winner is Legato Computer Services Ltd with their Indigo software being voted the most highly rated supplier of 2008. AlphaLaw came in second with representation for both their Vantage and Esprit packages closely followed in third position by Access Legal Systems with its Practice Management suite. Legato Computer Services Ltd beat all comers scoring 89.33% in a survey which saw the top four user-graded suppliers score over 84%.
SOFTWARE SUPPLIER (System) (%)
1 Legato Computer Software (Indigo) 89.33
2 AlphaLaw (Esprit/Vantage) 87.44
3 Access Legal Systems (Practice Management) 84.67
4 Quill (Quillennium) 84.31
5 TFB plc (Partner for Windows) 83.02
6 Perfect Software Ltd (Perfect Books) 82.90
7 Solicitors Own Software (SOS) 81.88
8 Eclipse Legal Systems (Proclaim) 81.67
9 DPS Software (One Office) 81.43
10 Edgebyte Computers Ltd (Lawbyte) 81.33
The results were obtained by submission on a web based survey, receiving a high level of response from the ILCA members who graded their software on the following criteria:- adequacy of training, ease of making postings, bank reconciliations, interest calculations, compliance to SARs, month end routine procedure, quality of help desk support, VAT return calculation, clarity of ledger card, nominal postings, bill postings, ease of reporting generally, upgrades and reaction time to regulatory changes.
In all, there were responses on behalf of twenty software providers, with AlphaLaw in second place and TFB plc in fifth place receiving over 40% of the respondents between them. The users scored all of the software suppliers well on the speed and quality of helpdesk support, the scores this year being shown separately. Fourteen of them were considered to provide excellent or very good quality of helpdesk response, scoring over 80%. The speed of response raised a wider range of responses with only nine suppliers achieving 80% or more with average response times of ‘immediate’ or within one to two hours. Cognito Software Ltd was top of the tree in both sections of the helpdesk grading with 100% for quality and 95% for speed of response. Last year they scored 96.67% in this category, showing them to have a consistent excellent record. The quality of training provided is an important consideration, not only at the purchasing stage but also for the availability of training for new staff members. The survey rated Solicitors Own Software as the best user training provider, closely followed by IRIS Videss Ltd and Legato Computer Software Ltd. These top three were closely followed by TFB plc, Quill, Cognito software Ltd and Linetime who all scored 80%.
Scores were then consolidated into two categories. Ease of use for the daily user (making postings, nominal, bills and compliance to SAR) and ease of use for the month end routines (general reporting, VAT returns, interest calculations and bank reconciliations, amongst others). Almost all of the respondents considered the month end routines to be adequate for their purposes and the responses for daily use peaked at 93.33% for the winning software from Legato Computer Software Ltd.
The Award will be formally presented at the forthcoming ILCA Annual Luncheon to be held in Middle Temple, London on 24th September 2008…
* Comment: The appearance of some of the vendors in this list is, to say the least, interesting. Of course it would be crass to suggest that some vendors may have actively campaigned to turn out good marks in their favour – as has been a problem with some other legal IT industry awards and surveys in the past, notably the now defunct LOTIES. However we understand that at least one supplier has already requested a meeting with the ILCA to discuss how the survey might be better conducted in future years.
There appear to be two issues here: The first is that there is no objective level playing field as to what constitutes a good quality of service. Thus vendors of full-blown multi-user practice & financial management systems with more demanding law firm sites are required to provide a far higher quality of service (including out-of-hours support) than vendors with smaller, less ambitious users just running single user accounts packages.
And then there is the issue of quantity. As reported above, just 2 vendors accounted for 40% of the votes between them, while the other 18 accounted for the remaining 60%. So does this mean that a vendor that gets, say, three x 9-out-10 votes in its favour is better than a vendor that gets 40 x 8-out-10 votes? And how do you balance the respective merits of a vendors with hundreds of user sites with a vendor with just a few dozen sites?
Unlike some organisations, the ILCA does have its heart in the right place and does not regard awards and surveys as an opportunity to rip-off the market – however it needs to carefully reconsider how this survey is conducted in future years if it is to retain its credibility.