After all the coverage and comment Aderant has been receiving in recent weeks, we thought we'd redress the balance with an Elite story. Last week we had a phone conference with Elite's president & CEO Steve Buege and this is what he had to say…

As to suggestions that 3E may have originally been launched prematurely (although this was before he joined the company) Buege said the product had “long since crossed the threshold of being immature and was now a solid, stable system.” He added that version 2.0 was now available and running live in 15 organisations – with the next major milestone being the Allen & Overy release (version 2.4) scheduled for early 2009. He also said that a lot of the original “noise” generated by the fact 3E was marketed by Elite as a new product rather than merely an upgrade to the Enterprise system had now gone away, as customers came to appreciate it really was an entirely different system, representing a quantum leap (our words not his) from what had gone before.

So what about the reports that 3E is difficult to implement? Buege said the issue here was that because a lot of the power of 3E derives from the data model, anyone planning to implement 3E needs to spend a lot of time on that model, including cleaning up their old data – whereas other systems that don't use data so precisely are a little more “careless” and forgiving. That said he said that while he felt good about the progress of the software as a product, he believed Elite could still improve both the 'packaging' of 3E (in terms of installation and documentation) and the implementation methodologies, so it wasn't such a steep learning curve for some firms. To this end the company is now investing a substantial resource in improving packaging, delivery and implementation so that “the reaction is 'Wow' – the system is as good as we were promised”.

We also asked about the issue of 3E's inbuilt workflow and business intelligence functionality versus the use of 3rd party workflow and BI products. Buege said there had been a lot of misunderstandings and FUD spread by some competitors but the basic strategy had always been to provide users with much more native capabilities than were available in Enterprise. And that while for many firms that would be enough, it was always recognised that a lot of firms would want more and prefer to go for 3rd party systems, which was why Elite still wants to keep and encourage its '3rd party ecosystem' of compatible vendors.

As to the 'why doesn't Elite use industry standard products like the Microsoft Workflow platform?' debate – apart from pointing out that Microsoft workflow is a proprietary platform – Buege said 3E actually does build on top of industry standard open web technologies. It just adds to them so users have the choice of either developing their own workflows in VisualStudios natively OR they can use the 3E toolkits and avoid having to do it themselves. “What would take 5000 lines of code natively, you can do in 350 lines within 3E,” said Buege.

He also confirmed that Elite is continuing to invest in the Enterprise product (release 3.8 is due in December) and said the company is “not even planning a sunset date yet”. The net result, he said, is that Elite “is in a good place”. For new customers or existing users who want to move up a level, there is the 3E product, while for existing users who understandably may want to stay where they are until the economic outlook improves, there remains Enterprise as a vibrant rather than legacy product. “We can offer users the full spectrum of options from staying with the current market leading product to leapfrogging to a next generation system,” he added.