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IRIS publish new product strategy – everything is coming up Videss and Mountain

Yes, I know we had the Legal Link announcements just before Christmas but the IRIS Legal group has now published a new product strategy announcement. Now read on – and check out the attachments if you are an AIM Evolution of Laserform TPS user…

In a statement issued today (8th April) IRIS Legal managing director Arlene Adams said…

“Today, we will unveil our product strategy for practice and case management and a further investment of £5m in our Legal Product Portfolio over the next 3 years. IRIS, which is a sector specialist and has for many years been the leading provider to the accountancy profession, has built its leadership position and reputation on continuous product investment and a deep understanding of customer needs. With this investment we are now making the same level of commitment to the legal market.

“Today we will launch our new Practice and Case Management Application, IRIS Law, which we will be offering to all new customers.  IRIS Law is available to customers in two editions, depending upon practice size and complexity: IRIS Law Enterprise for the larger practices and IRIS Law Business for the smaller practices. IRIS Law Enterprise is based on the award winning Legal Office 10 product (formerly Videss) and IRIS Law Business is based on the newly developed Connected product (formerly Mountain), both of which have had considerable new investment over the past few years.

“Customers of AIM and TPS (The Partnership Suite) will continue to be fully supported until July 2011 and will be offered a free software upgrade to IRIS Law when they are ready.

“This strategy was based on a detailed 6 month exercise that evaluated all the products in the IRIS legal portfolio and concluded that all customers upgrading to IRIS Law would receive immediate benefit from the new and improved functionality built into the product set.

“IRIS Law now provides IRIS customers with a clear long term roadmap offering protection of investment and reassurance at a time when the legal IT supply market is undergoing considerable consolidation thus leaving customers uncertain about the protection of their investment. IRIS, with the scale of its investment and its commitment to the legal sector can provide the stability that firms need from their IT partner.

“We have consulted widely with our customers and have now provided both customers and the market with what they have been asking for by delivering a clear strategy and long term roadmap. We will be making a further £5 million investment in our legal portfolio to ensure that we establish ourselves as the undisputed leader in the legal software marketplace. It is our ambition to swiftly transition this sector from a cottage industry to one which has the industrial strength that lawyers require

“We are currently researching new solutions to help legal firms address the business challenges of a rapidly changing market. We are exploring tools to help firms integrate more openly with partners and customers across the web, service customers over multiple electronic channels and deliver proactive customer management tools to help firms strengthen their relationship with customers and in turn improve their revenue and profit. This all has to be delivered in a world that is increasingly regulated and cost sensitive therefore we are exploring ways to further automate process, reduce cost and improve compliance. I am really excited about our future.”

The supporting documents go on to say that “IRIS has concluded that no further feature enhancements, apart from legislative requirements on SQL, will be added to the (AIM) Evolution product following the release of Evolution R2SP5 in October 2008. A full product comparison has been conducted between Evolution and IRIS Law Enterprise. IRIS Law Enterprise will deliver improved functionality requested by Evolution users, for example, Document Management, improved marketing and CRM and an XML gateway which will allow greater integration with third party products and applications. The decision IRIS have made to upgrade Evolution users to IRIS Law Enterprise is one that has been given careful consideration. The future success of IRIS Legal is interlinked to customer satisfaction. I can therefore assure you that we have based this decision on what we believe delivers to you the best return on your investment and will provide a long term sustainable product that can deliver continuous business and competitive advantage.”

Firms that remain on either the Laserform TPS or AIM Evolution platforms after July 2011 will have support provided via a “Vintage Support Programme at an additional cost”.

50 replies on “IRIS publish new product strategy – everything is coming up Videss and Mountain”

Shame on you Charles.
April Fools Day was the 1st April 2008.
You don't expect us to believe that anyone would scrap one product strategy and publish another one in the space of five months.
We didn't come down with yesterdays snow you know.

So am I right in thinking this is just a product rename/cull and existing Videss v10 customers aren't directly affected?

So the last product roadmap wasn't any good then and of course the one before that under CSG?
I guess the £5m has come about because people finally realised the last statement about investment was actually less than the companies had been spending pre CSG/IRIS!!
As everyone new and despite the constant denials over the last two and a half years that's the end of the AIM and Laserforms products then.
Also remember when some suppliers were daft enough to try and offer two products in the market? Take a look at the Law Society Guide to see just how the Mountain product rates.
So at this rate if you're an IRIS user you can expect the next 'announcement' on product strategy round about September – who knows they might announce they've decided to go with the system from GB Systems in Scotland that's part of the Group….. perhaps that's for April 1st 2009 though.

So that's goodbye to Hull then and all who sailed in her.
What an undignified end to what was a decent company. So much for 'vintage' support read gun to head.

Being an Evolution user watching IRIS swallow companies up like a whale shark on a feeding run was at best disconcerting.
As a general rule you don't go mixing drinks without some kind of penance and sadly a product that once flourished during its independence has become a victim of this Juggernaut’s hunger to derive higher profits and squeeze margins.
It is understandable that something had to give; no company in their right mind would want to compete against themselves in the same market. It’s just a shame that Evolution will be merged away into oblivion. It serves as a warning to other companies out there who may hold a customer base that IRIS feel could benefit from their ‘expertise’.
As an administrator of the system and valued customer (I hope) I am not amused. There will be a lot of head scratching in the coming months to see how best to salvage the investment that has been made in Evolution.
Of course it is nice to know that we are not being ‘forced’ to upgrade, it’s just an option. hmmmm
Well, always nice to have a change! Just hope it doesn’t take years to get to the same productivity levels that we currently have.

I use Mountain “connected”, or .NET as they know it. I also use Mountain's previous Visual FoxPro version. Given that the same bugs actually exist in both I am astonished to learn that IRIS are focusing their small firm strategy on this weak product. As I understand from Mountain, the requirement when developing the .NOT product was to get it to do everything the FoxPro product did, and it doesn't do much more! Good luck anyone switching to IRIS Small Business, or whatever it's called! I also use IRIS payroll software and that ain't great either!

There are so many comments one could make about these announcements but what should we make of the re-branding of IRIS to IRS which slipped in under the radar at the bottom of page 1 of the letter to ex AIM users?
Or is one of the UK's leading business software houses unaware of the humble spell checker?

“It is our ambition to swiftly transition this sector from a cottage industry to one which has the industrial strength that lawyers require”
Industrial strength lawyers – now that is an image to conjure with.

Law Society Market survey shows the following results:
1. Mountain Connected ranked bottom in all Vendor categories and therefore 15th out of 15. In terms of Product Satisfaction ranked 14th out of 15.
2. Videss ranked 11th and 9th respectively.
Not exactly a stunning endorsement now we are reaching the 3 year point from when CSG launched their consolidation strategy. I think the statements went along the lines that within 3 years the products would speak for themselves in what they then described as a cottage industry. I think they have……………..

As I'm sure many people will know Vin (CEO CSG) made a good move when she allegedly told Mountain to stop selling Connected (IRIS Business) because it was such a disaster.
So as small AIM user you can look forward to an 'upgrade' to Connected, followed by pain for a couple of years then be offered a further upgrade to Enterprise when either a) you've had enough b) grown to a size (yet to be defined) when you 'qualify' for Enterprise. Now I'm no techie but isn't one of SQL and the other Progress as well?

All of this was predictable. Consolidation is as much product oriented as business. There exists 4 tiers in the PMS market – small. medium, large, and top 20. Guess their view is Mountain for small, Videss for medium/large – and maybe they'll buy SAP for high end and magic circle !!! The Videss product might struggle beyond medium size firms.

We've been holding off for a while now about a decision as to which CMS to go for because of all the buy outs that have been going on. Videss and Linetime are the 2 products and quite frankly with all the disastrous PR and decision making going on at IRIS i suspect we may go for Linetime Liberate: has anyone experiences or preferences on either of these products please?

As an Evolution user it is sad to see that having invested heavily in the product that it will end of life.
Does anyone know what runtime the new system uses? I know Videss was a Progress DB and we will miss the flexibility of SQL.

What is the (formerly) Mountain product using for it's datastore if they've moved away from FoxPro?
I presume the logical step, considering the FoxPro history and .Net future, would be SQL Server/Express 2005 but this flies in the face of Videss Legal Office v10 which is based on a Progress OpenEdge platform.
Surely this doesn't make life easy for the developers when it comes to cross-developing features, sharing code/dev roadmaps etc?

Have a look at Visualfiles from Lexis Nexis and LawSoft from Pilgrim…..xfwx9

I think you'd be very wise to give the IRIS world a miss. Linetime are very good and decent people to. I'd also suggest you have a look at SOS, TFB and AlphaLaw.

If you are unsure take a look at the Law Society Guide and maybe look at some other suppliers.
Eclipse, SOS and TFB are all good and have a lot of users between them.
In my opinion you shouldn't buy anything that isn't MS SQL which rules out Videss.

We are a 12 Partner, 3 office firm. We had a system from Videss some years ago and had a similar dilemma – stay with Videss or change to Linetime. We decided to change to Linetime and have never regretted it. We run case management for conveyancing across all 3 offices. Having had one member of the team trained by Linetime in the design of the system, we have been able to make many changes ourselves so it works exactly how we want it to in the context of our own procedures and ways of doing things – it is a very flexible tool but you need to spend plenty of time on it. It is also fully integrated with accounts. Support from Linetime has been excellent throughout the years we have been dealing with them.

Our preference would be Eclipse their Proclaim product out performs Videss and Linetime in so many ways.

Videss are claiming (to me anyway) that they use SQL but i've heard from other CMS companies that Videss are telling porky pies and that they still use Progress…… so again, who knows!!

Apologies about the delay in getting your comments posted, I'm in the US at the moment and half a day behind you guys in the UK.
Regarding the comment about Videss & Progress & SQL Server – I think the position is the same as with Visualfiles a few years back, the new system is still based on Progress but can use SQL as a database for larger firms (but with the Progress then embedded within that architecture).

Enjoy the pie.
SQL version is not ready yet. Will it ever be?
…who knows

We were told by Videss (just before the Iris buyout of CSG) that an MSSQL version of v10 had been scrapped because it was proving too difficult for the dev team to develop a progress front-end on a SQL backend…

Do you mean a Progress front-end with SQL back-end? Or something a little more complicated, perhaps involving a large hammer and crowbar??

Has it occured that it scored so slow because it is a new system, and so it bound to have issues; some of which are just the users getting to grips with a completely new way of using it?
What would be more worrying is if a system that has been on the go for more than 5 years got such a rank

You would prefer a new system that DOESN'T have all the features of the previous system?
The benefit of a .NET/SQL system such as 'Iris Law Business' is that it makes a great base for future expansion. If I were them it is what I would do; build all their previous functionality into a new system but with much greater scope for better and more features in the future

Excellent, thank you all very much indeed for the suggestions (the pie is tasting a little bitter though!). We are only down the road from both Linetime & Videss! All comments greatly received about databases and other CM Systems, thank you. Anything other than MS SQL would be suicide.
P.S. I hope the states is proving fruitful 🙂

No, Using Progress as the Business Intelligence layer and SQL as the backend DB.
Visualfiles have many sites succesfully using this option

Oh dear another mess. I was one of the anonymous viewers that poured cold water on their grand and vague idea of a 'legal link' middleware solution that was going to sit between a new IRIS legal product and all of their bought in systems. At this stage they obviously did not know what they had and taken on. Now they know . IRIS announced a 5 year plan to take the market by storm. Back then I predicted spectacular failure. They have 4.5 years left. I will ask the question again – anyone know how many clients they are loosing?

If the AIM product set and company is so well regarded, resourced with expertise and profitable would some existing clients and/or existing management not consider an MBO as a way of saving them. As potential investor and legal IT expert I would be interested to know if this has any legs!

Charles Christian writes… The situation with AIM is that prior to its acquisition by CSG (now IRIS) none of the existing management had a shareholding in the company – it was 100% owned by VCs who took the first opportunity to take the money and run. Since the acquisition almost all the senior management have departed – for reasons too numerous to cite here. So, basically, there is no local AIM management left to mount an MBO – and even if there were, the credit crunch would make it a financially hazardous venture.
• Little known fact – before the CSG acquisition, TFB made an offer to acquire the AIM business but the deal was rejected by the owners. Might have been financially more rewarding for them to go with CSG but arguably their staff ad users would have been happier with TFB, discuss, use both sides of paper if necessary.
• PS I am back in the UK now, I'm sitting in the office ignoring the phone and eating chocolate as it happens.

We went through the process of selecting a new PMS system late last year. After initially ending up with both AIM and Videss on the shortlist we went to the then CSG managment and asked them which (if any) in the future would be the chosen product ! CSG pulled Videss out of the bid.!!!! So we were left with AIM, by default. Thankfully we went back to tender and made the smart decision to chose Pilgrim ! Seems our 'crystal ball' wasnt as cloudy as we had originally thought.

I would agree with you if a new product was released then it would have to work its way up a good point well made! But if you follow this link it was released amost 4 years ago!!! and also would you really expect a new applicaition to be 15th out of 15 on features; surely the research should have shown what they needed to include.

Well on the subject of how many sites IRIS has lost with the Grindeys announcement today we know that Axxia, AlphaLaw, Pilgrim, SOS and TFB have all won a number of sites.
Judging by the press releases they appear to have lost about 25 sites in Q1 2008. Talking to a number of suppliers they all seem to have a significant number of IRIS prospects so Q2 will probably see that run rate accelerate.

Interesting finance involved in all of this i.e. Private Equity in the form of H&F buy into the combined entity of IRIS and CSG right at the peak of the market and on an alleged multiple of between 11 & 15 x EBITDA. So you now have a company that's possibly extremely highly geared with substantial debt.
When it comes down to it the Legal Division has to:
1. Increase new business wins dramatically.
2. Reduce overheads significantly and accept that the reality is poorer customer service but maximise profits.
3. Extract as much cash from the user base as soon as possible in order to repay the substantial debt per customer and increase shareholder value.
Judging by the comments and press of late it doesn't exactly look like option 1 is a real goer so you wonder therefore what happens with 2 & 3. This announcement seems to indicate just that.

If by “reduce overheads” you mean get rid of people then I am afraid it doesn't look number 2 is an option either as I know for a fact they are going to be increasing the head count considerable over the coming years.
The one thing I hate about all these comments is that alot of them arel speculative and probably written by Iris's main competitors trying to stir things up in the hope of customers being scared into moving to another application. Come on guys its a business and they ahve to make money move on!

So was this written and spell checked by IRS (or do I mean IRIS?)

Come on get another line of subject this IRS/IRIS thing is starting to get boring. Try some more imaginative speculation about IRIS future policy. discuss..
p.s. spell checker ran and works fine!

You’re right in one thing in that initially when CSG entered the legal market in 2005/06 yes many of the comments at the time could have been judged as speculative. However, why you end up with 40 odd comments each time IRIS utters yet another poorly thought out strategy is very simple. Looking back the leadership at CSG stated very clearly how they wanted to maintain each company as separate trading entities etc etc. At presentations they told customers and staff that they were in the market for the long term and had a well thought out approach through their corporate ‘experience’ compared to the cottage industry that had existed before they arrived. They claimed that within 3 years the market would clearly see the benefits such an approach would bring.
Many commentators, the competition, many law firms etc were deeply sceptical about this approach given that under the surface it appeared to have no substance and therefore they would look to exit at the quickest opportunity, leaving an operational mess. Broadly speaking that’s what has happened. IRIS Legal appear to have risen to the challenge of maintaining this disastrous strategy inherited from CSG.
I would leave you with one thought if you’re a customer, potential customer or employee – ask how much debt IRIS has, how much interest is accumulating and therefore how that equates per customer/employee. IRIS is owned by an American Private Equity house pure and simple and that is who you are signing up to a relationship with until they to look to exit as per CSG.

Is that a specualtion that they're written by competitors. Perhaps IRIS are talking to clients to actually gauge how they feel and what they are thinking … or perhaps not. I could probably identify a couple of clients comments here…oh and by the way, I'm not a competitor.

“Come on guys its a business and they ahve to make money move on!”
BUT, and it's a big but, I'm looking for a CMS, i am a prime potential customer and my thoughts and feelings about IRIS are reflected by the general theme you are dismissing. I agree completely about being speculative, however, BECAUSE it is a business and the financial implications of the companies position (ie borrowed a lot); it puts me off what is in many ways a good product (and i'm talking specifically about Videss). They MUST get that money back from somewhere. They are a business. The customers will be the ones paying it back……. so why would i choose to be one?
P.S. I would also like to point out that i'm an IT Manager for a firm of solicitors and have no connection with any software house. This is just my humble opinion.

Another really important priority is to keep their existing clients on-board so that the annual support & Maintenance income keeps coming in but it would seem that this is not an option either.

If they are loosing 25 clients a quarter across the AIM, Videss, Laserform and Mountain base – which would seem a reasonable assessment – and with the competition having so much ammunition with which to mount a concerted attack, I really do not think IRIS Legal have 4.5 years left.

There is a lot of talk about Progress and SQL in these discussion threads. To be clear …
SOS, Videss and Visualfiles use Progress technology to develop their applications. Whether the back end database is MS-SQLerver or Progress is frankly immaterial. Both can be queried by using SQL (structured query language), both are perfectly adequate DB platforms. That said, the application control layer which is where these vendors put their business logic can abstract the database schema (design). That is why some vendors will try to sell you a data warehouse application so that you can query the database. Visualfiles' ability to connect their Progress client to an MS-SQL backend does provide re-assurance for those comfortable with Microsoft standards. It does not mean that their product is automatically superior or radically different. What distinguishes a good from a bad product is in how you use Progress to build the application.
Another trueism is that (software) development tools have limitations. They are getting better, but they can never satisfy all needs. If you use a tool to build your own tool upon – which is what some vendors in the legal marketplace are doing, then the supplier needs to a) understand the foundation tool thoroughly, b) still have a good appreciation of IT fundamentals. Sadly, many of our native suppliers would not know a Codd if it hit them square in the face, could not tell a bit from a byte if it chumped on their posterior.
Solicitors are trained professionals. Clients seeking legal advice expect their representatives to be formally qualified. Buyer beware. Check how well qualified your prospective legal IT systems supplier is to develop applications.

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 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

Re the comment above “Whether the back end database is MS-SQLerver or Progress is frankly immaterial”. I am not sure that this is entirely true given that the context for this debate is that IRIS are proposing to deploy an application designed and written for the Progress database on MS SQL Server.
Whilst databases may conform to a generic SQL standard for access this doesn’t mean that they implement tasks in the same way – locking strategy is a good example of this. Furthermore, code written in Progress 4GL and targeted at a Progress database will not necessarily be suited to deployment on MS SQL Server – record v set handling can be such an issue. Many database design decisions will have been made some years ago on the basis that Progress was the target DB along with key implementation decisions e.g. about where to locate business logic (business rules layer or stored procedures). These decisions can have a big impact on scalability and performance.
Add to this any potential limitations in the Progress Dataserver technology for handling MS SQL Server capabilities and the net result may be a slower and less scalable end-user applications plus added developer complexity.
The idea of database independent platforms and 4GLs has been around for a long time but developers invariably end up targeting their solution at a specific database platform to optimize scalability and performance and minimise code and release management complexity. It is true that some reporting issues can be addressed by warehousing but this then introduces a separate sub-set of reporting capabilities in addition to those built in to the core package – which of course adds complexity for all involved. Furthermore, the supplier needs to provide database management tools and support skills for multiple databases which means added resource commitment. Sooner or later the supplier will realise that support for one database platform e.g. Progress or MS SQL Server makes much more sense than two e.g. Progress and MS SQL Server.

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