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The IRIS roadmap – here is the full unexpurgated announcement

LONDON – 6 December 2007 – IRIS Legal today announced its direction for the future of the Legal IT sector outlining how they intend to protect customer investment in existing products while delivering new products and innovation as part of a 5 year plan.

The new plan, outlined today by Arlene Adams (MD of the IRIS Legal business) at a press and consulting conference held at Microsoft, builds on IRIS’ market leading position and proven track record of delivering long term commitment and investment in its chosen markets.

By comparison the IRIS Accounting Practice Solutions business, which is not dissimilar to IRIS Legal in size (£30m annual revenues and the leading provider of integrated practice management software), has already set out a long term roadmap for customers supported by a multi-million pound investment in next generation products.  Over the past 6 years the IRIS Accounting Practice Solutions business has grown their customer base from 2,500 to over 15,000 practices and only last month was awarded Accountancy Age Practice Management Software Product of the Year. Much of the growth, which has delivered IRIS 40% market share, is organic thus demonstrating that customers want to partner with software vendors who have a clear long term roadmap backed by the right level of investment and skills.  

Martin Leuw CEO of IRIS Group commented: “Our customers choose to partner with IRIS because we have demonstrated time and time again our commitment to the market sectors in which we operate, in particular the professions. It is our strategy to be number 1 in our chosen markets and to deliver on this we recognise the need for a long term plan supported by continuous investment. It is our clear ambition to grow our market share in the legal sector through offering great products and customer service just as we have to the Accountancy profession and elsewhere within the IRIS Group, where our customer retention rates in the high 90%’s are amongst the best in the industry.”

Having already restructured the business in early October, to position it for growth, Adams today set out the 5 year product strategy that is built on the premise of protecting customer investment while delivering new applications and innovation to customers. The product strategy is based on research that indicates law firm's immediate technology needs are growing beyond the hard and fast back office processing towards flexible front end applications tailored to how users work in their daily environments. The strategy is being driven by the need for legal firms to be more flexible, creative and cost effective in how they do business in order to compete in a market which is increasingly facing tightening commercial pressures and rising client expectations.

Introducing IRIS Legal Link.
IRIS Legal is developing a technology framework called Legal Link to deliver on their vision of an integrated legal desktop over a 5 to 6 year period for the solicitor, barrister and coroner market. This framework integrates the existing IRIS legal applications with new legal applications and relevant IRIS group products. During this period IRIS Legal also plans to introduce new practice and case management (PCM) modules through the merging of best practice and technology from the existing PCM systems. The framework is based on a modular approach with a view to delivering a world class integrated legal desktop in 5 years.

Legal Link is based on the Microsoft .Net technology and will be available as a software solution and over time as a managed service. This is the same technology currently being used to develop the latest generation of IRIS Accounting Practice software. While careful consideration was given to the underpinning technology it was clear that Microsoft .Net offered both customers and IRIS the best protection of investment long term. In this market Microsoft is widely accepted and therefore it would have been limiting for customers if IRIS Legal were to base the strategy on any other technology. This decision also has the added benefit of providing the best opportunity for customers to maintain open links to other market products as well as IRIS being able to leverage much of the hard work already conducted by the IRIS Accounting Practice.  IRIS is a Microsoft Gold and Hosted Services Partner.

New Applications
The framework has been designed to protect the investment customers have made in their existing IRIS systems while allowing for the deployment of new applications and function that can further advance the efficiency and competitive advantage of a legal firm.

IRIS market research and customer feedback indicates that the priority for new development rests in “front office” applications, ie Lawyer and Client facing, such as email and diary management, task and document management, CRM, workflow and knowledge management. Innovation in front office applications in the legal market have been limited to date. This is an area where IRIS can leverage its significant R&D resources and the technology available in the wider IRIS Group to excel in delivering new innovations to the legal community. Legal Link also takes advantage of the wider IRIS group technology and “know how”, including solutions in Human Resources (HR), Payroll, Workflow, Client Relationship Management (CRM) and Company Secretarial. The framework will also embrace the need to see more integration between solicitors and barristers at a technology level. Given IRIS is a leading player in both markets it recognises the opportunity to innovate and make it easier for solicitors and barristers to do business in a secure environment.



Protecting Customer Investments
IRIS Legal recognises the long term investment that customers are making and therefore the need for stability and clear road maps. “Our product strategy is built on a pre-requisite to protect the investment of existing customers by not discontinuing any existing products, but simultaneously investing in the next generation technology platforms which both existing and new customers can migrate to over time to improve their operational efficiency, customer  service and  business performance” stated Arlene Adams, Managing Director, “Only a supplier of the size, stature and resources of IRIS has the capability to make this a reality for users”.  

Adams reinforces IRIS's public commitment from earlier this year to provide support on all existing IRIS Legal products for at least 4 years. Adams comments that “a public commitment to maintaining support on existing product is important in under pinning the new product strategy.  Our strategy is not a big bang approach but rather a step by step approach to ease the migration for customers. We see this more as an upgrade path for our existing product set as opposed to a replacement strategy. This is important so that customers can take time to plan for any changes and can align any changes to direct business benefit.”  

A commercial roadmap is also being developed to align to the technology roadmap. This will be based on the premise that IRIS protects customers existing investment. New applications and function will be charged for as they always have been.  Existing software function will be part of the customer support agreement and for this there will be no additional software charge. Customers will only have to pay for the new function that they don't have today. The decision to invest therefore should be at a customer's choice based on the value and return.

Committed to Finance and R&D Investment
IRIS Legal accounts for approximately 30% of the IRIS Software Group’s £100m+ annual revenues, similar in size to the IRIS Accounting Practice business. IRIS is committed to making the necessary investments in research, development and customer service to enable IRIS Legal to increase market share and drive innovation in the legal sector.

The announcement of today's future roadmap, together with IRIS's proven track record of investment and long term commitment to its chosen markets is a true demonstration of the benefits the enlarged Group with its significant resources of people, experience and financial investment can bring to customers.

(Statement ends)

21 replies on “The IRIS roadmap – here is the full unexpurgated announcement”

“IRIS Legal recognises the long term investment that customers are making and therefore the need for stability and clear road maps.”
At this stage I don’t believe anyone thinks it’s that clear – it was only recently that they discovered that the Titanic’s binoculars were inadvertently left behind and could have averted the disaster had they been to hand!! Reading the above I think they’re just heading out into the Atlantic.

In publishing the road map, IRIS Legal have become the first supplier that I am aware of to make public their long-term plans for their products. It has always been more traditional to allow your own users to know of your plans but not the world at large. To some extent, IRIS probably had no choice but to do this because of all of the general speculation about their future direction. Never the less, making the decision to do this at a Microsoft conference presumably means they wanted the world to see their plans and then to comment on them.
The first thing that is very clear from this statement is that in developing “Legal Link” IRIS have defined exactly what they want to try and achieve for the future. I am not convinced, as has been speculated elsewhere and indeed in other comments made by IRIS, that this will end up being a product that will link a lot of other PMS and CMS systems together. When it actually comes down to it a lot of time and expensive resource could be wasted in trying to pursue this route. Ultimately, whilst I would imagine that IRIS have set out with these intentions, in effect they will end up writing a brand new PMS and CMS product using all the best ideas from the various companies that they have acquired over the period. I am sure that they will end up with a very impressive and powerful product that will become a real force in the legal supply industry.
One certain difficulty that I can see, however, is that IRIS are saying that the roadmap is to deliver this product “over a 5 to 6 year period” and if we assume that they are able to adhere to these deadlines it is likely that this product is going to be in full production in about 7 years time. The question clients and prospective clients have to decide then is “ what are we going to do in the meantime?”.
IRIS have stated their commitment to continue to develop and support all of their existing products. However, they go on to say that they are going to use their considerable resources to develop this new product. It seems to me that it may be impossible to continue to develop all of their existing PMS and CMS for both lawyers and barristers to the same high standard, whilst finding the additional resources required to develop an entirely new product without substantial compromise being made in one area or another. If they plough their resources into developing “ Legal Link” then surely this must be to the detriment of the existing products in the portfolio used by all of their current clients. I know that there many users of IRIS products now who would prefer to see the company investing the time in ensuring that, for example, all IRIS products were up to date with the latest requirements of the LSC now, rather than knowing that a fantastic new product was coming along in a few years. Ultimately we want jam today and jam tomorrow, but that is not usually commercially viable.
The IRIS roadmap goes on to say that the new product will be available to clients, although they will be expected to pay for the new software. This may be quite reasonable however, it does give law firms a problem now where they feel they need to purchase more up to date software for their immediate needs. If they elect to purchase software from the IRIS Group they are effectively doing so knowing that a new product is going to come along over the next 5 or 6 years which they will need to pay again to upgrade to. The IRIS statement expressly states that the software that they will currently be purchasing will be supported for at least another 4 years. However, this may not give sufficient comfort for lawyers who are used to investing over the longer period.
In summary, the challenge that the IRIS roadmap as published now provides is simply this. If a law firm is looking to ensure they are completely up to date with the latest technology today, the IRIS statement effectively says that their product will be available in 5 or 6 years’ time. The go-ahead law firm may well consider that they should purchase the best software in the marketplace today, with a view to reviewing that decision if appropriate when the new “Legal Link” software becomes available, rather than patiently waiting.

You can' blame them for trying to spin this in a positive light but put simply they've inherited some companies in the legal arena that they didn't select, probably wouldn't have the same mix if they had and now they've desperately got to try and hold it all together.
What new prospects and clients are investing in specifically is somewhat unknown and you will not really find out for another 5+ years.
It's not exactly the worlds best kept secret that there are already winners and losers in the IRIS Legal portfolio.

With this announcement about the Legal Link and the various other products that would go with it I'm curious as to which companies, within the group, will be involved with the main development.
I presume each group company will be involved with getting their own applications to “talk” to the Legal Link framework but who will develop the framework itself?
Can anyone from within Iris comment?
I'm also inclined to agree with one of the earlier comments, I wouldn't be surprised if Iris decide to create a new, single P/CMS application. Why bother trying to integrate many different applications and databases when they own them all anyway and take what they need from each – it would be a massive waste of resource surely?

All very nice I'm sure but I'm more worried about the next 12 months let alone 5 years or so. Please could what we've got now actually work – approach to Criminal/Civil is appalling. Constant denials that anything's wrong but it simply won't wash with us or many other unhappy users.

A reader (and presumably belonging to an IRIS user firm) has sent in the following comment, tho he prefers to remain anonymous…
“We could learn much from Iris
An Iris marketing strategy:-
Week 1
Thursday Send letter with invite to important seminar without location or timings or agenda.
Week 2
Monday/Tuesday Contact potential recipients of letter to confirm receipt send e-mail where not.
Wednesday Confirm location and timings.
Thursday Cancel event due to lack of interest.
Iris is to marketing what the Sinclair C5 is to grand prix racing!!”

Yes i think we were all suppose to trot off to Salisbury racecourse but a waste of time really!! (excuse the pun). Frankly i don't think they have a clue how bad it is in terms of feelings amongst the base. Firstly we had CSG for a matter of months and then IRIS – I don't think many of them will be around after 2 years let alone 5 and going by CSG they'll have flogged it by then anyway.

The IRIS legal companies have lost their identity and edge – staff know it, clients know it, consultantants and commentators know it plus the competition.

at least you knew about it. Other clients had no prior warning before the Iris press release to the great unwashed

Oh dear. I have to say I have been here before with AIM in the 1980's. hy does someone from the old school not stand up and explain what happened. Loads of corporate speak and big ideas. Unfortunately legal software is extremely sophisticated. One system that is still being sold in the market took over 30 man years of effort and it still isn't finished. What they are aiming for is brave and valiant but completely impossible – even in 6 years! I predict a spectacular fall. Anyone know how many clients they are are loosing?

Probably because most of the people from the old school have graduated (sic). Jim Chase, Steve Kendrick, Ian Knox, Barry Hawley Green and that is just the ones we know of.
It is always best in business to sack any dissenting voices!

Barry Green sold Laserform with the specific intention of leaving the company so he should be excluded from that list. And it would be interesting to see if other suppliers snap up any of these people, once their 'gardening leaves' come to an end.

Oh dear what a mess.
Iris would have better off saying that the three systems (AIM VIDESS AND MOUNTAIN) were being tuned? for particular market segments, whilst at the same time legal link was being developed.
They could then say that users could have a consistent desktop, and select the underlying product most suited to the individual law firm. with easy migration if requirements changed.
Still what do I know only been a client for 15 years….
Would have been nice to have been at least asked what we wanted. From what I can gather no one has spokern to the users at all about this.

OK – I know this doesn't assist the debate but I have just received my e-card from Iris with the heading “Season Greetings”. I am not a big fan of e-cards as I still prefer the more traditional approach however I was quite amused that the e-card came with the usual disclaimer including this bit:-
“Any views or opinions prsented [their typo not mine] in this email or attachment are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IRIS, its parent, associates, subsidiaries or affiliates, unless otherwise expressly indicated.”
So – are Iris wishing me a happy Christmas or not?

The full text of the card reads
“Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and happy New Year
Best Regards,
From everyone at IRIS Legal Solutions
© IRIS Software Group Ltd 2007. All rights reserved.
Disclaimer: This email and any attachment are intended only for the use of the individual or entity to which it is directed and may contain information which is confidential. Access, copying or re-use of information in or attached to this email by anyone else other than the intended recipient is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication and you are not the intended recipient or the employee or agent responsible for delivering this email to the intended recipient, please inform IRIS on telephone number 01753 212200 and then delete this email and any attachments from your system.
IRIS makes no representation or warranty as to the absence of viruses in this email or any attachments and we may monitor emails sent to and from our server.
Any views or opinions prsented in this email or attachment are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IRIS, its parent, associates, subsidiaries or affiliates, unless otherwise expressly indicated.
Computer Software Group Limited | Registered in England: 4023140 | Registered office: Integra House, 138-140 Alexandra Road, London, SW19 7JY”

And the last line reads “Computer Software Group Limited” deja vu or what?

Of all the IRIS Legal companies Videss probably has (had) the best brand. However, you only have to listen to some key customers to realise that support isn't what it used to be.

True.
The senior people at Iris continue to claim that it is all going very well. This is probably because profits are going up as they cut costs which is usually reflected in a downtown in the quality of support. Support is an easy target when you need to improve the bottom line.
The problem with this approach is that it looks pretty good in the short term but will cause clients to move away over the longer peiod. This in turn means that the company will cut costs further and before you know it you are in a vicious circle.

That would be true, except they will rebrand to “Northern Rock 2” and hope to be nationalised shortly.
Ah, sorry, somebody beat them to it !

Maybe they should spend a bit on marketing – Oh sorry, that should be effective marketing!

Comments are closed.