Tikit has been acquired from BT Group by case management competitor Advanced, in a controversial acquisition that Advanced Legal’s managing director Doug Hargrove is keen to emphasise will see the private equity-owned company continue to invest in both competing products Tikit P4W and ALB.

The acquisition, Advanced’s fifth in 12 months, will see Tikit’s CEO Simon Hill and CTO Mark Garnish remain with the company during the integration, although it is unclear what their plans are after that. The pair have made no secret that they have long planned a management buyout of Tikit from BT, which is selling Tikit as part of its transformation programme.

Tikit focuses on four key business areas: practice and case management; time and billing; document lifecycle; and marketing and business development.

The acquisition by Advanced, which is the UK’s third largest provider of business software, is driven by its desire to expand its presence within the legal sector. A statement out today (25 March) said: “Tikit broadens the market opportunity for Advanced solutions to include the top 100 to 200 UK law firms, being complementary to Advanced’s existing presence within small to medium sized firms. It also expands Advanced’s operations in North America, Australia and EMEA.”

The acquisition was rumoured to be taking place at the end of 2019, when the head of the Tikit P4W user group, Kelly Rotherham, who is CEO of Sternberg Reed told Legal IT Insider: “I was with Advanced prior to P4W and from my side I would be really unhappy and there are others that would feel the same having previously been with Advanced and moved to P4W. We talk about this in the user group and P4W is seen as a superior product to ALB and their customer service isn’t brilliant and they have a really high staff turnover.

“If Advanced was to buy Tikit there would be concern about what they would be planning to do. It would create a monopoly and I would certainly think about moving to Linetime.”

Speaking to us today, Hargrove said: “The concern will mainly be around whether we are going to get rid of one product or another or force feed the user group, but that is not going to be the case. We will support both products and we will carry on investing.” Where there is one clear product being used in a market – such as ALB is widely used in Scotland – that is the product that will be backed in that region, but Hargrove said: “Where there is a cross over we will work out what is best and we want to take the customers with us on that journey and develop those products.”

He added: “We won’t be reducing our investment.”

Advanced’s CEO Gordon Wilson will be speaking to the P4W user group and Hargrove said: “We will be reaching out to the chair, who is very important to us, and we want to understand what her concerns are and if they are product related.”

He added: “I’m not sure if Kelly was on an old legacy product but we will be working with Simon to support that user community and will be re-enforcing the fact we won’t be end of lifing either P4W or ALB.” Advanced runs a net promoter score where it asks customers if they would recommend Advanced and Hargrove, who took over in 2013, said: “We consistently score very highly and the business has massively improved in the time I’ve been running it so if users have concerns we will look to reassure them that the business is growing and our customers are happy.”

With regard to Hill and Garnish, Hargrove said: “Mark and Simon have been involved to date. They are committed to the integration and then they will work out as individuals what their plans and desires are.” While Advanced has a history of retaining the management of the companies it acquires, many will assume that Hill and Garnish do not plan to be among them.

The timing of this acquisition is difficult, given the global COVID-19 lockdown and Hargrove said: “The timing is bizarre but when deals happen, they happen.”

In a reassurance for Tikit staff in the subscriptions business selling NetDocuments, Hargrove said: “Yes that will continue. We’ll be developing both sides of the business and accelerating our plans. There will be no need to curtail it, quite the opposite, we’re keen to understand if there are great opportunities.”

In a statement out today (25 March), Wilson says: “The professional services sector, in particular the legal market, is a strategic growth priority for us. This sector is an increasingly enthusiastic adopter of sophisticated technology and we have worked hard to innovate and develop valuable solutions that they require.

“This acquisition will enhance our ability to provide innovative and specialist software solutions to meet clients’ needs – now and into the future. Tikit has a strong and growing customer base and is highly complementary to us, so we are thrilled to add its technology and people to the growing Advanced family.”

Advanced is backed by two private equity houses, after Vista Equity Partners sold half its stake to BC Partners for £2bn in August. Advanced had made no secret of the fact that it was again on the acquisition trail and in the summer it acquired Oyez legal forms, which integrates with Tikit P4W. That was followed in fairly quick succession by the purchase of Cheshire resource scheduling provider Kirona and Modern Systems.

We broke the news of that Oyez acquisition here: https://legaltechnology.com/latest-news/exclusive-advanced-increases-legal-forms-stronghold-with-acquisition-of-oyez-professional-services/

Advanced has long grown through acquisition, and in the early 2000s sent shockwaves through the sector when, led by CEO Vin Murria, it swept up the likes of IRIS and Videss Legal Office system. Murria sold out to Vista in 2014 for £725m.

You can read some of our coverage at the time here: https://legaltechnology.com/latest-news/goodbye-iris-legal-hello-advanced-legal-vinasty-episode-97/