Updating practice systems

This is a very fast changing environment, but there are some new resources which may help to take the mystique out of selection.

There’s nothing quite like competition to rattle the cage, and it has come with a fair old rush in the practice system market.

There is now a published guide that can help in the selection process on the NextLegal website (nextlegal.com.au/newpms). This provides information on functionality, workflow, document management, trust and accounting, cloud/hosting options, and so on…

Our April 2015 Practice Tip (dcilyncon.com.au/we-need-a-new-practice-system-or-do-we) argued the case that disenchantment with a current system is often as much to do with lack of firm discipline and commitment in training and resourcing as it is with functional weaknesses of the actual system. If you are in the market, give that one another look.

So here’s just a quick reminder of some of the key issues in play…

  1. Some vendors have highly trained and well-resourced sales teams. Try to think beyond polished sales pitches. They may not be the best indicator of the strengths of one product versus another.
  2. In our view, the best reference for a particular system is a detailed discussion with a couple of seasoned users (they are usually happy to help). They can advise on pluses, minuses, service issues and any unforeseen costs.
  3. Before starting the selection process, try to have some clarity on the functionality you would like as standard in your practice in three years’ time – and give strong weighting to the features that you’ll need. Some systems have an open design – which means they can easily and compatibly talk with other packages – (for example, CRM, specialist accounting) which in a fast-moving development environment can be an advantage. Is this a feature you will need?
  4. Do a complete financial analysis – sometimes called total cost of ownership. This includes hardware, precedents, data cutover from your old system, monthly costs per user, training (in our experience, you will generally need more than the quoted allowance), special reporting features, and so on. Also, some system pricing is structured so that front-end costs are very low. The market is very competitive. You can get high functionality for quite low upfront and ongoing per user costs. But you won’t understand what is high or low until you shop around. Some independent assistance may help
  5. Finally, if you are intending using a cloud-based system, check the fine print of the user agreement very closely regarding ownership of your data. Remember, in the cloud, you don’t physically control your data on site. And if you decide you’ve made the wrong choice and want to change supplier, the last thing your business needs is a protracted brawl about just who owns your data.

Take these few tips on board and see what the market has to offer.

Published: Queensland Law Society – Proctor – April, 2017

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