The legal profession is rapidly moving to a broader acceptance of Cloud-based law office management software as a viable choice for operating a modern law practice. There are many more Cloud applications for law firms to consider today, and the products available are becoming much stronger competitors to the on-premise software now in use by many firms. Our challenge, and the challenge faced by many firms, is to define and deliver the services needed to support a move to the Cloud from current on-premise software.
In an earlier post Moving to the Cloud, I discussed the different “categories” of Cloud computing. This post focuses specifically on the “software-as-a-Service” (SaaS) model for Cloud computing. These applications typically require no software to be installed on the desktop – beyond a browser- and most of them offer free smartphone apps that will perform virtually all of the functions of the desktop browser version of the app. For some firms this “data mobility” can be a powerful inducement to switch.
At Crosspointe we are working very hard to stay current with the ever-growing list of Cloud software applications for the legal profession. This task is as challenging for us, as technology consultants, as it is for firms evaluating a move to the Cloud. There are many new software interfaces and routines to learn, new database structures to absorb, and in some cases screen design tools to master.
And lurking beneath all of this is a profound change to our own firm’s business model, moving from a provider of software products with related training/support services to a business advisory and data migration organization.
One of our ongoing challenges is to uncover “product equivalences” between the on-premise products we have supported for years and the emerging Cloud applications that are likely to replace those on-premise products over time. So if you use “product A” now for your billing system, you will most likely be a best fit for “product C” should you decide to migrate to the Cloud for your billing software.
An emerging role for our firm is thus to provide a series of services to support those firms migrating from on-premise to Cloud-based law office management software. Those services at present appear to fall into three distinct groupings:
- Data Translation
- Business practice Implementation/Workflow
These services begin with developing a very clear and thorough understanding of a firm’s critical business requirements, and an assessment of what features and capabilities in the current on-premises software are key to satisfying those requirements. Performing that evaluation helps us to make the best recommendation for a “fit” between a firm’s software needs and a Cloud application’s capabilities. One size most assuredly does not fit all!
Following that recommendation, our role in the migration process becomes one of “facilitating partner” for the Cloud application vendor, helping them to identify, extract, and reformat data from the on-premises system and import that data into the Cloud application.
Many Cloud application vendors today offer “free” migration services from existing software, but it is almost impossible for these vendors to understand the “nuances” of a company’s usage of an on-premises application. Those on-premise “legacy” products typically store a large volume of highly specific data collected over time to address the particular firm’s processing needs.
We can typically play a critical “translation” role for the migrating firm, interpreting for the vendor the specific database needs of the client, based on our experience with the firm and with the on-premises application that houses their data. From tools we have amassed over the years from our support of various on-premise software products we are often able to “massage” data that is otherwise unintelligible to the Cloud application vendor.
Once data is migrated and the firm is ready to go “live” with the new Cloud application, our role becomes one of “process advisor”. In this role we can suggest best practices for using the new application that most closely parallel the firm’s business practices used with its on-premise product. In some cases we may be able to suggest modifications to current business practices and processing workflows that better leverage the unique strengths of the selected Cloud application. Most Cloud application vendors offer online product training and technical support as part of the subscription fee, but rarely do those services include advice on best practices to solve a specific business challenge or to improve overall workflow.
As the law office management software market evolves, so too must we. We are as “under the gun” in assessing and learning new Cloud products to recommend as law firms are in making selections of those products. By working together, we hope that we can offer the best solutions for everyone’s needs.
Thinking about a move to the Cloud? We are always happy to discuss our take on the evolving software market, and what products seem to fit best with what types of needs. Give us a call at 877-357-0555 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are looking for advice on a move to the Cloud.