This week saw the confirmation from Thompson Reuters (TR) that the next update (version 3.11 scheduled for release in Q2 2016) will be the last planned enhancement release of their Enterprise platform.
From that point the system will be updated with bug fix releases only until 31st December 2022 at which time support will also be downgraded to migration support only.
There is little doubt following TR’s earlier announcement (21st December 2015) that Envision (aka Pilgrim / Lawsoft) will be put in maintenance mode until December 2019 (when it is expected support will be discontinued) and that TR’s strategy is to move away from the mid-tier market.
Given the two announcements it would be a surprise, if most firms effected are not considering their options and asking their account managers probing questions to assess the credibility/feasibility of the decision to stay with TR long-term.
Charles Christian commented that this would be a good time for Finance Directors and Heads of IT to consider early retirement (http://www.legaltechnology.com/latest-news/no-reprieve-date-set-for-elite-enterprise-execution-er-its-all-microsofts-fault/).
On the flipside we think this could be a period of great opportunity for any firm effected by TR’s decision as it is the perfect opportunity to assess the firm’s operational capability and assess the effectiveness of the business processes, existing IT strategy and delivery.
Firms using Enterprise will have followed a best of breed approach (including the Elite / Elite Mattersphere combined package). Such projects tended to result in a focus on the technical interface requirements rather than on the business requirements or end-user experience. It is therefore not unusual to find that by following such an approach firms have made major investments but have not benefited from the packages as they could.
We would recommend not rushing to market and looking at like-for-like replacement PMS solutions immediately but that there should be a period of stocktaking and analysis of the performance of the existing solution. For example: –
- Review usage of the existing PMS and identify ineffectual business processes (e.g. can fee-earners easily raise their own bills)
- Identify functionality adoption and highlight beneficial functions which are presently available which have not been used and investigate why (e.g. are on-line authorisation procedures in place)
- Analyse application integrations and assess the functionality provided against business requirements and end-user experience (e.g. are the interfaces enabling data to flow between applications effectively)
- Seek to identify business processes which are completed “off system” in an inefficient way (e.g. are paper chits still been used)
- Map the organisational information flow and identify what data is required, by who and when
- Challenge the business processes and identify any areas for improvement
- Don’t be afraid to question all system outputs (screens, reports) and ensure they are still relevant.
When moving forward with such a project
- Be careful of selection fatigue – remember that the selection process is just the first phase of a major project. Often firms spend 6 – 9 months on the system selection process and then there is a dip in energy to tackle the implementation phase which could be another 6-9 months depending on the complexity.
- Identify what’s important – rather than spending vast amounts of time creating an Invitation to Tender (ITT) consisting of hundreds of questions which turn the selection process into a box ticking exercise, identify what’s important and will give you operational or performance enhancement. Then focus the selection process around these requirements ensuring the vendors prove they are able to deliver them their system or they are contractually obliged to deliver them prior to the testing phase.
- End User Experience – let’s be honest most of the PMS solutions do the same thing – the differentiator is how they do it. Ensure the vendors prove how your processes will work in their system and how end-users will interact with the system whilst undertaking business processes.
- Resourcing – don’t underestimate the amount of time that such a project will take and the impact on the staff involved – in their ability to undertake normal operational tasks as well as the project. Identify internal project resource requirements and where relevant back-fill project staff to ensure business as usual continues. Also implement project decision making structures.
- Do consider using external consultants – This is likely to be a project which the firm undertakes every 10 – 15 years. Having external support could be invaluable to the success of the project.
At Baskerville Drummond we have significant experience PMS system selection and implementation projects and would be delighted to discuss your project. We offer a blended service to suit your individual needs.