LSSA Procurement White Paper
Procuring new software can be a daunting task. It is not something that occurs very often and possibly, due to a previous bad experience, can strike fear in the heart of the IT partner. Times have moved on and data interoperability is something that has improved substantially. Legal software suppliers are now more adept at transferring data and have various tools and products they can deploy to ensure your data can be safely and securely migrated. LSSA members all adhere to the LSSA code of conduct, ensuring you are free to move between software suppliers and that your incumbent supplier will co-operate with your new supplier. You may also find it useful to read the LSSA white paper on Data Conversion when considering your migration.
The decision to change your software product is significant. Many technology businesses rely on excitement to drive adoption of new devices and new software products. You should concentrate on the benefits it will bring to your business. This white paper sets out the essential issues you should consider and will prepare you for your implementation.
Deciding to change supplier
Unless there has been a compelling reason (e.g., the software is no longer supported) why you must change your software supplier, we suggest you consider engaging with them to see if the functionality you need is available, but you are simply not using it.
If there is a compelling reason or your current software supplier is unable to deliver what your business needs, then it’s time to start your new software procurement project. This is an exciting time for your business and full of opportunity.
Setting out your requirement list
You have identified a need within your business and are looking to fulfil that need with software. Before you go to market write down your business case. This will help you focus on your ultimate goal and help avoid mission creep. That is not to say you should dismiss everything that is “out of scope” but it‘s often easy to lose sight of the core driver/s for a project when you have so many potential new elements to consider.
Think about your previous software purchase. What did you get right and what did you get wrong? Again, write these points down so you can share this information with your fellow decision-makers.
There will be issues that arise as the procurement process gets underway so it helps to have a list of questions ahead of inviting suppliers for demonstrations. Be prepared to question the sales representatives and ensure you receive clear and concise answers to your questions and that you are satisfied with the answers. If a sales representative is unable to answer a specific question, providing they follow-up with an acceptable answer shortly after the demonstration this should not adversely impact your decision-making process.
Bring together your decision makers. Depending on the size of your firm you may choose to undertake this process on your own or with a group of colleagues. Each of these people will seek to ensure that their requirements are met with the new software purchase. Ensure your business case and requirements reflect the goals of the collective members of the committee and the business.
Appointing a project leader
A successful implementation requires effort on the part of the software supplier and the law firm. Having a dedicated project leader who is involved from the outset will help ensure your implementation is smooth and successful.
Communication with your team
Embarking on a new software procurement project is a serious undertaking for any business. With a clear set of goals and objectives you are planning the future of your firm. Involving your staff at an early stage and keeping them informed of the progress is a great way to get early buy-in. The success of an implementation is largely down to how effectively your staff will use it. The best software is next to worthless if nobody uses it properly.
Identifying your prospective suppliers
There is a vast amount of information available online. Much of this will be from marketing websites which are designed to entice you into booking a demonstration. Whilst it should be read and taken into consideration, bear in mind that there are other sources of information. Colleagues may have had prior experience of using certain software products and can give their input. You may have contacts in other law firms who are willing to share their experiences. Independent publications such as the ILFM Software Guide can provide guidance. Review sites can be a useful source of information however not all review sites verify the reviewer so you should take ratings with a pinch of salt. A firm that has nothing but five star reviews may be the best software in the world or may have obtained its rating through paid-for listings. Do not be discouraged by a few poor reviews if the majority are positive. As with all things, people have different preferences and what works brilliantly for one firm may not for another.
Depending on the scope and size of your project you may decide to send an Invitation to Tender (ITT) to each supplier. This will list your requirements and ask suppliers how they would meet them. Send all ITTs on the same date and give the suppliers a fixed time frame in which to return them. Reviewing will help you create your shortlist.
If you don’t think your project warrants a full ITT we recommend sending a list of your requirements to each supplier when arranging a demonstration. This will help the supplier focus the demonstration on your requirements and avoid wasted time.
Should your preference be to have an initial demonstration at your offices make sure this is made clear to the supplier as they will need to make preparation for travel and delivering the presentation.
Allow each supplier the same time frame to present. Ask the questions you have prepared and ensure the supplier gives you satisfactory answers. Be prepared to labour any points that are important to you and question any answers given if you are unclear. Do not move on until you have received satisfactory answers. A good sales representative will have an excellent knowledge of the product and will want to engage with the audience through questions and answers. It is unlikely that simply reeling off a prepared demonstration with no opportunity for questions will give you what you need from the process. The more the supplier understands about what you want to achieve the better they can present how their software product will meet your requirements.
Allow time to ask about how migration, training and support services are delivered. This is normally a long term commitment so understanding how you will be supported beyond the initial implementation is crucial.
Ask each supplier to provide a full quotation. Some firms may be reluctant to give detailed pricing on the migration until further investigations have taken place, but all should be able to give indicative pricing at this stage.
Once you have had your initial set of demonstrations and reviewed the quotations shortlist those suppliers who you want to see again and arrange a further meeting with each. Consider if this should be at your offices, the supplier’s office, or whether you want to proceed online. It’s likely that you will have additional questions at this stage. Giving the supplier prior knowledge of what you want to cover at a second meeting will be advantageous. They should shape a demonstration for your firm reflecting on what was covered during the first meeting and take into account your additional questions. Share the same information with all short-listed suppliers and give them all the same time frame.
During this meeting consider the migration process in more depth, what data will be brought over, how will it be transferred, when etc. Discuss the project and time frames. The supplier may need further information to give an answer but should be able to provide indicative timescales and information.
If you still haven’t decided on a supplier, consider additional demonstrations and involving a wider audience. The supplier will want to make sure they can deliver what you need just as much as you want to ensure they can deliver your requirements.
Asking for reference sites will give you some assurances from other users of what the software is like to live with day to day. Ensure you ask about support services, updates and how the supplier will communicate with your firm. It’s very likely you will be entering into a long-term commitment so knowing this information is crucial.
As lawyers you are best qualified to review the contracts. Our advice is to understand exactly what you will purchase, number of licences, migration, set up etc. Understanding the length of the agreement and what happens at the end of the agreement, including how you access your data, ongoing provisions for support, training, upgrades and when payments will fall due, amount and frequency is paramount. Some suppliers will expect a payment upfront and then smaller maintenance payments, often referred to as CAP Ex, whereas other suppliers may provide all services in one monthly payment often referred to as Op Ex. Some may offer a combination with set up and migration fees paid as a capital expenditure whilst the software is paid as an operational expenditure. You should ascertain what happens if you need to increase or decrease users. Software suppliers will operate different policies so don’t assume what one has said will be the case for others. Seek clarity on these issues to ensure the software can grow and contract as your firm does.
Implementation and deployment
With contracts signed you are now ready to begin your implementation. If you found this Whitepaper useful we recommend you read our Data Conversion Whitepaper.
Good luck, and should you wish any advice please feel free to contact the LSSA.