Once you’ve decided you need to replace your software, your first port of call is to take a look as the latest offerings on the market. A simple search for a term like ‘Practice Management Software’ throws up a seemingly endless list of results, with each claiming to be easier to use than their competitors and solving each and every challenge your organisation faces.
Here, we walk you through three key questions to ask during the selection process and how to choose the best-fit for your firm.
1. Does the software fit with your future plans?
Any solution you put in place will need to integrate with software your firm uses now, and wishes to use in the future.
You’ll want to consider the longevity of the platform. Find out what the software development roadmap looks like and how much the vendor will be investing in its development, to get a sense of how likely it is to be kept up to date. The last thing you’ll want to be doing is going through this process again in a couple of years’ time.
Assess the future plans for the firm. If you’re looking to grow significantly or acquire other firms, you’ll need a solution that will scale appropriately. You may also find that you’ll need a flexible solution if you’ll be changing the way your firm operates and introducing new areas of practice. Or, if your employees are increasingly working away from the office, you will require a solution you can access remotely without any impact on performance.
2. Is your data safe?
This is by far one of the most important questions for firms. You’ll want to favour solutions built on the latest, best-of-breed technologies. And you’ll also need to understand whether the software is fully cloud-based, or if you’ll need to manage hosting yourself.
While hosting your own software applications gives you full control over where and how your data is stored, this requires resource and investment to manage. Many firms rely on third-party cloud infrastructure providers to provide this service, using their specialist skills, knowledge and time to implement and maintain effectively.
Cloud-based solutions are typically perceived as easier to manage, however, this is not an option for many larger firms due to their clients’ compliance requirements. If you do consider a solution that requires data to be stored with the software provider, you’ll want to ascertain:
- If the vendor has access to your data.
- How data is protected and encrypted.
- Where data is stored geographically and what physical protection is in place at the data centre.
- Whether they’re compliant with relevant legislation & SRA guidelines.
Finally, understand how easy it is to export and retrieve your data. Whether you need to export data as part of operations or if you need to migrate at a future date, this should be something relatively easy to accomplish.
3. How is the vendor engaging with you?
Are they happy to facilitate demos and a trial of the software? If not, this a large red flag. You should able to see the software in action, with the opportunity to ask questions along the way. Pay close attention during the demo – is it a carefully choreographed routine, or are you able to delve into areas of interest in more detail?
Client references are incredibly important here. Make sure you’re able to speak directly to them in order to find out what went well (and maybe not so well). You’ll get a good feel as to how smoothly the project went and how they’re using their software.
Assess the vendor’s team too. Find out the structure of the delivery team, who is responsible for what and talk to their support team. Do they seem knowledgeable and responsive? Is out of hours support available?
Most reputable vendors will be open and honest about any potential shortcomings with their solution. Whether the software can scale and grow with your team or work with your business processes, if answers are vague or skirt around potential issues, this could be indicative of a poor fit for your firm.
What you’ll start to pick up throughout this engagement process is whether or not there’s a general interest in reaching a solution for your firm or whether a generic package is being pushed by a target-laden salesperson.
Finally, before you sign the dotted line, double check that any contracts reflect what you’ve been promised verbally. Taking the time to clarify any vague statements or terminology that you might not understand will ensure your solution lives up to its promises.
As you run through these questions and considerations, you’ll start to find that your list of options starts to shrink as you move closer towards the best solution for your firm.
Are you in the process of transitioning to a new Practice Management System? Download our free guide for law firms and make sure you’re on track.