Posted October 9, 2019 in Technology
The CALSPro 51st Annual Conference wrapped up just a few days ago in Newport Beach. As always, the conference proved to be an invaluable opportunity to connect with other industry professionals, identify ways to improve our business and learn about the issues impacting our process serving and attorney service firms.
I’d like to thank CALSPro for putting together a panel that featured us, ServeManager, and three other software providers to talk about their products and discuss how they see technology impacting the industry in the future. CALSPro has always been forward-thinking and does a great job of providing relevant, educational content.
Our conversations at the conference had a collective theme: There are a lot of attorney service and process serving firms looking toward the future, and technology is one of their biggest concerns. Recently, we’ve seen more than one software product in this industry essentially disappear, but a lot of conversations we had were with those who simply weren’t happy with their current solution.
On the panel, one thing we all agreed upon was that “change isn’t easy”, but you’re far better off changing on your own terms versus be forced to change.
The rest of this article will focus on that concept — knowing when it might be time to move on.
I’ve spent some time on this topic recently — namely listening to legal technology podcasts. There are a couple episodes that I think articulate thoughts around this topic well — The Kennedy Mighell Report – “Legal Technology: Knowing when it might be time to move on” and Matters: a podcast by Clio – “Why tech competence matters”.
Your product is no longer supported
Unfortunately, we’ve seen this twice in about a year. Two software products in the attorney service industry basically no longer exist. The first was CaseManager, which just stopped working, leaving lots of process servers in a panic. Their data was gone and they had nowhere to turn.
More recently, and closer to home for CALSPro members, the owner of ProServe (a California-focused product) passed away with no apparent succession plan. Some companies like Bosco Legal Services saw the writing on the wall, and transitioned away several years ago. Others are now being forced to change.
We’re currently helping a number of California attorney service firms formerly on ProServe transition over to our platform.
If you’re using a software product where support is declining, or the team is a one- or two-person shop, you’ll want to inquire about their succession plans.
You have to install something (likely on an outdated OS)
It’s rare to have to install software these days. Not only does that mean you’re likely dependant upon a specific operating system, but that could also mean that you’re forced to utilize an OS that is dated and vulnerable. Updates can, and very often do, break things in installed software.
And this means that your software provider is probably spending more time on making sure that their product works with the most recent version of Windows over improving the software and adding new features.
With a SaaS (Software as a Service, or web-based) product you always have the latest version. There are no “big bang” releases that could have bugs, or potentially have a lot of new feature updates to learn.
With a SaaS product, updates and feature improvements are consistently deployed without you having to install those for each user and on each device in your company.
You’re maintaining hardware
Setting aside the cost of hardware and the expense to maintain it, too much can go wrong when you’re managing your own hardware — whether it be failure of the hardware itself, natural disasters or something else. Hardware and server dependency are sure signs of dated technology.
Your software company shouldn’t be managing their own hardware either. Services like Amazon Web Services (AWS) are too inexpensive and easy to utilize to not be part of their technology stack.
Would you rather have your software company managing hardware and maintaining servers, or building good software?
AWS is the same platform as Amazon.com, Netflix, LinkedIn, Slack and the Dow Jones among many other high profile companies. There’s no one more motivated to achieve 100% uptime and reliability. If AWS goes down for 10 minutes, it costs the company over $2 million dollars.
When you’re maintaining your own hardware, you’re also responsible for backing up that server. And backups are only useful if you can restore them in the event of an emergency. So you’re also responsible for not only routinely testing that procedure but executing that recovery while your business is potentially in chaos.
You can’t work from anywhere, or on any device
Whether you’re a small business owner who wants a flexible lifestyle, or a large firm looking to attract the best talent, being able to work from anywhere, at any time, from any device should be important to you.
When you’re running your own business, you know that you’re “always working.” Even on vacation and on the weekends, you’re checking in to make sure that everything is running smoothly and there are no fires to put out. Web-based products afford you that flexibility.
For those that have employees, you know that things come up. They or their family get sick. They have appointments or other obligations. These are things that shouldn’t necessarily impact your company’s productivity and keeping them from living their life. Allowing them to work remotely (to whatever degree you’re comfortable) helps you stay productive and can impact retention.
At almost any scale you should be able to run your business with a laptop and a smartphone anywhere you have an internet connection. What’s the perception a client will have if they walk into your office and there are a bunch of 10 year old desktops humming underneath desks?
From a hardware perspective, all you should really need to be doing in 2019 is replacing laptops and phones every few years.
You’re spending too much time outside of your case management system
If your case management software isn’t actively improving existing features and releasing new features, you’re likely spending a lot of time managing your business with other applications for some critical aspects of your workflow.
Ask your provider what major updates they’re planning. The more you can keep your workflow contained to your case management software, the better.
“Customer Portals” should not cost “extra”
One of the primary reasons we created ServeManager was because we heard from so many law firms and process servers that they were spending a ton of time on status emails and calls.
We built ServeManager with the foundation of client communication and collaboration in mind. In 2019, this notion should not be an “add-on” or afterthought. Clients should no longer have to call for status, and you certainly should not have to pay extra for the ability to keep them updated.
Inability to connect to a client’s software
Millenials and younger folks will or have already become the majority when it comes to decision making. They don’t know a time when the internet or cloud was not the norm in computing. Modern, cloud-based software checks all the boxes when it comes to bank-level security, data integrity and connectivity.
Does your software have an open API? Is it connected to a platform like Zapier that allows you or your customers to build your own automations? These are questions you should be asking yourself and your software provider.
Is your technology (and business) becoming dated gradually… then suddenly?
In summary, if you’re experiencing any of the above, ask yourself if you’ll be able to run your business efficiently and competitively with the technology you currently have two to five years from now.
The above quote by Hemmingway, “How did you go bankrupt? Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.” is analogous to technology and what can happen with it and your business if you’re not continually looking at ways to improve.
We’re unfortunately seeing companies in this industry gradually, then suddenly become irrelevant because they’re not willing to embrace modern technology. Those who do so, and adapt to change will be the ones that succeed.
Got all the way to the end of this post, and still not convinced? Give a listen to this podcast.