When exploring the options for implementing Practice Management, Document Management and related software, firms are faced with choosing between One Size Fits All programs (“we’re the only software you need, we do it all”) and Best of Breed programs.
The obvious tradeoff here is that One Size Fits All does exactly that: you have one program, one consultant and don’t need to worry about compatibility, integration, etc. However, there is a downside to these programs. Historically, they developed to do one or two things (contacts, calendaring, etc.). As computers got more powerful and the programs grew, they added new features (email, document management). The problem here is that while the original core functions are usually quite good, the later add-ons such as email or document management are frequently second-rate at best. So the firm winds up being short-changed on features and functionality that could be key to its practice.
Best of Breed is also what it sounds like: you pick the programs that best meet the firm’s needs in specific areas: practice management, time & billing, document management, court scheduling, and so on. This potentially raises integration issues and dealing with multiple consultants, but on the other hand the firm has the best functionality available for specific needs.
This is not always an easy choice: if a second-rate feature of a one size fits all program is something that is not critical to the firm’s needs, then that program might be a good choice. Obviously as a consultant for Worldox, I have a vested interest in the Best of Breed solution, but it may not always be the best option for specific firms.
There is an analogous choice when firms select consultants.
Many firms like to pass everything through their IT consultants. This is convenient, since there is always only one number to call. IT firms obviously like it because it increases their revenue.
But very often, IT firms that are hardware-oriented have only a very limited knowledge of software programs that firms are using, such as Worldox or other document management or practice management software. This frequently creates two kinds of problems.
First, the firms get incomplete or bad advice about their software. IT firms may be able to do a minimal install but it is very unusual for hardware-based IT firms to be able to optimize an installation (there are a few exceptions to this rule, but not many). The better IT firms recognize this and work closely with software consultants for specific programs. This works well for both the hardware and software companies, since they each do only what they do best.
The second problem is the delays and expense of phone tag. The firm calls the IT company. They muck around but can’t solve the issue. They call the software consultant, who calls them back and gets insufficient information. So after several back and forths, the consultant finally calls the appropriate person at the firm and resolves the issue. This is a bad, time-consuming solution for everyone involved – and expensive for the law firm.
So, while I may have a vested interest, I still believe it is in a firm’s best interest to go with best of breed even at the inconvenience of multiple consultants. It will be more cost-effective and the firm will have a better configuration in the long run. A simple check to to consult the Worldox web site to see if your IT firm has been certified as a Worldox consultant. To quote one of my favorite sayings: “if you think hiring a professional is expensive, try hiring an amateur.”