In association with LawWare: It's not just about buying a package – legal software should be designed and built around your needs

Those that do not may well find their ears are burning. It's not just about buying an off-the-shelf, one size fits all package. Legal software should be designed and built around your needs.

That means you should be an integral part of the process. If you're not, it's a bit like investing in a modern day version of the Sinclair C5 – world leading technology but, ultimately, just not fit for purpose.

Many practice management and accounts software suppliers will tell you that you are the focus of their design and development. Does yours walk the walk?

So, what are the signs of a supplier that listens? It boils down to three very basic approaches.

Joined-up support

Once you've signed up for the software, you'll need support and assistance of various types. In an ideal world, you should have options: telephone support, face-to-face support, onsite and online training. More importantly, you should have a dedicated individual who acts as your go-to person. Someone who manages the relationship, solves problems and seeks out your views.

Those are the basics to meet your needs. However, it's a two sided coin. Any software supplier worth their salt recognises that all that telephone, face-to-face and online contact provides them with a mine of information.

That information covers your likes and dislikes about the product as well as your potential future needs. If the information goes unused or ignored, it is worthless. The better suppliers take it seriously and use it to fashion future versions of their product around what you want.

Making a point of finding out what you want

Support, training and managing the relationship are all well and good. How can suppliers go beyond that? Regular events such as user group meetings or client conferences - call them what you will - are as good a place to start as any.

This type of symposium provides the opportunity for you to have your say directly to your software supplier. It's your chance to air your gripes and ask for changes and improvements to be made. It's also your chance to take a look at what the techies are planning to do next with their product.

That's good for them too. It allows them to gather information to feed into their development cycle, to prioritise new additions and test out their ideas for the future. No-one likes to be a guinea pig for untested new products.

Getting you involved

Joined up support and seeking your views at regular events are a powerful combination, designed to help you and your supplier get it right and cement relationships. So, how can your supplier go the extra mile?

That's where a developer forum comes into its own. This is your opportunity to become directly involved in the software development process. You will have the chance to test out new improvements and versions before they are publicly released.

Being this close to the process also gives you free range to air your views on how the product can be shaped to meet your needs in the company of your peers as well as the software developers.

It's not for the faint-hearted but it will ensure that whatever future shape your practice management software takes, it will have been designed with your needs at its heart.

These key components are the mark of a supplier that listens. How's yours doing?

Find out more about LawWare. Contact us: 0345 2020 578 or innovate@lawware.co.uk.

The Author

Mike O'Donnell, LawWare

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