Even in the era of SaaS, there are choices to be made about updating and upgrading a Legal Ops software product, or switching to an entirely new solution, as you pursue having adequately modernized software.

Software-as-a-Service solutions have made the process of updating a product, where bug fixes and small improvements are done, an automatic function. A software upgrade is a complete product makeover, stepping up from one version to the next, and is more likely to require user permission and attention.

On-premise software, the former incumbent enterprise software configuration, meant a company invested in onsite architecture and IT resources to install and maintain the product, and the customer (and their IT team) had to manage updates. Without adequate support from the provider, this can become a nightmare.

Consider an area like database management (DBM), which has largely moved to the cloud.  Gartner has declared only legacy compatibility or special requirements should make users stick by on-premise DBM solutions.

Gartner SaaS

The risks of standing pat

Now that we’re nearly two decades into the SaaS revolution inspired by Salesforce and other early advocates, some of the early objections to SaaS come off as almost quaint. They were evidence, though, of companies’ unease with a new infrastructure model that promised so much, and also threatened that their expensive on-premise software architectures would be relegated to relic status.

Those companies also imagined other headaches.  With the increased pace of managed software updates, how would they keep users’ wetware updated, too? In other words, would they be able to train employees adequately to take advantage of new fixes and features?  What new roles and processes would be needed to maintain communication with internal users, what new policies and procedures would be necessary? How would they configure a feedback loop allowing users to provide input on what should be included in the next round of updating?

Whether a user is all-in on SaaS or utilizing an on-premise or hybrid cloud configuration product with dependable support from its provider, staying up to date is still crucial. The risks and benefits of not updating software versus keeping your products current are summarized in the adjacent chart, drawn from a session we presented at our Interact 2019 user conference: Why Upgrade? The Business Case for Keeping Your Platform Modern.

Benefits of Upgrading

The speed at which legal tech is advancing means the opportunity costs mentioned in this breakdown arise much more quickly than in the past. Standing pat and A) not embracing the flexibility of best-in-class solutions, and B) not keeping products consistently updated or upgraded may mean you’re falling further and further behind client expectations for the ROI and performance improvements they want to see from Legal Ops or the legal department as a whole.

It’s about the right product to fit your roadmap

One danger to avoid for enterprise that embraces legal tech? It’s one that was almost emblematic of on-premise enterprise software: surrendering to the provider/vendor’s product roadmap, rather than following one of your own.

Legal Tech RoadmapIf a software product involves significant investment, or a great deal of employee training and acclimation, and a wide range of provider-supplied add-ons, a company’s options narrow considerably when it comes to its own legal tech roadmap. Back in the on-premise days, there effectively was very little latitude: the enterprise platform provider’s product plan was your plan as a user, thanks to the sunk costs and organizational reliance on an entrenched solution.

Today, that pattern is repeating itself with even SaaS legal tech providers who don’t provide the flexibility, customizability, and level of partnership and collaboration an legal, Legal Ops, or IT department need to ensure the product is ideally tailored to the organization’s goals. The product’s “walled garden” becomes a straitjacket.

What’s a better “modernization” model? One where a product delivers continuous improvement via regular, user-driven updates and upgrades, is customizable, and has desirable features allowing it to maintain adoption by new users.

The product may have been launched in a pre-SaaS era, but a continual series of UI refreshes and client-feedback-based feature and integration upgrades have satisfied even users who are accustomed to bleeding-edge SaaS products.  Plus, it has the customer support and flexibility to ensure it still succeeds within a company’s legal tech roadmap, even improving the performance of SaaS products or legacy solutions in their stack.

How do you measure a successful Legal Ops software upgrade?

Once a Legal Ops software product has been upgraded, or a new one implemented, there are seven key ways to discern if it’s been a success:

  • After the upgrade, only limited support is needed by users
  • You’re hearing compliments from end users – with more positive than negative feedback
  • Practice areas do not encounter any “big misses”
  • Less clicks are needed to perform same tasks
  • Improved data transparency
  • Employee independence: people should become less dependent on Operations once systems are modernized
  • Your department is saving time, reducing cost, and producing work more quickly than before

If a Legal Ops software solution you’re using doesn’t deliver against most or even all of these with every upgrade? It may be time to go shopping for another solution.