Strategic Legal Process Management - Technology Platforms Offer Unprecedented Benefits

Tuesday, November 2, 2010 - 01:00

Editor: I know Datacert recently made a product announcement. Can you tell me about that?

Poag: Sure. In September we formally unveiled Passport, our new patent-pending technology platform for the legal industry. This announcement represents a huge strategic move for Datacert. While our legal spend and matter management solutions have provided global legal departments with significant financial, operational, and strategic benefits for many years, the legal industry is evolving, and Datacert, which has always been a technology innovator, decided to develop a much-needed and missing solution to support the changing industry.

Editor: With a cloudy economic forecast still looming, it seems like a risky time to launch a new product. What was the driving force that led to the development of Passport?

Poag: The industry is being revamped, largely due to the uncertain economic forecast, and legal executives are constantly being challenged to further reduce costs and improve efficiencies and yet remain competitive. Facing an uncertain economic future and industry changes that are likely permanent, forward-thinking law departments began looking for innovative solutions that offer more advanced opportunities to reduce costs and improve efficiency and that provide long-term strategic value by allowing them to easily adapt as their business needs evolve.

With this in mind, Datacert made the strategic move to stop simply providing legal point applications and create a product that addressed both the current and long-term industry challenges that our clients face. To do this, we utilized a collaborative market approach with our global corporate clients, more than 50 law firms, solution partners, and top industry thought leaders. All were instrumental in providing development input, guidance, and testing of the product throughout the process, and the result of this market collaboration was Passport.

Editor: Passport sounds like a very big technological leap for the legal industry. Do you think the market is really ready for it?

Poag: No doubt about it. Even if we hadn't had the support and input of so many thought leaders in the market during the development and testing of Passport, the fact that, even before our official launch in September, a dozen organizations, including Qwest Communications and UK-based Carillion, had already selected the platform to support their long-term technology strategies proves that the market is desperate for a solution like Passport . And, since our public launch, our Passport client roster has continued to grow. This swift market adoption confirms that a comprehensive solution like Passport was the missing link in the chain of legal technology solutions.

Editor: I see the word "platform" used by a few legal technology vendors. Can you tell our readers what it means to have a true technology platform?

Poag: You're right - some vendors use the term "platform" very loosely. It might be easier to start with what a platform is not. It is not simply a group of the vendor's point solutions loosely strung together that don't all share a common infrastructure or data. A true technology platform provides a common, robust foundation that is shared by all applications on the platform, including those from other vendors or ones custom-built by the client, allowing the sharing of data across the entire legal function and providing legal executives with greater visibility.

Unlike other vendors' platforms, Passport was built from the ground up specifically to provide this solid foundation for all legal systems. We weren't just thinking about Datacert systems when we designed it because we were working with our clients to define the solution and, let's face it, all of the systems they use don't come from Datacert, so we had to think more broadly in order to deliver true value to the market. Therefore, we designed Passport to include a comprehensive set of core components, such as business intelligence, security and database. Together, the components provide approximately 80 percent of the functionality and infrastructure needed by any application. This is a key differentiator for Passport. Sharing these components across all applications built on Passport is where the true value of the platform comes in because all applications built on Passport work together and share data seamlessly. Legal executives can now have visibility across the entire legal function via personalized, graphical dashboards, which enable them to quickly assess risk potential and dig deeper to analyze particular situations.

Editor: Can you outline any other benefits that are unique to Passport?

Poag: Well, as I said before, the fact that Passport can consolidate all legal systems onto a single platform, the very definition of a platform, is quite unique. In addition though, a true platform also provides robust client-side tools so clients can take control of their own destiny, which is a market need that we heard loud and clear from our development partners. Passport has a whole suite of user-friendly toolkits that clients can use to configure the system, integrate their existing enterprise systems, and even test configuration changes and integrations, eliminating the need to constantly go back to the vendor to make system changes. They can even build new applications for any unique business demands they may have. All of these tools allow legal departments to easily evolve the system, providing insurance against changing business needs. Our clients are selecting Passport to meet their needs not only today but for the next decade.

Another unique benefit Passport provides is a "legal framework" layer on top of the platform core components. With the legal framework, what we've done is pre-configure the platform core components according to legal industry best practices. For example, the security component is already pre-configured according to typical user roles within the legal department: the data model is already pre-configured with typical relevant fields, such as matter type and timekeeper. Clients don't just get a "black box" that they then have to pay the vendor or consultants lots of money to configure. Instead, they start with an industry best-practice-based configuration. In addition, this framework enables the rapid development of new legal applications by anyone wishing to build on the platform.

Editor: Are there any other departments in an organization that can derive benefit from Passport?

Poag: Absolutely. Passport is a broad platform, and any system that supports the legal function can be built onto or integrated with it. Bringing all of this data together in one place and the comprehensive insight into costs that this consolidation of systems enables is of definite benefit to clients' finance departments. Having a consolidated view across the entire legal function also provides unprecedented visibility into risk, and clients' risk management teams can use the detailed information found in the platform for compliance assessment and deep analysis, evaluation, and management of risk which will help with early case assessments, litigation strategy, and tracking insurance coverage and recoveries related to matters.

Another department that benefits greatly from Passport is the IT department. As things stand currently, most IT departments are tasked with supporting dozens of legal systems. Passport consolidates all point systems for simplified administration and support. In addition, since the core components, which as I explained earlier provide the foundation needed for any legal system, are reusable and pre-configured according to legal industry best practices, IT can easily extend the platform to support the changing needs of their internal legal department clients. This greatly reduces the pressures on IT. For these reasons, when considering a platform solution like Passport, you will find IT is more involved in the buying decision than ever. After all, they can build on the platform for a plethora of business purposes.

Editor: With so many possibilities available via Passport, how complicated is the implementation process?

Poag: The implementation process can vary depending on the scope of the project. Some organizations want a simple, out-of-the-box, best-practices-based solution with minimal configuration. This typically takes one to three months. Other companies require a reengineering of legal processes and large cleansing and migrations of data from current/legacy systems, which can take anywhere from six to 12 months.

Datacert's professional services group has completed over 400 legal system implementations. All Datacert implementations employ our proven Legal System Implementation (LSI) methodology, which utilizes a disciplined project management approach that was specifically designed to lessen risk by using best practices gained from the intricate implementations for some of the world's most demanding and complex legal departments. The LSI methodology follows five phases: the first is project planning; phase two is scoping, design, and use cases; phase three is system setup; phase four, user acceptance testing, follows; and finally the last phase is go live.

The professionals responsible for Datacert's corporate implementations include industry veterans who have profound experience in understanding customer needs and applying best practice recommendations. In addition, we are the only enterprise legal management solution provider with a dedicated implementation, support, and relationship management team on the ground in EMEA. This gives Datacert an exclusive understanding of global solution requirements and the ability to deliver exceptional local implementation services to its diverse client base.

In addition, Datacert is certifying select legal industry consulting groups on Passport so that those groups can bring their own best practices to bear on implementing Passport for our joint customers.

Editor: Even when moving to a better system, upgrading technology solutions can be frustrating. The benefits you outlined are pretty clear, but can you further explain the ROI? While it is just one system to manage, won't there be a lot of upfront management required for all stakeholders (legal and IT) to learn the ins and outs of the system?

Poag: Upgrading from multiple point solutions to a true, comprehensive platform like Passport will obviously entail some initial change management. However, another advantage of Passport is that, not only are a legal department's systems consolidated with one common user interface, which reduces the change management and training necessities, it was designed by lawyers, for lawyers, with a strict emphasis on usability features. This includes, for example, features like the Outlook Module, which allows attorneys to manage their matters directly in Outlook, without even having to log into the platform, which significantly increases user adoption and decreases change management and training requirements. In addition, the long-term efficiency gains offered by the ability to more easily manage legal systems with tools such as the Passport Designer Toolkit will quickly provide legal departments with the ROI to justify the initial expenditure. One of our primary goals when creating Passport was to simplify the work processes of attorneys and the legal operations groups that support them. The feedback clients have provided us is that we squarely hit that mark.

Please email the interviewee at mark.poag@datacert.com with questions about this interview.