Thousands of law firms are still using legacy practice management applications that have been around since the advent of the Etch A Sketch. These are typically Windows programs that require a local server installation. While decades of updates have sharpened their feature-sets and made them more mature products, they were not designed for the post-PC era.
Advances in cloud and mobile technology have revolutionized consumer and business software. In the face of this backdrop of technological progress, legacy applications have essentially remained static, even as “new versions” are released every few years. Can a platform, which at its core is over 30 years old, serve the needs of a modern firm? While many platform-based products can be improved with successive updates, eventually there are diminishing returns as the platform’s inherent limitations can no longer be contorted to deliver the capabilities of state of the art systems.
Despite these shortcomings, until a few years ago, there was a serious case to be made for legacy applications while cloud vendors were still getting their wings; the cloud vendors had not yet achieved feature-parity with their legacy ancestors. This is no longer the reality. Cloud applications now sport virtually all the features of legacy applications and offer compelling advantages including rich mobile apps, ability to run seamlessly on PCs, Macs, and Chrome-books, enterprise-class security and broader access to integrations with outside applications.
Increasingly Decentralized Practices
If your practice has multiple offices or has telecommuting staff, the cloud offers significantly reduced deployment and IT costs and enables your enterprise to be more connected. If every user has to work on a single computer that has the license associated with it, he or she is less likely to bill for time and stay on the same page as the rest of the team.
Is Beauty Only Skin Deep?
Your practice software is all about business; it has to keep you organized, automate processes and help you get paid for your hard work. Winning beauty contests isn’t one of its mission goals. Leonardo Da Vinci might disagree; form and function can be highly correlated. The last decade has witnessed huge leaps in user experience (UX) appreciation and design. A new generation of employees that have worked with beautiful, modern consumer web apps have a natural appreciation for great UX and expect it in their business software.
Given the accessibility shortcomings of legacy applications, a cottage industry has formed to provide access to an installation of these programs on a remote server so that it can be accessed “from any device” through what is essentially a screen share. These efforts to “cloudify” legacy are nothing more than a band-aid for gaping bullet holes; access to legacy applications through these fake cloud solutions have many downsides including delayed rendering through sluggish VPNs and limited interoperability with other applications on your device. They are also virtually unusable on tablets and mobile devices, to say nothing of the added cost.
If you’re using a legacy application, you might want to undertake an ROI analysis. Some of these metrics are easy to attain such as reduction of IT costs. Other factors are more fuzzy to quantify such as better security, enhanced accessibility and an easier to use modern interface. If you have a new practice or are otherwise in the market for practice management software, many legacy vendors are still marketing aggressively to promote their aging products. Even if they seem to meet your needs in the immediate term, you need to ask yourself if these programs are capable of evolving with the speed of progress in the post-PC era? Your software can be your competitive advantage. Choose wisely!