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Five questions to ask when exploring ERP systems

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Many law firms are exploring ERP-style business management systems; and understandably, there is some nervousness, perhaps even some confusion on what criteria to use for selection and differentiation. After all, it’s a new territory and the solution that firms chose today will play a major role in how well they achieve their business goals.

If ERP-style technology adoption is a part of your business growth strategy, then ask the following questions as you review your options:

Is it built for current requirements?

Most technology systems are at least 10 years old today, with many much older than that, and designed for a business environment that was very different before the economic crash of 2008. Since then, the economic environment, market and technology itself has changed, so deploying systems that have been 'modified to fit' are unlikely to deliver against your business requirements.

What is the committed level of R&D?

Given the pace of technological advancement, it is critical that there is a meaningful and committed product development roadmap for the ERP system. One of the major reasons we chose to build LexisOne on the Microsoft Dynamics® AX 2012 platform is that the level of investment in the platform makes it future-proof. The company has invested something like $500 million on R&D alone for this version of Dynamics; and its overall R&D budget across the company is in the region of $10 billion. There aren’t many companies with such financial muscle.

Is the system suitable for a law firm?

Superior technology alone is not enough though. Firms need to operate as mainstream businesses, but at the same time also need legal-specific functionality to deliver against client requirements. The business management system you choose must give you (at any point in time) the latest, globally recognised, enterprise-grade ERP functionality along with the most current legal functionality so that you can leverage the system to truly gain competitive advantage.

Are resources and skills available in the wider market?

Appropriate and available resources have long been a challenge for legal-specific software vendors and law firms, and now, more than ever before, the freedom of movement today means that employees often move on to newer pastures to pursue their own career plans. Therefore, availability of skills and resources in the wider market must be a key consideration when you select a business management system. Again, with a Microsoft technology based system you can be assured that bringing on people with the right Dynamics AX skills will never be an issue. After all, thousands of businesses around the world are using Dynamics AX and that number is growing rapidly.

Does the vendor have partnerships?

Deploying ERP-style business management systems requires a broad range of expertise and no one organisation can have it all. Look into the types of partnerships that the software vendor has in place and assess how well they can collectively support your project. Will they give your project precedence? Are partnerships with complimentary systems’ providers part of the mix?

Research shows that traditional best of breed systems change every 15 years or so, but if you are adopting an ERP-style business management system – given the R&D that is going into them to make them future-proof – it’s unlikely you’ll change it again in a hurry, if ever, so getting it right the first time is critical.

Tags: LexisOne

About the Author:

Stu Gooderham leads client engagement for LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions' ERP solution LexisOne in the UK and US markets. Consultative in style, he works closely with law firms to support their decision-making process for the adoption of LexisOne; and remains personally involved in projects from inception through to go-live and beyond. The implementation of LexisOne at Fieldfisher is the most recent example.

With a focus on the Top100 law firms in the UK and the AMLAW 250 in the US, and thriving in client-facing roles, Stu continues to play an instrumental role in educating the legal market on the business benefits of ERP. He was the founding member of the LexisOne Future Insights Group, which saw senior representatives of the Top100 law firms come together to brainstorm and articulate the dynamic nature of demands that clients had of their law firms in the 21st century. He has used the insight gained from this forum to convincingly illustrate to the market how LexisOne is well-placed to overcome many of the common problems faced by law firms – including continuous improvement in customer service levels, client retention, driving new business and always being operationally optimised.

Stu joined LexisNexis Enterprise Solution, following the company's acquisition of Redwood Analytics, a business intelligence software provider.

Prior to these positions, Stu worked at Oracle, selling the Oracle 11i ERP system to the legal market. He is an engineer by training and also has experience in the manufacturing sector.

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