The recently reported demise of The Law Society sponsored Veyo conveyancing portal raises the question: what makes a successful software product? As an avid rugby fan (a Gloucester season ticket holder for many years) I remember watching this year’s 6 Nations matches and being impressed at seeing the “Veyo hare” in lights around the pitch side hoarding. However, it would seem that aside from helping win a national brand award, this massive marketing effort didn’t make the software product any more appetising!
So what went wrong? As the ‘guardian’ of Lexis Visualfiles, the UK’s most widely used legal workflow software, I should understand something about successful software. Clearly it’s not a topic that I can fully tackle (another rugby link!) in a short blog, but there are a few factors that I will highlight.
Of primary importance is the realisation that writing successful software is a very resource intensive, expensive and complex job; and that it should be the main focus of the ‘software owner’. The Law Society’s primary role is to represent the legal profession – it’s not a software firm, and this foray into software development has cost them many millions of pounds. This is exactly what I say to law firms when they comment that they are going to write their ‘own case management system from the ground up’. I have written about this subject in a previous blog! The Law Society isn’t the only organisation to have been burned by its attempt to author software, and it probably won’t be the last. The old adage of ‘sticking to your knitting’ surely applies.
Understanding the market into which the software will be delivered is also important. With Visualfiles we have a long history of working with clients to better understand their needs and those of the market; and my role as product manager is critical in ensuring that these needs are reflected in the software we produce. Last year I met with the Veyo senior team to discuss the opportunities for integrating the system with Visualfiles. During discussions it became apparent that they believed Veyo could probably replace the incumbent case management systems in organisations. Clearly this was misplaced thinking, and concentrating on how Veyo could have complemented existing case management solutions would have been a better objective – integration is one of the key strengths of Visualfiles as it helps organisations to optimise the technologies they use. Allowing a powerful case management system to automatically update a central portal into which all stakeholders contribute to and have a view, would probably have delivered a better and more visible service, although there are still other players offering this approach.
Finally, there’s the obvious question of pricing. Everyone recognises that the price of most things is determined by the value to the purchaser. If the product or service is considered to offer good value for money, then it stands more of a chance of succeeding. Successful software must deliver a return on the investment – both time and money. Our most successful Visualfiles clients see excellent returns – increased profitability, reduced effort for delivery, and improved levels of service… the effort to implement delivers on all counts.
So whilst there will be no Visualfiles logos making appearances at rugby matches in next year’s 6 Nations; we will continue to focus our energy and resources into evolving the UK’s pre-eminent legal software technology, so that we deliver software that is really needed by organisations!