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Looking to technology to deliver competitive advantage?

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After many years of representing legal software solutions, I have come to notice a clear trend – even today when technology is highly evolved – purchasers typically use a standard set of functions to identify products that are a "good fit" for their business requirements. In the majority of cases, these “ready reckoners” will focus on universally available features like "can I drive it from inside Microsoft Outlook?"; "will it allow me to drag and drop emails onto matters?" and "will it integrate with other systems?" - plus a generic host of functional components that almost every software vendor offers.

Based on such a standardised list of selection criteria, technology choice inevitably boils down to simple look and feel, ease of use, or simply price, but when considering a business-critical system, are these really fitting criteria for selection?

Technology purchasers in legal practices should be seeking features and functionality that will allow them to truly differentiate their business offering, speedily create innovative services, enhance their profitability per transaction – and in doing so deliver true competitive advantage to the organisation. In other words, discard the list of "me too" features and focus on finding out what is it that each system can offer that no other similar technology can, i.e. make the transition to a strategic capability assessment and you will then ensure a positive investment decision – one that will likely stand the test of time for years to come.

A good way of doing this is to invite vendors to provide a “top 10 differentiators” demonstration that avoid ‘repetitive demonstration injury’ and get to the heart of what the software is all about.

Getting closer to and building relationships with prospective vendors is essential and the major challenge when employing industry consultants to lead selection are that those relationships are not properly formed and the understanding does not exist on either side of the process as to the true nature of the requirement or the solution.

The reality is that this is a small market and after the most basic background research, the shortlist of vendors appropriate to each practice is very narrow. Inviting only a small number of vendors will allow for a far greater level of engagement, trust and understanding to be built with businesses that you are potentially looking at partnering with for years into the future.

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