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The Value of Participating in a Vendor Product Development Programme

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Kennedys is a longstanding user of Lexis InterAction CRM software, and over the years we have developed a healthy working relationship with LexisNexis. When we were informed that the company was developing Business Edge, a new business development module in InterAction, the notion of having a voice and influencing the product’s development was appealing. We decided to enrol in LexisNexis’ early (beta) customer programme.

As we have found out, there is a definite value in participating in vendor product development programmes. We have greatly benefited - today Business Edge incorporates a number of our very specific requirements. For instance, Business Edge data can be accessed via InterAction for Microsoft Outlook, the core activities in InterAction can be linked to our firm’s business development-related pursuits and opportunities in Business Edge, the reporting functionality is enhanced, there is availability of currency conversion rates in the module itself, the tool allows categorisation of work by type and jurisdictions, and much more.

With the benefit of hindsight, if you are looking to go down the same road, here’s some food for thought:

  • Programme not to be taken lightly - We discussed at length with our LexisNexis representative to understand the extent of the required engagement and time commitment. This was well worth the effort as it clarified to both parties the approach that each would take towards the programme. It is important to understand the time commitment upfront, as it can be challenging for some people.
  • Cultural readiness - You might not be ‘culturally’ ready at the start of the engagement, but if it’s a product you will ultimately use, it’s important to voice your functionality needs at the time of development. Kennedys’ is a case in point. 18 months ago, we weren’t in a position to adopt Business Edge, but we wanted to influence its development so that when we adopted the module, it would fit our requirements.
  • Show stoppers - Clearly outline the business issues that are an absolute must for the product to support - incorporating everything from look and feel, functionality and usability. We identified 15 points as our show stoppers. Many of these are already in the module, while the others are in development.
  • Constructive dialogue - The discussions must be open and honest of course, but also constructive. Question the software development team’s approach by all means, but also be amenable to your ideas being probed and interrogated. This will ensure delivery of a functionally-rich and robust solution.
  • Real-life scenarios of problems - When providing feedback to the development team, offer genuine, live examples of the issues you are facing. For instance, if asking for changes in a particular functionality, explain why those alterations are important to you via a specific explanation of how your firm operates. It makes it easier for the software vendor to understand your request and sometimes even go beyond your original request to deliver exceptional functionality. Gathering feedback from a wider audience of different roles within your team / firm is essential as it will enrich the scenarios and overall advice.

A beta customer programme is truly a win-win for both parties. We have very tangibly shaped the product, and LexisNexis has gained valuable insight into how Kennedys approaches business development. Underpinned by this initial success, I suspect our partnership will continue well into the future.

Tags: InterAction

About the Author:

Laura Scott is the Client Development Systems Manager at Kennedys. She has over 10 years’ experience working in law firms to implement, manage and re-energise the use of InterAction. She encourages and helps professionals to maximise the value of CRM programmes by advising firms on how to exploit all the 'intelligence' they have gathered throughout the firm to provide them with the tools to successfully manage their client relationships in order to grow client satisfaction and revenue. In her role, she works with internal clients to align InterAction to Key account programmes, business development strategies and business planning.

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