The CRM market in the legal sector has seen some significant changes this year. Technology vendors are taking different approaches – from launching new products and expanding into new niches to engaging in M&A activity to strengthen their presence.
Fiona Jackson, Client Advisor for LexisNexis InterAction, who has considerable experience in the CRM space on both sides of the fence – i.e. technology vendor and law firm – has some interesting thoughts on this space.
- With all the recent changes in the legal CRM vendor market, what does it mean for clients?
To be honest, these changes aren't anything that we haven't seen before. The CRM tech space is a difficult market to break into and over the years, we've seen many CRM systems come and go.
Actually, this serves as a good reminder for clients that while the next ‘shiny new' product must be explored, things like longevity, staying power, reliability and consistent product development are good, solid and proven criteria that must be applied to any technology selection, let alone CRM. Just because a product has been available for a long time, doesn't mean that it is obsolete or legacy. To the contrary, well established organisations are able to match their own product development strategy to that of its client base. Newer solutions providers simply don't have the bandwidth for this approach.
This said, the current market is a good place for vendors and clients alike to be in. It is far more competitive than it has been before, which encourages innovation at a pace that clients demand, but also focuses technology providers to think ahead and out of the box.
Just looking at InterAction, with over 800 combined years experience, we have brought out many new product updates in the last 12 months, many of which stem from our client ideas portal. InterAction for Office 365 is an application that clients have been crying out for, which we have delivered following close collaboration. Furthermore, while firms want to adopt the cloud, there is a reluctance to go full cloud. So, we listened to them to offer a hybrid model for InterAction for Office 365 adoption. We are genuinely offering firms a choice that not many vendors can.
- What direction is the market headed towards?
The market is heading to a massive period of change. Unlike previously where CRM was solely the remit of marketing and business development teams, today due to the productisation and commercialisation of legal services, alongside the ever increasing globalisation and competition; it is a matter of time before it becomes the norm for fee earners to engage with CRM on a practical, day-to-day level for their routine commercially-driven activities.
Data will drive insight. So, the future is in deriving insight to help drive profitability, relationships, better pitch success rates, engagement with clients, cross-sell opportunities and so on – the list is endless. It'll be about learning from history and seeing the bigger picture in order to make real business gains. Additionally, complying with new regulations such as the GDPR will become par for the course. The CRM technology they adopt will play an important role in facilitating such an approach. It's unlikely that newer CRM systems will have this kind of comprehensive capability, as understandably, they are in the early stages of their product development. Data governance is king.
- Is there a case for CRM technology being a plug and play?
In today's world of apps and instant gratification, many enterprise technology providers are beginning to lean towards the simplicity and quick implementation that these solutions stand for – which is in the right direction. But in the CRM space, firms need to not only configure their technology to match their strategy at that point in time. it needs to be able to bend and flex as firms' strategy changes in line with business requirements. Without this, eventually any CRM technology would become obsolete as it would be unable to evolve with the needs of the business.
The other issue about the ‘plug and play' psychology is that once the technology is implemented, the vendor walks away as the implication is that the job is done. Thereafter, should the client want changes or customisations made to the system, it comes at a huge support cost from the vendor or recruiting third party consultants to make the necessary changes.
We don't subscribe to this approach. A technology vendor should be with clients all the way on their journey and across the lifecycle of the solution at the firm. As an established solution provider this kind of support is in InterAction's DNA, which is why some of clients, who may have been initially lured away, have returned. They found that not only were they stuck with a solution that didn't evolve fast enough, but from a return on investment standpoint, it proved to be penny wise pound foolish. Personally, enabling customers to get the most from their CRM solution, is one of the key reasons I am an InterAction Client Advisor today.
The fact is, InterAction is a wealthy ecosystem of technology, services, knowledge and consultancy. It has come to be this due to years of evolution, innovation and client success. No technology vendor can achieve this overnight. It's simply the nature of technology – it has to incrementally grow and evolve.