In today's fast moving, ever-mobile landscape, an increasing number of customers are looking for SaaSified versions of their software tools, opting for the benefits of PAYG-style cloud-based working which gives them optimal flexibility. And among the business sectors looking for more creative and agile ways of working, are law firms.
Traditionally viewed as a somewhat desk-bound profession, lawyers are beginning to see the advantages of being able to work anytime, anywhere – and those software providers who are able to SaaSify their services for this group now have a whole new sector waiting to get on board.
SaaS and the legal sector
Despite the somewhat Dickensian image of lawyers hunched over desks with tomes of books lining the walls, lawyers actually spend far more time away from their offices than many other professions - whether it's conducting off-site client meetings or attending court. This way of working makes legal firms ideal candidates for those software companies who are able to SaaSify their offering.
Not only does SaaS allow for greater flexibility, but it's also a highly cost-effective way for law firms to do away with the requirement of having to build, support and maintain their own IT infrastructure. In addition, because SaaS generally operates on a subscription basis, this allows for lower initial costs - and since the SaaS provider is responsible for managing the infrastructure, this frees up the time of the IT team to focus on more productive tasks such as innovation. Finally, because SaaS subscriptions can be scaled up or down, as the need requires, this makes it an incredibly economical and agile choice for firms.
Understanding the challenges of adopting SaaS faced by law firms
While SaaS has huge benefits for the legal sector, it isn't without its risks - and firms considering entering into SaaS agreements have particular considerations. If software vendors understand the concerns of lawyers and tackle these head-on, they can differentiate themselves from their competitors who are also attempting to meet the growing demands of the SaaSified product landscape.
The Law Society has identified a number of areas that need to be considered as risk elements, including the reliability and stability of the chosen provider and their ability to protect client confidentiality, along with service response time to any issues. But, for software providers who are able to offer a safe and secure cloud environment with quick response times, these guidelines can actually work to their advantage.
Data protection and the GDPR
Data protection is one of the key areas which SaaS providers need to be on top of - particularly when it comes to dealing with law firms. On 25 May 2018, the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force. This represents a significant change to the data protection regime - and law firms will be looking even more closely at SaaS agreements to ensure they meet the forthcoming regulations. Consequently, cloud software providers will need to ensure that they can demonstrate compliance with the stricter rules which extend to data processors and increase potential fines for data breaches to €20 million of 4% of annual global turnover.
Any cloud software providers who are able to ensure they're up-to-date with the latest regulations (including those in any foreign countries where they may be hosting) will have a huge advantage when it comes to SaaSification for the legal sector, particularly if they can demonstrate their understanding of any concerns held by law firms and show how they have taken steps to tackle these concerns. Indeed, there is a strong argument that software providers who migrate their products and services to the cloud and put in place effective security measures can actually provide more robust security than law firms already have in place through their in-house infrastructure; this is especially the case where IT teams lack sufficient resources to address all the latest cybersecurity threats.
SasSifying your software product
Migrating software product to the cloud takes time and planning. Some strategic consultants suggest that, rather than viewing your SaaS offering as an offshoot product, it's best treated as an entirely separate business - complete with different software development and an alternative marketing strategy. Moving to the cloud will also necessitate code changes to optimise your product for use within its new environment. A multi-tenancy solution is advisable, which allows providers to manage an unlimited number of customers from one console.
As more digital disruptors enter the marketplace, offering cost-effective and flexible SaaS solutions, increasing numbers of law firms will adopt these services, due to the agility - and potential security benefits - they offer. Incumbent software providers which successfully SaaSify their legal software will be able to meet this growing demand, stave off competition from new start-ups, differentiate themselves from more established competitors which are slow to SaaSify, and ultimately gain market share.
One company which specialises in helping software providers to SaaSify their products is Corent Technology. Jeremy Neal, UK Manager at Corent Technology, believes that established software providers who fail to migrate their products to the cloud are potentially losing market share to their forward-thinking competitors:
“Over the last 5 years we have seen unprecedented change in the IT industry. Cloud Computing and the progressive rise of Software-as-a-Service or "SaaS" have disrupted the market, changing user expectations of performance and availability. IT management has also changed as capital has been refocused on the core business, with more applications run on a pay-as-you-go OPEX basis.
Established independent software vendors (ISVs) have seen their market share eroded as new SaaS alternatives take business from their installed base. These disruptive 'born in the cloud' entrants also take new business; winning deals where the customer prefers per-user-per-month pricing.
The new technology and commercial frameworks of cloud and SaaS present a real threat to established business models. Equally though, they offer an attractive way to access new markets – assuming that the established ISV knows how to operate those frameworks – and has the time and budget to effect that change. CenturyLink partners with Corent Technology; a company that offers tooling out-of-the-box to turn existing software into SaaS without having to rewrite code. ISVs taking this approach can get to SaaS in a matter of weeks, opening up new markets and securing existing customer commitment. This route to SaaS is the least risk, least cost, least time-consuming way for ISVs to engage in the new market opportunities emerging as part of this disruptive and innovative era.”
So there are clear opportunities for software providers to SaaSify their products quickly and efficiently without substantial development costs. As long as they do so while paying heed to the specific considerations of law firms, they can differentiate themselves within the legal software sector and gain market share.
For more information about CenturyLink and the products and services we offer, please visit www.centurylink.co.uk