Wow!!!!! The marketplace for practice management software has exploded this year. They must have added something to the water that programmers drink (they do drink , don’t they?).
Well, yesterday, Gavel & Gown released Credenza (Click for more info). Now you can have your Outlook and your case management; no synchronization, no exchange. Rather, you now have FILES within Outlook. A $9.95/month subscription is the cost.
Meanwhile, I am currently reviewing HoudiESQ. This system is a web-based practice management system designed by Frank Rivera (who architected Time Matters World Edition). It is offered on either a SAAS (Software as Service) or self-hosted basis. What is different is that it entirely redesigns and rethinks the interface for a practice management system. Stay tuned for my review in Technolawyer later this month.
Not to be outdone, LexisNexis has released Time Matters 10 (on an all-SQL platform). Apart from major improvements in stability and access speed, the system includes Desktop Extensions. These widgets give you a window into Time Matters on your desktop and could change entirely the way you work with your practice management system.
Gavel & Gown, with the release of Amicus 2010 Premium Edition, has produced a solid, stable product. While continuing its focus on “separate offices”, the Premium Edition, centralizes the data on a single SQL Server (full SQL Server 2008 Standard is included with the license) and added extensive customization in the form of custom pages and custom records.
On the SAAS front, RocketMatters, Clio and newcomer AdvologixPM are coming into their own. Each have been progressively adding features to fill out the requirements of a robust practice management system. Clio and RocketMatter have expanded their billing and trust accounting features. AdvologixPM, with its support for extensive customization, has released a new document automation module that lets you launch full document packages, populated with data from the Force.com platform.
So what is going on? For several years nothing happened in Practice Management. Many vendors “treaded water”. Some vendors exited. Few new players entered the market. And existing products pretty much stayed the same. There was no excitement, no ferment. Something is clearly happening. And it may not be good for established vendors unless they respond to the new environment and try to generate buzz and excitement about their products. The SAAS products are looking at a complete redesign of the way practice management is done (anywhere, anytime, any platform) that reflects the new business reality. The SAAS products also are looking at entirely new interfaces and windows into your practice data.
How can the SAAS developers do it? There are two answers. First, the SAAS developers control the software and the hardware. In a hosted environment, the developer can make instant improvements. There is no need to wait for the “long-tail” of users to upgrade; no need to support multiple platforms, legacy software and legacy hardware. The host is the platform. And that makes the SAAS developers much more nimble.
The second reason, perhaps, is more significant. And that is the pricing model. SAAS is “cheap” on the start-up, and expensive in the long run. It is very easy and cheap to get started with Credenza, RocketMatter, Clio and AdvologixPM. Once you have signed on, you will keep paying so long as you use the platform. That means that there will be ever-increasing revenue for the SAAS developer so long as it continues to innovate; with the more innovation leading to more sales, and further increases in revenue. This is a “win-win” situation. The SAAS developer wins by the “monthly” vote by the end-user paying their fee. The user wins by having that vote courted with constant innovation. By contrast, the up-front software sale with nominal maintenance produces a “disincentive” to constant innovation; once you reach market saturation in your segment, the revenue actually decreases.
Despite the groans from the current users, LexisNexis has got it right with its new AMP or annual maintenance plan. In doing so, they follow the example of PC Law and STI/Tabs. The hope is that LexisNexis uses this annualized revenue and maintenance to “innovate and improve” the product steadily and attract new users, rather than simply extract the profits from its existing user base. It is this transition to software as a service (whether on a desktop or in the cloud) that represents the future of practice management.