XpressDox Integration With Salesforce

Previously, I have written about XpressDox integration with Salesforce.com and Advologix from a technical side, how from Microsoft Word you can access your template library, launch a template, and pull data from a Salesforce.com based practice management system.  Such approach is very powerful and cost effective.  But it also requires you to have Microsoft Word installed with an XpressDox plugin.

This post, however, focuses on implementation of a completely cloud-based assembly engine integrated into Salesforce.com.  A prototype has been tested and implemented on a client site; however the tool is not yet ready for public distribution.   In this system, a simple button would be added to the Matter object (or any object) in Salesforce.

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Cloud to Desktop – Connecting XpressDox to Advologix

Salesforce is a powerful tool for practice management.  It’s implementation by AdvologixPM brings that power in a digestable form to attorneys.  Until now, your main option for document assembly has been to create basic merge templates.  The DrawLoop addin allowed you to create packages; multiple templates with designated outputs.  But in the end, you were still restricted to Word-Merges.

XpressDox 4.0 introduces the Salesforce.com Data Source Configuration Tool

Now there is another option, XpressDox.  This tool is a power document assembly engine (with most everything you would expect from rival products), but at a very competitive price point.  What I want to show here is live and dynamic connection between the desktop version of XpressDox (NOTE: it also works with the Server version as well).

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AdvologixPM – The One Year Anniversary Review

It’s been a year since my review of AdvologixPM for Technolawyer (see Review: AdvologixPM: Web-Based Practice Management System,” Technofeature, December 15, 2009).  Since that time, I have spent a lot of time learning the Salesforce.com platform (completing several online courses) as well as working with AdvologixPM.  Basha Systems has signed on as a development partner and reseller, and now offers regular training classes on how to use and configure AdvologixPM.  On this “anniversary”, I wish to reflect on those features of the AdvologixPM platform that are “special”, if not “unique” and explain why Basha Systems has become an Advologix partner.

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Credenza, Houdini, AdvologixPM, RocketMatter, Clio, TimeMatters 10 & Amicus 2010

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.

Salesforce.com Apps for Lawyers

What if you could access your network from ANYWHERE and at ANYTIME?  What if you could check your calendar, check your task list, do your billing and access all your documents? What if you could do this WITHOUT A NETWORK?  What if you could do it WITHOUT a Server, without a terminal server, and without any network infrastructure at all?  What if the entire network was IN THE CLOUDS.  Wouldn’t that be great (for you that is)?  What if this cloud-based system was infinitely customizable, and infinitely expandable?  What if you could purchase “plugins” and other packages to extend the functionality of the database? What if there was a network of consultants who could assist you?  What if there were hooks into Web-based document assembly applications like EXARI? What if I told you this system was already built and opened for business last month.  Take a look at AdvologixPM.

AdvogixPM is a Force.com Application.  It is built on Salesforce.com.  This platform is used by almost every Fortune500 corporation.  It is a cloud-based application that was designed, originally, to make a “mobile salesforce” truly mobile. Rather than replicating databases (which could be stolen or lost), it was designed as a complete and secure CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system that allowed salesmen and women to track leads, manage accounts, post documents,track calls and emails in a centralized hosted environment on the Web.  What turned this from a hosted CRM into a world-shaking application was the open API that Salesforce.com built.  To make the system acceptable to large sales organizations, Salesforce.com enabled users (with privileges) and developers to add new fields, add new reports, record types, dashboards, analyses, and ANYTHING they wanted.  They then let developers “package” the customizations and created a marketplace where those packages could be “given away” or “licensed”.

So where does this affect lawyers who, by their own classification, are not in the sales business?  The answer is AdvologixPM.  The infrastructure of Salesforce already meets many of the needs of lawyers.  What is missing are MATTERS, and support for practice-specific details that lawyers want to know about their clients.  Further, the system does not natively support client billing.  What Advologix has done is stand on the shoulders of giants and build a Legal Practice Management system on top of Salesforce.  It is, indeed a complete and comprehensive system.  It does what a practice management system should do, and does it quite well.  And you don’t have to worry about backups, network services, remote access or anything.  All you have to worry about is paying your Monthly user fee. The fee will be more than you pay annually for your current practice management solution software.  The difference, arises, however, if you look at TCO (Total Cost of Ownership).  No server; no need to apply software updates, no installation costs, and worldwide access.

Now where the application gets interesting for me and my clients is in two areas.  First,it is infinitely customizable.  If a client comes to me with a bankruptcy practice and wants to track special creditor details in a table, I can modfy the application to add the necessary table and fields.  And, if I do a good enough job, I can package up those modifications and “license” them to another client.  They could make the changes themselves, or they could leverage my expertise in data gathering, workflow and document assembly in that field. The second place where it gets interesting.  Exari has released a Force.com application NDA Generator on Exari.  Here we are leveraging a world-class web-based document assembly engine with a world-class CRM system, none of which needs to be installed on a server that we manage.

There are some TRADEOFFS when you program a Force.com application.  There are somethings about the way the application works, what some tables are called that you cannot change.  Since the core application was designed by someone else, you are limited to working with what that company has built.  As a result, you will not have the spartan and intuitive design appeal of a RocketMatter or a Clio practice management system that was designed from the ground up as a practice management system.  You will need to look closely at what Advologix has done to Salesforce, and weigh what additional modifications you can make and compare them to both Client/Server applications (like Time Matters, Amicus Attorney and PracticeMaster) and to RocketMatter and Clio offerings.  The good news is there are a lot of innovative solutions out there for to choose from.  And now there is one more.