Best practices

Modular vs. End-to-End Software Solutions

July 26, 2020
Kathy Zhu

Table of Contents

Most legal professionals shopping for workflow and document management solutions want a system that can do it all -- in-take and manage requests, handle redlines, maintain clause libraries, track approvals, e-sign, store contracts, pull in data from Salesforce, the list goes on. However, few can stomach the long implementation cycles and hefty price tags that come with such a solution. Moreover, the implementation effort requires intense cross-functional input from your team -- in many cases more than 100 hours -- time that can be better spent elsewhere.  I’ve heard feedback time and again from disappointed buyers that without deep customizations and many integrations, these solutions aren’t usable except for the simplest workstreams like NDA processing.

This is not at all surprising.  If you think about it, these platforms are trying to rebuild Microsoft Word, Box/Google Drive, DocuSign, JIRA, and more, all in a single package. On their own, each of those tools are the flagship products of multi-billion dollar companies who have spent years perfecting the functionality and user experience of those products. No wonder end-to-end solutions are struggling to replace all of these products without suffering from a degradation in user experience and quality.

I have successfully scaled the commercial legal team of a company that has grown more than 5x in valuation over 2 years with a contract volume that increases much faster than I can hire to support it. I’ve done this with only 3 hires over that period relying entirely on software systems that each just do one thing very, very well.  I have transparency into what everyone on my team is working on and can extract metrics that have enabled me to plan headcount and manage talent.

So what is my recommendation?

  • Take stock of what you’re missing, versus nice-to-haves. Most likely, you need a  system to help intake and manage your requests in a central place. You need reporting on the metrics you care about so you can see changes in volume quarter over quarter, or the average response times of members on your team, for example.  This is important so you can understand how your team is performing at a glance.
  • Keep using the software that you currently use and like. This modular approach also keeps the cost of upgrades or replacements super low. If you spent deep into 6 figures and 6 months to implement an end-to-end solution, chances are you won’t want to upgrade even if you aren’t happy with the functionality or ease of use. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard people describe their existing vendor as clunky and outdated, yet are still using them.
  • Don’t get distracted by shiny objects. Most things that sound too good to be true are -- based on what I’ve heard, true AI doesn't exist yet in this space. And often what is shown in a demo isn’t ready out of the box.

To recap, you are much better off with modular systems that handle each segment of your legal workflows really well, especially if you are at a company in the growth stage that may need to scale quickly but still stay nimble. You’ll save money and be much happier in the long run. I recently heard from an attorney at a fast-growing startup that she had to disable the redlining functionality of a system she spent months to implement because it would otherwise have caused her team to abandon the entire platform because it was so unusable. She would have been so much happier if she had just let Microsoft Word do Microsoft Word.

Stay well,

The Streamline AI Team




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