"We also saw right away the benefits of being a salesforce.com partner. We have an SE and we can get questions answered quickly, and of course lots of free stuff. We’ve used documentation, message boards, and developer.force.com – basically we’ve leveraged everything that salesforce.com has given us. "
Advologix motions to dismiss on-premise legal software with Force.com
Paul Deschenes, Advologix founder and CEO, has years of experience implementing CRM and practice management solutions for law firms of all shapes and sizes. While working his clients he got an intimate view of the industry’ s unique technological needs. He says, “In the U.S., ninety percent of law firms have ten or fewer attorneys. They typically have little to no technical resources. There’s a huge opportunity to give them integrated, easy-to-use products that help with practice management.”
According to Deschenes, these smaller law firms typically use a hodgepodge of best of breed products that don’ t integrate and often require duplicate data entry. A firm might have different solutions for time and billing, automated document creation, document management, contacts/calendar/email, invoicing, and monitoring cases and clients.
Deschenes, with partner Jonathan Reed, founded Advologix with the vision of providing a single practice management solution that would be easy for small firms to set up and maintain, and address all of their IT needs. Deschenes had long seen the benefits of cloud computing and quickly decided that the new product should be in the cloud. At that time, building their own platform seemed to make most sense.
For the first two years after launching, AdvologixPM ran on the company’s proprietary platform. Although the platform worked well, the company was burdened by the need to manage its own data centers and meet speed, availability, and security goals. Developers were sometimes faced with lengthy and distracting client customizations.
In November 2008, Deschenes and several Advologix employees attended the Dreamforce conference. They networked, attended sessions, and kicked the tires on Force.com. According to Deschenes, “I was a fan of salesforce.com since the very beginning. And now I could see the value of the platform. With the addition of Visualforce and Apex, and a new cost model, it made a lot of sense for our business.”
He continues, “We also saw right away the benefits of being a salesforce.com partner. We have an SE and we can get questions answered quickly, and of course lots of free services. We’ve used the extensive documentation, message boards, and developer.force.com – basically we’ve leveraged everything that salesforce.com has given us.”
After Dreamforce, Advologix managers returned to Texas to start porting their product. “Our situation is a little different from other ISVs because we already had a product and we just needed to replicate it. With Force.com were able to get started quickly and get really far along really fast.”
He continues, “There are some huge differences in developing with Force.com. First, you can build an interface and tables and fields with just point and click. Second, there are built in reports and dashboards. It is a big dev effort to build a point and click reporting system so end users can create their own reports, and clients usually want some customization. But Force.com takes care of all of that so we don’t have to do it. Similarly, you don’t have to build a workflow engine from scratch – it is right there in the platform.”
Deschenes also appreciates that he is no longer running his own data center. He says, “Moving Advologix from our proprietary cloud-computing platform to Force.com let us go from a huge, indeterminate cost to a small, fixed one. Even more importantly, we’ve had significant savings in human resources. Instead of managing database, chasing bugs, managing servers, operating systems and applications, we were able to redeploy those resources to focus on development and delivery of the product. We’re talking about a difference of hundreds of man hours to set up a platform and at least half a person on an ongoing basis to maintain the data center. By eliminating that cost we have a direct advantage in making our product better and getting to market faster.”
Advologix is in the process of transitioning customers from its proprietary platform to Force.com. According to Deschenes, “With Force.com we can offer them products that better meet their needs – all in one integrated system. Not only is our product cloud-based, but it automatically provides all the value of integration with other cloud-computing apps from the AppExchange that can extend a client’s practice.” He points to NetDocuments’ document management system, Drawloop’s document automation, and Ribbit’s voice to text conversion tool as apps that might be particularly attractive to legal clients.
“Another benefit for customers is that with Force.com you can’t create bad code. There are so many checks and balances and security reviews in place that you can be sure that the code is sound when it reaches the customer.” Advologix customers also get the benefit of salesforce.com’ s proven security, reliability, and scalability. Deschenes points out that cloud computing is a boon to many small businesses that are looking to weather the current economic slowdown. “The legal industry has seen some downsizing, and many individuals are now building their own practices. It used to be a huge effort to set up an Exchange server and all of the related infrastructure. Now all they need is a laptop with Internet access to sign up for Google Apps and AdvologixPM and get started.”
Deschenes plans to add AdvologixPM to the AppExchange within the next couple of months. “We will have the only Force.com native practice management solution for legal firms – there’s no product like it available on the AppExchange today. We view the AppExchange as a great vehicle for reaching existing Force.com customers.” After completing the port to Force.com, Advologix plans to build a robust partner ecosystem. According to Deschenes, “There are literally thousands of legal technology consultants around the country who do practice management consulting and optimization for law firms. We want to teach them how to customize our product, package it for different legal specialties, and add extension products. We want to create a partner community that gives us feet on the street everywhere.“ At the same time the company is also targeting some of salesforce.com’s enterprise customers that need additional help in managing their legal departments.
The verdict looks good for Advologix. Deschenes says, “The recent economic slowdown has driven a lot of interest in cloud computing within the legal industry, and in our product specifically. We have a five year plan and with Force.com we hope to exceed all of our goals.” Case closed.
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