The legal landscape has undergone significant change in the last two years. Remote and hybrid work are replacing traditional work models, support staff teams are shrinking, office space is being reconsidered… Today’s law firms look very different from what they did pre-2020.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the need for a reliable, high-performing practice management system (PMS).
Many firms are turning to application managed services contracts as a means to achieving this ever-elusive goal. We’re seeing an uptick in this service as firms streamline their workforces and realign their processes to accommodate this new normal.
As with any legal tech investment, the name of the game is maximum ROI. This holds true for managed services as it does for applications, hardware, cloud computing, etc. We see a lot of firms using managed services as a virtual babysitter; the legal tech provider is viewed as a glorified IT team. However, managed services contracts cover a lot of system-boosting offerings—many of which law firms aren’t aware of!
So, the question is:
How can you maximize managed services ROI if you’re not even aware of all the available functions?
Many of the unfortunately underused managed services functions we offer have an enormous impact when it comes to creating a reliable, high-performing PMS. Firms are missing out! And paying the price not only in today’s system performance, but also in the system’s future readiness.
Here are five managed services offerings we see law firms overlooking that greatly improve PMS performance and increase managed services ROI. You need to take advantage of them to extract as much utility as you can from your PMS.
- Functional testing
System testing is a huge speed bump for law firms. We see firms avoiding upgrades and implementations because they don’t have testing capacity. Instead, they cling to their outdated system missing out on new functionalities, new technologies (hello cloud computing), and improved security measures.
Out of all the system testing available, functional testing is among the biggest. It ensures your application does everything you expect it to do correctly. Functional testing ensures workflow and productivity remain on track with minimal interruptions. And yet, most law firms don’t have the time or personnel to perform functional testing. This leaves the firm with two options: risk purchasing a new untested system or stick with the old, familiar (yet outdated and inadequate) system. Neither are optimal solutions.
Under a managed services contract, functional testing becomes a more manageable lift. The managed services provider brings those two key elements–time and personnel–to the table, taking the majority of the workload off the firm’s internal team.
Keep in mind, functional testing isn’t a process that can (or should) be shouldered by the managed services provider 100%, but their input greatly accelerates the process. For example, the managed services provider can confirm whether a customization works, but firm personnel must validate the customization’s appropriateness and accuracy. The managed services provider can shoulder the majority of the functional testing work, but the work is a collaboration between provider and firm personnel.
Managed services promote this provider–firm partnership, which can reduce functional testing time from months to weeks, depending on the size and complexity of the firm. Including functional testing in your managed services contract gives your firm the freedom to maintain an updated system without the apprehension associated with buying a new, untried system or sticking with an old system—both options carry potential vulnerabilities that can be exploited.
- System maintenance
System maintenance seems like an obvious managed services activity, right? So why is it included here? Because numerous lesser-known system maintenance activities can move your system beyond mere consistent, predictable performance to a clean, agile infrastructure.
For example, regular SQL Server checks bring behind-the-scenes improvements that significantly impact system health. Although SQL is a universal platform, your firm’s queries, indexes, and workloads, etc. are not. They’re unique. Including monthly SQL Server reviews in your managed services package gives you the opportunity to fine tune your SQL Server parameters and adjust them to your needs and goals. From tailoring indexes to repairing poorly constructed queries, this simple managed services addition allows your firm to sidestep costly repairs and performance issues.
Other proactive system maintenance activities include:
- Historical data cleanup. Many law firms don’t have or use a systemized data retention policy. The result is huge amounts of outdated data clogging the system and hindering its performance. Managed services teams can establish a scheduled protocol for removing this historical data before it gets unwieldy and causes larger problems.
- General application maintenance. Day-to-day activities result in myriad small issues that users bypass or forget in the workday hustle and bustle. These seemingly inconsequential issues accumulate over time and eventually impact system performance and the user experience if left untended. For instance, error messages that go unaddressed eventually cause major interruptions. Incorporating general application maintenance into managed services agreements is an opportunity to analyze these small issues and address them before they get out of hand.
- Instance cloning. Copying or cloning data is a common safeguarding practice in law firms. It ensures a data backup exists. Although this is a seemingly straightforward process, cloning data and re-installing it correctly isn’t as cut and dry as many users think. Adding instance cloning to your managed services contract ensures you have a working data clone, that it will be re-installed correctly, and, most importantly, that the application will continue to function properly after the clone is live.
- Full system operation. True system health includes more than ensuring you have clean data, working customizations, and updated applications. A deeper layer to your tech infrastructure exists, and it is frequently neglected or dismissed. A prime example is load balancer analysis. In-house IT teams may check and balance on-prem loads, but neglect applying analysis to off-prem servers and nodes. Managed services teams can do this deeper dive, which ensures every level of your system is operating optimally. Over time, this results in fewer disruptions and a brings better ROI to your tech investment.
- Performance troubleshooting
Performance troubleshooting can be extremely costly and time-consuming. Akin to taking your car to the mechanic when there’s a mysterious banging noise, pinpointing and fixing performance issues can be just as frustrating and expensive.
Adding performance troubleshooting to your managed services contract brings this issue under control in two ways:
- Knowledge continuity. Unlike a random IT support provider, your managed services team knows your business and system inside out. They won’t waste time learning your system. They can go directly to locating the problem.
- Devoted resources. Managed services teams give you the people and time needed to find the issue. And because the team already knows your system, they can do this quickly. The managed services team’s ability to fully focus on your troubleshooting needs makes the process faster and therefore cheaper.
Given how quickly performance issues can spiral out of control, having performance troubleshooting in your managed services agreement is a level of protection against these unplanned for events. It gives you a go-to response plan for these surprise disruptions.
Another ROI boost for managed services and more peace of mind for you
- Enhancement/customization support: A Helm360 specialty
Not every managed services provider offers enhancement and customization support. We include it in our Helm360 managed services menu because we know it’s a significant pain point for law firms and we have the technical expertise and industry knowledge to do the work.
The need for enhancement/customization support arises from application vendors typically not covering it. This lack of vendor support leaves law firms hanging, especially when it comes to upgrades, mergers, new implementations, or any system change that needs enhancements/customizations for the changes to be activated.
Without this support, firms hesitate to upgrade their systems not only because they fear breaking or losing the enhancements/customizations they already have in place, but also because these large changes call for functional testing—which, as we discussed earlier, is a prohibitive activity for firms.
Helm360’s Managed Services Team addresses both concerns. They provide the needed enhancement/customization support and perform the functional testing. Combining both services under one managed services contract allows firms to confidently upgrade their systems and leave the maintenance to us. Our clients don’t have to choose between their enhancements/customizations or a functioning system. They can have both.
- Data quality and integrity
Data quality and integrity is a Holy Grail for most law firms. Years of “we’ll deal with the dirty data later” results in data systems clogged with old, junky data, duplicate or incomplete records, etc. Over time this procrastination results in more and more garbage going into your system diminishing its integrity every time this dirty data is carried forward.
Managed services agreements provide an opportunity to gain control over data quality. Again, the managed services provider supplies the resources (time and personnel) so the work is completed in a reasonable amount of time. Investing in this process does more than clean your data—it gives the firm’s decision-makers:
- A holistic view of the problem
- How bad is data quality really?
- Time to make thoughtful decisions around firm data
- Is that data field really needed?
- The opportunity to develop protocols for maintaining data integrity going forward
- How will states be abbreviated?
- Are titles (Mr./Mrs./Ms.) required information?
Helm360 improves the manageability of this process with its Digital Eye data discovery tool. Our Director of Consulting Projects & Managed Services, Melinda Ward, explains:
Digital Eye is Helm360’s proprietary tool designed to help firms identify suggestions for data cleanup activities. It gives very clear and targeted reports of things like incomplete addresses, duplicate records, and so forth. And it automates the process, which removes the manual tedium involved with this type of work
Data quality is pivotal to successful upgrades, migrations, new implementations, etc. The ability to maintain data quality/integrity between major system projects accelerates the larger projects and contributes to overall system performance. Including this work in a managed services agreement puts a clean data set in your reach.
Want to know more about Helm360’s Digital Eye? Schedule a free demo today!
Your PMS system is an evolving entity. To function optimally it needs ongoing maintenance. Managed services contracts make this necessity manageable. And yes, even if you only use basic maintenance services functions, a managed services agreement will deliver ROI simply because it keeps your system
is current. However, basic maintenance tasks often dovetail with system testing, troubleshooting, etc. Including the five often overlooked services that we discussed above to your managed contract positions your PMS system for future advancement, increases its overall performance and health, and takes your managed services ROI to the next level.
Learn more about how Helm360’s managed services can turbo charge your PMS application here.