As your firm embraces the future, you likely are looking for new, innovative technology to manage and exceed client demands. Forward-thinking legal and IT professionals should be asking themselves “Are we embracing modern technology? What could our firm do if more of our disparate systems worked together?” The answer lies in loosely coupled, tightly integrated matter-centric legal case management software. But what do we mean by this?

Start with a Platform, Stay Loosely Coupled

Modern software is developed by combining independent applications built on top of commonly developed code. A good example is a Windows application. Within the Windows environment, Microsoft has already accommodated most of the infrastructure needed for an application designer’s generic requirements. This allows the software architect the freedom to focus on the discrete business requirement of the end user. Fast-forward twenty years; with the advent of cloud computing, software architects now have a robust set of platforms to choose from.

Many legacy case and practice management applications use the underlying Windows OS as their platform. Today’s development platforms allow software designers to start with business-level problems. The common, generic requirements should be satisfied by the platform. The most important aspect of the platform is the ability to seamlessly weave functional applications together in a way that suits individual needs better than an all-in-one app. Some platform vendors know how to do this quite well.

One of the most successful modern cloud-based development platforms is Salesforce.com. The Salesforce.com AppExchange was a precursor to the modern App Store made popular by Apple. Salesforce.com made its API very accessible, which richly rewarded customers with the ability to extend the Salesforce.com product to suit their needs more specifically. Salesforce.com’s Contact and Calendar management, when combined with its enterprise workflow tools, provides an excellent foundation for modern application architecture.

Selecting Applications, Stay Tightly Integrated

Fragmenting functionality should not fragment practice data or impact workflow. Be careful by selecting applications designed to work well with other applications. Doing this will prevent workflow and data from becoming siloed by proprietary or obsolete technologies.

The make or break point in the process will be the ability to bring these functional best of breed apps into a cohesive group of related parts moving in unison. Therefore selecting a platform based on its ability to weave applications within a unified framework is important.

Keep in mind the business process within each division of labor will need solutions that best meet its individual business needs. For instance, if an organizational unit touches more than a few dozen documents a day, ensure attention is given to a best of breed document management solution that accommodates current requirements but also projects continued growth for document storage and retrieval.

In addition to the many practical benefits of using independent, best of breed software applications as opposed to all-in-ones is the ability to spread your business liability across multiple software providers. This creates healthy competition among vendors and keeps business goals agile. Integrated solutions will ultimately lead to lower licensing costs by only needing to procure licenses for those users interfacing with the integrated functionality.