Point vs. Platform Solutions: Tech Stack Strategies to Prepare You For the Future
Navigating a new age of strategic technology investment; current industry outlook + insights from Legalweek 2023
In our recent Legalweek session, Digital Transformation Declassified: Emerging Technology and the Art of the Possible, a live audience poll revealed that the average legal ops professional works with ~10 tools daily, from email and Teams to Google Drive and Excel. And when asked whether they currently look forward to integrating a new solution, the answer (aside from a few chuckles) was an overwhelming no.
Content switching and solution implementation can be challenging — we want to improve our processes, but nobody likes to be in charge of implementing those changes when they disrupt day-to-day operations. The best-case scenario is to maintain workflow throughout implementation, with solutions that communicate with each other to streamline back-and-forth, optimize data integrity, and enhance cross-functional transparency.
But as we gathered from our live audience’s response, implementation and adoption are not always a pain-free process — and it’s because quick-fix point solutions are still floating around in today’s tech stacks.
The Current State of the Legal Market: Point vs.Platform Solutions
Legal operations departments and law firms alike have been building out their tech stacks in 2023, and evidence suggests that this will continue for the foreseeable future. Technology has enabled legal departments to reduce manual data entry, secure compliance with air-tight audit trails, and give professionals back time to focus on higher-value work. So, it’s no surprise that by 2025, Gartner predicts that technology will account for 12% of the legal operations budget. But as we know from our ALM survey on the current state of the legal industry, only 12% of ALM surveyees agree their legal tech stacks are “very integrated.” And this is because when many legal departments roadmap their tech stacks, new software solutions advertise point solutions that can handle a pain point in its entirety.
While appealing, point solutions often come with a less-known drawback: bulk. Tech stacks bloat quickly, especially when each solution can take months – or years – to be implemented. After implementation is complete, maintenance and upkeep will draw IT professionals into the nitty gritty of your daily operations. If they have the time and resources to manage updates and make small improvements quickly and efficiently, your legal operations team might not notice the resource drain caused by a bloated tech stack. But when your IT team runs lean, or has larger, company-wide goals that are prioritized over your department solutions, an expansive tech stack with multiple point solutions can begin to slow you down rather than speed you up.
A Word to the Wise on Homegrown Solutions
At the other end of the spectrum, some legal operations teams look to homegrown solutions in order to bypass the cost of shiny new applications. The thinking goes: why not make it yourself? But like the point solution approach, the burden of integration, training, and user support ultimately falls onto the shoulders of your IT team. Not only can this eat up critical time and impact department performance, but it also makes your solution dependent on unpredictable variables like employee turnover and expertise gaps. If an original developer eventually leaves the company, key information about your solution may get lost in the transition. Turning to your IT professionals for best practices has another cost as well: it means that you push your solution into very capable technology hands, but you lose out on the expertise afforded by specialized technology vendors.
So, How Do You Build a Tech Stack That Keeps You Prepared For the Future?
According to Justin Silverman, Senior Vice President of Product Management & Product Strategy at Mitratech, there are four questions you need to ask about your legal technology:
- Is it flexible? (does it have open APIs, bi-directional functionality, and integrations to connect to different database structures?)
- Is it extensible and robust enough to make building those connections easy?
- Is it secure?
- Is it scalable? (and well-documented for compliance as you scale?)
One way that strategic legal operations professionals navigate between the Scylla and Charybdis of an overly bulky or overly lean tech stack is with the platform approach. Industry executives agree that the dynamic platform is replacing the “one-and-done” point solution vendor.
Those looking to upgrade their tech stacks should be looking to invest, not buy; find solutions that boast scalability and long-term support. The right kind of platform will offer a hybrid approach to pain points.
Depending on the size of your team and complexity of your pain point, you should be able to choose between:
- Working side-by-side with professional services professionals to spec out and build your solutions
- Engaging with world-class partners who leverage expert resources to advise the best approach to your pain points.
- Leveraging “Citizen Development” to empower your team to use your platform (which should not require ANY coding) to build their own solutions with simple, drag-and-drop technology.
Platform solutions offer the best of both worlds: they allow you to access world-class technology that will drive faster, more efficient, and more compliant processes in your legal department — without sacrificing the expertise that comes naturally from partnering with a proven technology provider. You limit IT lift and empower your department to own your projects, and each project follows the same pattern, making integration, training, and user support easy, reliable, and empowering.