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Should Legal IT Vendors be More Open with Issues?

Brian Podolsky

2 min read

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As anyone who works in Legal Technology knows, the legal technology solutions out there can sometimes be confusing, complicated, and difficult to implement. That is why there are often Professional Service arms for each vendor. That is why there are consultants. That is why CIOs, IT Directors, and network technicians earn every dollar of their salaries.

Even after doing everything right, there could be errors that you didn’t see coming. Bugs. Defects. Imperfections. This isn’t limited to ECM products, but the fact that these bugs could affect the core service a law firm provides — documents — to its clients makes it paramount.  What could be worse than working on a document for 2 days, and then losing that work due to a software bug?  (Okay, besides losing three days of work.) Sometimes these bugs are brand new and you are the first environment to report it. Other times, they are wide-spread and have been reported weeks earlier. In fact, the vendor’s development team might already be working on a fix.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a list of all the known issues of a certain product you are planning to implement?  Thankfully, OpenText does this for eDOCS DM, and they do it well.  Any partner and customer and go to their Knowledge Center and see all the known issues for DM 5.3 as well as DM 5.3.1.  The lists contain steps to reproduce, and can be sorted by date or name, and can be zipped and downloaded for off-line consumption.  HP/Autonomy offers some known issues in the customer forums. I see a few advantages for openly sharing this information:

Allows customer to know what to test, and to make an informed decision
When browsing a list of known issues, you may discover a key bug that would directly affect how your particular attorneys use the system. It might be better to hold off for a fix than implement now and have very unhappy rainmakers. At the very least, you can perform specific testing to see if any of the most relevant known issues will directly affect your environment. After all, not all bugs affect every system.

Fewer support calls to the vendor
Maybe this is wishful thinking, but if partners or customers discover an issue, perhaps they can search an area to see if it has already been reported. This might prevent repetitive support calls to the vendor, or result in shorter calls. For example, the customer could call and directly ask for an update on Issue 7135, rather than spending time to troubleshoot an issue and then describe it to a technician only to discover that a fix will be released in 2 weeks.

Vendor Reputation
Personally, I think it is refreshing when a vendor is open regarding any limitations or issues with their products. We all know no product is bug-free. (Except maybe Notepad.exe — although even that crashes when loading large log files!) We accept there are bugs. Be cooperative and let us know what the issues are, so we can be as fully informed as possible!

It would be interesting to hear what others in the industry think about this. I am sure there are differing opinions from each segment of the industry.