Integration is a term loosely used by legal technology
companies. So you might ask, what is integration and why does it matter? Let's
start with defining what integration means. According to http://dictionary.refrence.com integration
is the act of combining or adding
parts to make a unified whole. Integration matters because many times what is
being called an integration is actually a link. And the experience an integration brings an end
user is very different than a link. So what is the difference between
integration and a link?
Integration is when two applications share data. Frequently
a software development kit (SDK) or application programming interface (API) is
used. To simplify, SDKs and APIs are provided by an application provider to programmatically
share data with another application. These tools provide flexibility to make
the experience for the user more flexible and robust. For example, you might
have the ability to define what fields from one application go with the fields
of the other application up front, making the day-to-day use of the integration
seamless. An integration may go both ways between applications with additions
and changes to data. An integration doesn't have to be buried under a setup
screen, it can be in the form of a plug-in that gets installed on a computer
with either pre-configured data fields or with the ability to configure and map
fields as you install the plug-in. Plug-ins
can reduce the complexity for end users and can be developed to make default
assumptions for the low-tech user. In contrast, a link is usually simple, for
example, a link could be clicking on an email address and it opens up your
email application and pre-fills in the email address. Some links can pass more
than one data field to an application but it typically is one way.
When you use Microsoft® Outlook® as
an integral part of your day, having the ability to share information with your
matter management solution is critical. One of the most popular business
applications to link or integrate with is Outlook, after all, so many legal
professional use it to manage email.
So going back to the definition of integration as being the act of combining or adding parts to
make a unified whole, an integration between Microsoft Outlook and a
matter management system should feel like it is one. There are many ways a
matter management can develop an Outlook integration that allows you to easily
save emails and their attachments. For
example, some are as simple as dragging and dropping to a matter, others let
you right click and save to matters, or some automatically match or recommend
matters based on an email address, you won't find this kind of experience with
a link. Not all integrations are equal however.
Some integration's have been developed to share information that requires end
user pushing a button, or incrementally synchronizes throughout the day in
batches. Legal professionals need the most current information when looking at
matters, therefore look for integrations that provide real-time updating.
When looking for a matter management solution that claims an
integration with Microsoft Outlook, be sure to ask for details of how it is
setup and how it works. Keep an open mind and understand whether you are
looking for ease of setup and use versus robust functionality. A more complex
setup usually results in a more robust integration but in the end, may be
easier on the end user. Understand how your users work to make certain the
integration fits the workflow. Having a great Outlook integration with a matter
management system is beneficial when users believe it is part of Outlook or the
matter management system because it makes sense with the way they work, which
means they'll use it.
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