Posted by Arlene Adams, CEO of Legal Futures Associate Peppermint Technology 
Many software applications deliver significant value in their own right, but the art of getting them to work in harmony is complex, time consuming and expensive. A change to one software application will most likely have an impact elsewhere in the firm’s technology stack.
The result is that firms are reaching a point of complexity where a disproportionate amount of their investment is spent on simply ensuring all their software applications continue to work together. This problem is increasing as new technologies emerge at a rapid pace.
Complexity of existing environments is the biggest IT challenge I see law firms struggling with. In a highly competitive market where change is all around, and critical to survival, this will directly impact the profit of a firm.
This problem isn’t unique to legal firms, so the good news is technology giants such as Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce and IBM are investing huge sums to address this very challenge.
The answer to the problem can be found in the emergence of the Industry Technology Platform  (ITP). This is where large technology giants, with the appropriate scale of investment and resource, build a base technology stack that delivers the most common technology components a business requires.
The benefit of this approach is that many of the common IT components (such as Microsoft Office, database, security, workflow, social media, browser support, device support etc) are all taken care of by a major global vendor. The operation and cost of keeping all this in sync is down to them. This approach can free up the time and budget of a law firm to focus on added value legal functionality rather than on just keeping the existing pieces working together.
This model already exists in many other industries where the size of investment in core technology is so high that only a few players build this. For example, in the airline industry Boeing and Airbus compete in building airplanes: individual airlines take one of these standard models and adapt it specifically for the needs of their target market and customers.
Everyone benefits, all passengers fly on planes which are safe and compliant whilst each airline adds value specific to the market it wishes to address.
The ITP approach is the next phase of evolution in the global technology market. In this approach, the ITP owner delivers the complex engineering of common components allowing industry experts to focus their investment on making the platform work for a given market such as legal .
In the legal market Peppermint Technology and LexisNexis are taking this approach and no doubt others will follow in time. In the meantime firms need to assess which is the greater risk: changing to an Industry Technology Platform now or continuing to invest in the challenge of managing the complexity.