Monday, 17 November 2014

Veyo's Fundamental Flaws

The Law Society’s joint venture with Maestek UK has become a hot topic of conversation within the Legal Community and has in the main courted a great deal of  negative press from property practitioners.  The product to be delivered by Veyo is described on Veyo’s website as a ‘revolutionary home conveyancing portal’ offering to save practitioners ‘time and money’.  Speaking at a recent conveyancing conference Veyo’s Chief Executive, Elliott Vigar, announced that the launch of the product is still on schedule for spring of next year.

In this article I look to examine and discuss those areas of Veyo’s business model in which there is I believe some fundamental, and perhaps fatal, errors.

I must begin however with a disclaimer as well as a declaration of self-interest. I am not an expert in legal technology; though I must disclose that in 2011 I designed and built a risk and case management system (Quick Conveyance) with the help of one full time programmer.  The system was built on a ‘shoestring’ but has proved largely successful and has helped my business process around 30,000 transactions since it was launched.  The cost of building the developing the system (which boasts the majority of the features of Veyo) has been no more than the salary of a full time programmer.  Contrast this with the news that Veyo has and continues to consume millions of pounds of investment, not only in relation to build but also in marketing and promotion.

The first feature of the business model to consider, and an aspect which is pretty fundamental to any new business venture, is the question of identity.   Is Veyo a communication and compliance hub for the benefit of those who subscribe to the Law Society’s national Conveyancing Protocol, or is it a case management system for those undertaking conveyancing. Or is it both?  For any product to achieve successful traction in the market for which it is designed and promoted, it must be capable of being clearly understood by the target market.   Unfortunately from what has been disclosed and presented to date the message is far from clear.   At the recent Society of Licensed Conveyancer’s Conference held in Derby those representing Veyo (Des Hudson, former Law Society Chairman and Mr Vigar) were clearly confused.   In response to questions from practitioners it was clear that they themselves do not know whether they are entering the highly competitive market of legal case management systems, or whether they have a system which is designed to supplement existing case management systems.  From reading the literature and despite a clear statement from Veyo to the contrary, it seems obvious to everybody other than Veyo that they are offering nothing unique or different.  Veyo is a case management system which is no different from most of the other case management products out there and which are far better established.

So what would have I done differently?   To begin with I would have consulted with both the practitioners and the legal technology industry at an early stage and looked to see what I could have done to supplement rather than compete with existing offerings.  Why re-invent the wheel?  Veyo swears blindly that it has consulted and carried out extensive focus group exercises.   I am no business guru, but even a candidate from the BBC show the Apprentice could see that there is very little evidence that if this did take place, little if any reliance has been given to the feedback.    The case management market is saturated with similar products and products with lengthy and successful track records.  Why do we need another case management system?   For a practitioner who has already invested a significant sum of money in a case management system there is little incentive to switch or spend money on integrating with Veyo. It simply does not make any commercial sense.
Keep in mind that Veyo claims its system will speed up the conveyancing process and help to save cost.   This strap line simply does not inspire confidence.   It is reported that Veyo will need to charge a license fee and also a transaction fee.  It is not clear how much these fees will be, but based say on a license fee of £2000 per user and a transaction fee of £15, a business which handles 2400 transactions each year and has 20 fee earners would be looking to pay Veyo £76,000 per annum.  If the business already operated a case management system then it would be looking to pay this on top of its existing commitment without any apparent additional benefit.   This hardly demonstrates a saving.

The lack of identity caused by flawed business development investigation was avoidable.   The Law Society could have looked to introduce for example a system which acted as communication hub to bridge existing case management systems and offer a ‘negotiation room’ and or a ‘chain matrix’.   An idea that would not have competed against existing and established systems but which brought something new and innovative to the table.  One question which springs to mind is why the Law Society not look to reviving the Land Registry’s failed at a chain matrix. The idea of the system was to reduce the uncertainties of house buying by allowing all parties in a chain to see what stage of the process had been reached by everyone else. It was to be the centrepiece and public face of a scheme to computerise the entire conveyancing process. However, the scheme was postponed at the end of 2007 after a pilot showed little interest from conveyancers or their clients.  I am sure that with full and proper consultation with conveyancers and the legal technology industry there could have been some merit in looking to resurrect this project particularly if there was some appetite evident from private investors.

The other significant failing has been the lack of engagement with the target market.  Veyo is either naive or extremely arrogant in its approach to the presentation and marketing of its product.  This is not a current issue but goes back in time to when the product was first devised.    Veyo claims it held focus groups and consulted with grass root conveyancers but has up until now failed to disclose details of that consultation.   The legal sector is a difficult market place at the best of times.  Those selling to lawyers find it difficult to engage interest and to earn sufficient trust to then sell.   Veyo seems to be oblivious to these factors and seems to believe that conveyancers will come forward in sufficient numbers and sign up.  I suspect this is a highly optimistic view and indeed the recent announcement by Myhomemove might suggest that conveyancers have already turned their back on Veyo.  Myhomemove, the UK’s largest provider of mover conveyancing services, recently selected Lexis Visual files 2014 as the firm’s next generation workflow and case management system.

To succeed in the legal sector there needs to be a sense of belonging and unfortunately this has been lacking in the approach adopted by the Law Society in the development of Veyo.  I am sure if there had been effective and extensive consultation with conveyancers in its development conveyancers would have been warmer and more receptive to Veyo’s introduction.

It may not be too late to save Veyo providing those behind it begin to listen to the feedback and perhaps look to redesign the product.   It needs a unique selling feature and to demonstrate that for the money it will demand that it is actually adding to and improving the conveyancing experience for the conveyancer and client.

Veyo - Raising more questions than it is answering : 

By David Pett Director of MJP Conveyancing 

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