Keith Vallely, vice president and senior consultant with Epona, shares insights on how Epona has influenced and impacted the corporate legal space and what sets them apart from competitors in the document management space.

CCBJ: Talk to us about Epona, your role in the legal space, and how you work with corporate legal teams.

Keith Vallely: As Vice President and Senior Consultant at Epona USA, a division of Epona, my role is to expand our sales throughout the North American marketplace, including implementations of our Contract Management, Document Management, E-Mail Management and Knowledge Management Systems that are based on the Microsoft Platform. It also means, of course, increasing the number of employees and growing our entire operation.

What Epona does, is take the Microsoft 365 environment and make it a document/contract/email/knowledge management system, for the Corporate legal space, as well as for Enterprises and Law Firms. We start out by configuring the content management platform SharePoint to operate as a document management system and from there we sort of snap on, if you will, contract life cycle management, email management and knowledge management capabilities so that an enterprise or corporate legal department can utilize the powers that are already built into the Microsoft 365 platform, including workflow, Power BI, the whole nine yards. So, for all intents and purposes, we are a turnkey solution provider to the corporate environment, which is ideal for enterprises and corporate legal departments that are already using the Microsoft platform and want to take full advantage of their investment.

Please talk to us about how Epona has brought value to the corporate legal space in recent years?

One of our greatest accomplishments, in addition to the sheer number of clients we’ve added, is how we’ve helped those clients expand their use of Microsoft 365 and add to their own productivity. One of the great things about the Microsoft platform is it is a tremendously powerful LEGO set. The platform isn’t fully built out. There is a lot of capability that a powerful imagination and a powerful IT department can utilize to essentially configure and develop a solutions set that can fit virtually any requirement for a business.

What this essentially means is Epona walks into corporate environments, with their unique requirements, and in partnership with the IT department, helps to integrate their current applications into Microsoft 365, Teams, Microsoft Office and more. I’m particularly proud of the things that we’re able to provide to our corporate legal partners, such as contract management systems integrated with Teams, or knowledge management systems integrated with known and easy-to-use applications like Microsoft Word and Microsoft Outlook.

It’s been really cool to come back a couple of years later and find out how these applications that we initially deployed are now being used in the enterprise to make things better for the people who are using power in a region, or getting people out of jail who don’t belong there, or providing medical services in new ways. It’s just really interesting to see how the work that we’re doing have real life implications downstream for everyday people. That’s really what this is all about. I do recognize, of course, there’s the bits and the bytes and the dollars and the cents, but when it comes right down to it, we’re out there really trying to make people’s lives better. And that the use of our technology to make Microsoft technologies work better for corporate legal departments is really kind of cool.

Epona has grown significantly over the past few years. To what do you attribute this?

Probably the single biggest reason, was that people need to work from their homes due to COVID-19. This has changed the manner and method of the way people work now. Microsoft 365 and using cloud services has become ubiquitous. This drove a lot of change for corporate entities and, of course, law firms which, in turn, has driven a huge amount of growth for us.

Candidly speaking, we were already on a growth trajectory before the market shifted because of the excellent team at Epona. Every member of our team is not just good at what they do, but also cares about their clients. Sometimes the biggest challenge we have is knowing when to say “enough.” I know I shouldn’t say this, but sometimes my team cares a little bit too much. Sometimes they just need to stop working, go home and take a break. It is the weekend, you know!

But the other thing is we are very good about making sure that we deliver great products. It’s a truism in the software business the clients are always focused on what isn’t working. But the vast majority of the products and services that we deliver are almost always working. Occasionally there will be a bug or glitch, but by and large, our products work and are kept up-to-date. The same can’t be said for our competitors, most of whom require that clients’ Microsoft Office suite be kept years behind the update cycle. In our situation, we typically require that you keep your Microsoft Office up-to-date. It’s a completely different paradigm. And because of that, the latest features, the latest super-cool whiz-bang new stuff is where you need to be with us. Now, I realize that’s a bit of a paradigm shift for people, but that is one of the other great things about our company.

What sets Epona apart from competitors in the document management space.

First and foremost your documents, your emails, all of your content, will not exist in an Epona environment. It will always exist in your tenant space, under your control. This means you will always have 100 percent control of your content as it will remain in your environment. That means no vendor lock. This is an enormous difference from all our competitors, and the primary reason that 20 percent of the Fortune 100 are already Epona clients. This also is a primary differentiator when it comes to compliance and security. These three things make us as different as night and day from other content management service providers.

Being in the Microsoft cloud with Epona means you will get compliance, security, and records all as part of the Microsoft compliance center versus our competitors, where you will be using their security models which are partially reliant in some form on Microsoft, but as an externality. The simple answer is you’re going to be better off putting all of your content in a Microsoft environment. And that is why corporate entities prefer Epona. It’s a one-stop, single-solution platform.

Also, when we talk about Teams integration with the Epona solution versus all other competitors, again all of your content will exist strictly in the Microsoft platform. Additionally, updates, upgrades and all integrations on the Epona platform are in the Microsoft paradigm, which means you will be using the Microsoft update paradigm versus the alternative paradigms of the other third parties. This is an enormous differentiator.

Lastly, the Epona solution is also significantly more cost effective than the other solutions. In the Epona paradigm, there is an initial upfront cost to get set up in the Microsoft tenant and licensing costs going forward from there. In the other solution sets, you will be paying for storage and other things that add to your costs that are not part of the Epona solution because, once again, you are storing your content in the Microsoft tenant, which you already pay for. These separators are some of the major differences between Epona’s solution and all the others.

If there is one thing that your clients, or people exploring Epona as a solution, should know, what would that be?

That no one matches our level of client service. The comment we hear most from clients who’ve come to us from our competitors is that that didn’t feel cared for. Epona cares for its clients—a lot. And we care as much about the three-user law firm as we do the 2,000-user law firm or the 450-user corporate legal department. I think that might be the single most important reason we have grown.