My previous article “Law Firm IT Spend – Getting it Right”, gave an overview of achieving the right level of IT spend by considering typical spending levels, discussing how to capture and analyse your current spend and giving suggestions for dealing with over-spend. But what if the analysis demonstrates that you need to spend more?
This might be due to earlier underinvestment or a new business initiative or strategic decision. There is nothing wrong with such an outcome if it is based on sound analysis. However, the Partnership and senior management will always be wary of increased spending on any business cost, so you will need to present a convincing business case for any proposed increase in IT spend.
I was recently invited to speak at The Law Society’s Law Management Section conference. My topic was “Getting value from IT investments”.
Quantifying the return on investment from IT projects is a minefield many of us have tried to address, but while those efforts are often used to build a business case prior to embarking on projects, it is often the case that these justifications are not a true reflection of the cost / value that technology investments represent and nor are they assessed post go-live.
While preparing the presentation, I was reminded of the “Man in a barrel” gift that Christel Aguila, IT Director and Partner at Winckworth Sherwood LLP brought back from the Philippines for her team and the need to never make assumptions!
Having a strong IT capability is critical to all organisations, now more than ever. But like any budget category, you don’t want to overspend, and you need to invest effectively. For law firms, IT spend is likely to be the third largest expenditure category behind premises and staff so ‘Getting it Right’ needs to be taken seriously.
You are likely to know how much you are spending on IT however, is it a sensible amount? Every firm is different and budgets can go up and down from year to year. However, a general guideline can be useful to help determine whether your level is right.
We attended – and facilitated – at a most informative Legal Practice Management (LPM) event yesterday, where Rupert Collins-White analysed the results of the 2018 Legal IT Landscapes, research aimed specifically at mid-sized law firms. More than 80 firms responded to the survey – the results are probably fairly representative of the market as a whole.
Interestingly enough, there were repeated mentions of, and considerable interest expressed in AI and the “hype” technologies, by far outranking mentions of more “old tech” systems, such as case management, practice management and document management. Most noticeable was the change of focus from the more boring aspects of tech, such as infrastructure and last year’s buzzword, “cloud” and a change of focus to the application layer particularly in areas where business processes can really benefit from technology.
In the context of this article Due Diligence is the careful examination of a company / solution and the evaluation of all associated risk before becoming involved in a contract or business arrangement.
Why Due Diligence?
Choosing a new IT solution or Service Provider is fraught with danger and committing to a lengthy contract solidifies and extends the risks.
I was not surprised to see Microsoft’s admission that developing new features for the Mobile version of Windows 10 was “no longer a focus” this but it is a shame to see. I had a Windows phone for several years and found it to be very good. I moved back to iPhone when the iPhone 7 came out as several “silver bullet” apps which I used which were removed from the Windows 10 app store at about this time (and yes I wanted a iWatch …) and it was becoming more obvious that app vendors were not going to get on board with Windows 10.
The most frustrating thing I found with moving back to the iPhone was that the Microsoft Apps available on IOS were better than the Apps they provided on their own operating system so for me the writing has been on the wall for some time.
However, personal views aside, the most concerning issue for IT professionals is the seeming ease in which major technology companies can and will chop and change their strategy and offerings.
Ransomware is a type of malware (malicious software) designed to block access to a computer or its data unless a ‘ransom’ is paid. It might do this by locking your system or by encrypting your data. The ransomware typically enters a computer through a Trojan. An unsuspecting user can introduce a Trojan in a number of ways such as through opening an email attachment, clicking on a link in an email, visiting a bad or compromised website, downloading infected files or using a USB stick which was found lying in the car park or lobby.
Ransomware is not new with the first example in the late 1980s being spread using infected floppy disks which were sent to recipients by post. However, our reliance on digital information, more sophisticated coding, improved networks and the involvement of criminal gangs and possibly even foreign governments has made ransomware a growing threat.
A ‘virtual’ IT Director is someone who is there for you as and when required without the need to hire someone into this position as a full-time employee with all of the associated costs. They can work for you as needed whether a few days a month, more regularly or simply on an ad-hoc basis. They could work fully on-site or sometimes remotely, whichever suits your organisation.
Many organisations have IT teams that are constantly overstretched. They are in ‘fire fighting’ mode – constantly reacting to immediate tasks with no time devoted to proactive actions. The result is a lack of time spent on important issues such as the organisation’s business strategy, the long-term IT strategy and staff development. Such teams tend to work as they always have without time for continuous improvement or innovation.