If you are still using an in-house telephone system based on older technologies, then you need to be aware that BT will be making it obsolete over the next few years. However, the need to upgrade is an opportunity to rethink your entire communications strategy and to improve working patterns. The good news is that the new technologies available can not only give you more business functionality but in addition can save you money!
As we trot, canter and then hopefully gallop through all the “Cloud” buzzwords, we will try to provide some context for their logical progression, and then the why’s and how’s of their evolution (yes, Darwin’s law applies to technology as well!)
Last time, we focused our attention on the “Private Cloud” – the mother of all Cloud Buzzwords. Her direct offspring are the variants of “Infrastructure as a Service” or IaaS
My concern about the scarcity of Women in Tech – particularly in Legal IT – goes back many years. Not only am I an unapologetic feminist of the old school (i.e I love the male of the species, I have many feminine interests but I believe women should play a full and equal role in society), but effective technology critically depends on team work. An increasing flood of research – and my own observations over many years – clearly demonstrate that gender and ethnically diverse teams significantly out-perform (up to 87%) teams not so constituted.
Our first attempts to encourage women into Legal Tech some 8 years ago came to nothing. The senior women (IT Directors and Heads of IT) were far too busy with the day-job, and lacked the administrative resources to be effective. But the idea stuck, and germinated, even while at the same time, our numbers went down. Some women moved on into other industries, others retired and increasingly, it became hard to recruit female candidates, particularly younger women for number 2 roles (so that they can take up the baton from us, when we moved on). The stats are startling. In our heyday some 10 years ago, 23% of the IT Directors/ Heads of IT in the top 100 law firms were female. Today it is less than 3%.
Every couple of years and applying Moore’s Law, with increasing frequency one of the giants of the tech industry (or their marketing teams) come up with a sexy sounding buzzword or acronym. Very quickly, the latest buzzword will then burn a blazing trail through the tech media, the general press and everyone and their parrot. Before you can say “buzz”, the buzzword is being used without anyone outside a limited circle having the foggiest idea of what it actually means (and feeling slightly embarrassed because everyone else seems to know). A classic case of the Emperor’s New Clothes.
Examples are “cloud”, “AI”, “flexible/agile/smart” working, “digital transformation”, “digital disruption” and heaven help us, “innovation”. Fuzzy terms, unless we stop to define what we actually mean. As importantly, what it means for us, our sector (law firms and law firm technology) and our own practices.
HEALTH WARNING – anyone with a technology background: read-on at your own peril but you are not allowed to sneer at our simplistic take on the impenetrable acronyms and fuzzy concepts and jargon that all technologists thrive on.
Law firms rarely change their PMS, doing so on average about every 15 to 20 years, and rightly so as the cost and effort involved is substantial. Furthermore, a firm can expect such a project to distract from the day-to-day operation of the firm and there will be disruption to the business as staff learn the new system and while enhancements and bespoke developments are undertaken.
The infrequency of such projects also means that firms are likely to be unfamiliar with changes in the PMS marketplace and may not have staff with the skillsets required to undertake such a project.
Mergers are increasingly common amongst law firms internationally and the UK is no exception. One source indicates that there were sixteen mergers affecting the UK top 100 firms in 2017 with a further four in the first quarter of 2018. There will of course have been many more amongst the mid-tier firms. So, what happens if you find yourself subject to a merger – what will be the impact on your IT and how can IT assist with the process?
I recently had an email from Microsoft Bing Places requesting that I ensure our company registration record was up-to-date. The experience which followed was a good reminder of the frustrations of users when dealing with inefficient processes delivered by IT solutions.
To be honest I can’t even remember registering for Bing Places and hadn’t thought to update the registration when we moved offices last year. I certainly didn’t have a Bing Places account to make the changes.
There then followed one of the most ridiculous processes I’ve ever experienced.
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.
PMS Selection for Hunt & Coombs
Supporting decision makers to make an effective and informed choice
Hunt & Coombs are currently using Envision, a product which had been made “end of life” by Thomson Reuters. Whilst the firm had good IT leadership it needed support to:
- determine which options were available;
- provide a robust and inclusive selection process;
- document all of the critical User requirements and add structure to the evaluation phase;
- assist in establishing the project’s key success factors;
- guide the internal team through the process and final decision making.
DMS Selection & Implementation for Winckworth Sherwood
A case study of transition
During 2015, Winckworth Sherwood (WS) undertook an IT review which identified that while providing sleek integration and automation between various systems, the existing SharePoint Document Management System (DMS) was no longer meeting the needs and expectations of a growing business.
Debenhams Ottaway Virtual IT Director
Definition and implementation of a IT strategy for a progressive regional law firm.
To align IT with business and improving reliability and performance whilst bringing expenditure in line with industry benchmarks.
- IT issues were a regular occurrence which hampered productivity
- Expenditure on IT had risen to 9.6% of turnover – a premium price for sub-optimal service.
- Lack of a thought-through and comprehensive IT strategy had led to an ad-hoc “shopping list” approach
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.
IT Service Review for Stephens Scown
A detailed review of the firm’s IT Service Hosting
Following a recent change of IT suppliers Stephens Scown had suffered from several system outages. We were engaged to undertake a detailed review of Stephens Scown’s IT Service Hosting provision in order to:
- gain full understanding of the causation of three recent outages and subsequent mitigations;
- assess the services provided and capabilities of the service provided.
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.
IT Review & Strategy Development for Taylor & Emmet
A full IT review leading to the development of an IT strategy
Taylor & Emmet requested a full ‘root and branch’ review of their IT that would lead to an IT strategy. The review covered the following areas:
Merger Support for Veale Wasbrough Vizards
Enabling the integration of another firm’s IT into VWV
We were engaged by leading Birmingham firm Anthony Collins to provide mentoring and support to their PMS replacement project group.
We were engaged by leading East Anglian firm Ellison’s Solicitors to advise on their PMS replacement project.
The chartered membership is achieved via a rigorous application process including a Breadth of Knowledge test and a Peer Assessment Interview. The accreditation is underpinned by periodic revalidation.
Holders of the CITP have to be able to demonstrate they’ve undertaken a range of challenging and complex work activities where they’ve had full accountability and exercised significant influence and responsibility, and have well-developed business skills.
The accreditation shows that holders understand the business they are working in and add business value through the use of technology
Following an independent review for Winckworth Sherwood of the iManage and NetDocuments products, the consulting team recommended the NetDocuments platform based on the client’s strategic decision to move to a cloud-based SAAS platform for their future DMS and on the grounds of its proven cloud credentials and the vendor’s track record around innovation, product development, security and customer support.
At the suggestion of both client and NetDocuments, Baskerville Drummond then moved to gain certification to enable the end-to-end delivery of the Winckworth Sherwood DMS project.
In December 2016 Kevin became our first NetDocuments certified consultant. Paul Hoffbrand, probably the most experienced and certified NetDocuments practitioner in the country has also joined the Baskerville Drummond implementations team.