Managed Services It needs to be considered now. Whitepaper

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1 Managed Services It needs to be considered now Whitepaper Prepared by: e-know.net Limited Date: July 2008

2 Financial pressures to improve productivity, efficiency and competitiveness mean that law firms have to maximise their use of technology with initiatives that centralise data so it can be shared more effectively, to allow people to work from anywhere to reduce costs, free up space, enable teams to work together more flexibly and to make more information more readily available to clients and business partners to add value to the service. At the same time, multiple channels are being used to access and distribute this information; with the boundaries between different types of communication - , telephone, mobile phone, SMS, text, BlackBerry, websites, portals all becoming increasingly blurred as technologies converge ; all using the same cables, internet or wi-fi connections to move the data around. All of these initiatives increase the risk of failures of critical IT that can cause significant down time for more people, financial loss and loss of data that might not be recovered. They also centralise and increase the risk of unauthorised people getting into the system to cause damage. This is all moving remarkably quickly and the reality is that most IT managers in most law firms cannot possibly keep up to speed on the wide range of IT, telecoms, multiple channel networking and security skills needed to provide a full service today. They need more help to get to grips with all the issues and solutions available. A law firm can no longer operate without effective, stable and secure technologies and an assurance of minimal down time, with close to zero security breaches, even in the event of a disaster. Commercial clients in particular, but also the general public, have raised the bar as they have recognised what can go wrong based on their own failings and plenty of publicity when things do go wrong. It is no surprise that this has happened very quickly, but it has mostly been allowed to happen without much planning on the part of lawyer and their IT managers, many of e-know.net Limited Whitepaper Page 2

3 which are ill prepared for the challenges that all these new methods of working and communicating present. An Opportunity to Catch Up I suspect that your firm has to deal with all these challenges; but interestingly these are all challenges that, if addressed effectively, present substantial opportunities to steal a valuable lead on your competitors. Not on their own, but alongside the culture change and development of solutions that reliable IT will bring. However, the reality is that only a small number of law firms have tackled these issues effectively generally the larger firms. Over time, they have had the vision and ability to invest in substantial IT support either internally or through third party providers that supply them with external management of some aspects of their IT that is retained on their premises (which we would define as a managed service), or by pushing some aspects of their IT out of their office for a third party to handle externally (which we would define as outsourcing that aspect of their IT). The top firms should be increasingly aware of which smaller firms are changing their approach on IT to make use of some managed services to improve their ability to compete as it is now much more feasible and affordable to improve at least some aspects of IT management and service delivery in most law firms. The landscape is changing here in favour of lawyers prepared to explore increasingly cost-effective options here that can transform their performance because: Provided you choose the right areas of IT to have managed or outsourced there will be a justifiable cost-benefit to support the move. There are now enough case studies available and trends set to be able to explore and quantify the return on a wide range of routes that could be followed. There are mature e-know.net Limited Whitepaper Page 3

4 solutions available that are generally only recognised by the small proportion of lawyers who have been prepared to take the early risks in leading the way here. The range of skills needed to manage the increasingly challenging mechanisms that allow users to share data on all these media is outstripping the range of skills available in anything but the largest of IT teams. The Internet has developed so that you can be confident that IT support specialists from an IT company supporting you can access your system reliably and securely from their remote office and that they can do much of what less specialist in house IT staff can do on site. These suppliers, servicing the needs of many companies can justify the investment in expertise in areas where you cannot and can spread the cost. In reverse, an IT support company can host all your servers and manage them on their premises, building an environment with levels of security that would not be affordable if you chose to invest in them yourselves as they can share the cost across multiple businesses they host and support on their premises. Disaster recovery and business continuity solutions are often an integral part of many managed, outsourced and hosted solutions an area that most law firms have only recently begun to address seriously within the last 18 months. There is often an opportunity to find a cost effective solution here as an integral part of the package. There is increasing realisation of the frailty of most in-house systems on both security and maintenance issues. Also of the virtually impossible task faced by IT managers in most law firms to deliver leading edge infrastructure and communications alongside day to day support and increasingly development of new solutions on workflow, CRM and online services. There is a tendency for the focus to get blurred, so the solutions that will improve the e-know.net Limited Whitepaper Page 4

5 performance of the firm do not get delivered. Also for compromises in security to be sidelined as they can be ignored...until an incident occurs. There are an increasing number of capable suppliers, with their own approach and expertise available to provide support in a wide variety of ways, with established experience of the legal office environment, so tried and tested solutions can be reproduced without reinventing the wheel. Some Options Just a few examples of the wide range of solutions available from a mix of suppliers include: At one end of the spectrum, you could now have all your IT services, carrying all the applications and data you use, hosted on a secure site that you access from the office or anywhere else via the Internet. At the other, you can employ an external company to provide and actively manage your connection to the Internet, linking offices and business partners, whereby they can interrogate and manage all connections, including home users 24/7 to guarantee access to the office, operation of websites etc. Other options in between include appointment of an IT supplier to provide, for example: - IT personnel who they manage on site, to support their management of all the IT equipment that remains in your office. - Online backup of your data and systems so you can be assured that data can be recovered. - Complete management of your security systems including spam, antivirus, anti-hacking etc. e-know.net Limited Whitepaper Page 5

6 - Disaster recovery office space to be made available in the event of an incident; - Access online to a replication of your system and data in the event of an incident. Conclusions Right now many firms have pressure on space and are encouraging better communication with their colleagues and clients, so they need the facility to work from anywhere at any time. Managing partners need to introduce flexibility for scaling their organisation or moving office or indeed mergers. Mobility needs to be encouraged for productivity, stress reduction and better client relationships and service. Security of systems needs to be demonstrable along with evident stability, business continuity and disaster recovery. This is the right time to investigate support options that will give users more confidence that they can work more flexibly and be innovative in their use of technology. Like it or not as we have entered a difficult time with the economy this is the right time to invest in getting your technology working properly for you. The delivery of managed services from a skilled provider on a software as a service (SaaS) basis with a cost per user per month can facilitate the investment without major capital outlay. Cost benefit will be a different consideration for each firm as will the cultural changes required. Making it Happen First a good understanding of the general business strategy of the firm as well as full consideration of immediate business needs and the role that IT has to play at both levels. Once this is moderately clear a general audit of the standing and capability of the IT function technology, applications, business process, support and skills. This will often result in the prioritisation of projects. e-know.net Limited Whitepaper Page 6

7 Secondly an understanding of the potential costs involved in the development of a solution either in house or with a managed service provider with a cost benefit along with the cost of failing to take the necessary defensive and proactive decisions. Finally, the identification of a potential supplier and a clear process in place for the management of the change that in many cases requires a cultural adjustment, some of which stems from historical approach to IT interface. Many firms have taken the step in other areas by outsourcing their administration services, management, digital dictation transcription and legal functions. Article written by: Bill Kirby and Allan Carton, directors of Managed Services Consultancy dedicated to reviewing the potential of managed services for professional services organisations and facilitating the change. e-know.net is a dynamics UK Managed Service Provider, delivering application hosting, network support, SaaS (Software as a Service) and business continuity to clients in 19 countries around the world. Established in 2000, e-know.net has grown on the back of a distinct approach that sees secure, resilient hosting and in-depth support complemented by client-oriented consulting and project teams. This gives customers more than just a passive hosted service, offering instead a close IT partnership that can embrace strategy and development as well as day to day administration and maintenance. e-know.net Limited Whitepaper Page 7

8 If you would like any further information on any of the issues discussed or would like to know how e-know.net can help your Firm, please contact:- e-know.net Limited No1 Telford Plaza Ironmasters Way Telford Shropshire TF3 4NT Tel: +44 (0) Fax: +44 (0) e-know.net Limited Whitepaper Page 8

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