Posts Tagged ‘IT service provider’

Legal IT – do you need a specialist service provider?

October 22, 2012

The need for an efficient, reliable and secure IT function is nowadays vital for any organisation in the legal sector. Their IT needs are specific to their sector and the Support function has a necessity to be able to cater for their demanding requirements.

With this in mind, it can be asked: Do they need an IT service provider that specialises in the legal sector? Or can any provider do the job?

Why are law firms different?

First of all, it is important to understand the specialised requirements of the legal sector. Law firms are unlike many other types of organisations in terms of the demands from end users and the non-standard organisational structure.

Typical end users are high-fee earners (Lawyers/Partners) who work long, late hours and sometimes weekends, dealing with highly sensitive documentation which they might access from different (and sometimes personal) devices.

Because of this, they need highly efficient data access 24x7x365 with minimal downtime, as well as a high level of data security. Mobility (home working) or BYOD support might also be necessary as end users often need to work from their smart phones, tablet computers, iPads and personal laptops, as well as their home PCs.

As for a law firm’s structure, this can vary considerably. This could include a main office in the UK with satellite offices or partners around the world, in different time zones. This is becoming more and more popular as the legal sector expands towards Eastern countries. Otherwise, it could consist of a network of partners across the UK linked to a central office – possibly hundreds of professionals who work from various locations or only collaborate intermittently with the organisation. These complex structures need a more flexible, scalable and secure IT system than other more common ones with only one building from which all end users work.

Supporting a law firm

There are various IT solutions to support legal firms, which depend on the size, structure and specific needs of each organisation. The main issue is supporting lawyers/partners, who often work beyond their normal working hours or are based in a different time zone, at any time of day or night.

More common structures use an internal IT service with support staff working on a night rota, taking calls from their home. Other structures require more complex models.

Global law firms might have an IT department (or trained Secretaries) in every office or country, and use a ‘follow the sun’ model for their out-of-hours support. But they might find that a central IT department based in only one location, which acts remotely to support all satellite offices, is more financially convenient and better suited to their needs, than having a Service Desk for each office – especially for 1st line support or, in any case, for operations which can be performed remotely. However, to support different countries means having to work with different time zones, so the IT Service Desk needs to be staffed on a 24x7x365 basis to be able to cope with these demands.

An alternative model which could work for UK-based organisations (with or without satellite offices or partners abroad) is having an in-house IT Support function for normal office hours, managed internally or by a service provider, but using a shared service desk for the out-of-hour calls and peak service times. The shared service will also be available for when overseas offices in other time zones require support.

Sharing IT support with other law firms, as long as the number is contained and the participating organisations are similar to each other, also means sharing costs. Hence it could be a very cost-effective solution to have total coverage.

A shared service centre can also be a good solution for smaller law firms who cannot afford high levels of skills and would like a more economical, yet still highly efficient IT service, sharing costs as well as skills with other similar organisations.

Big fish or small fish?

When choosing their support provider, law firms might go for well-known global organisations with a wide-ranging client base. The supposed benefit is that they have a lot of experience, in several different environments as well as an overall good general knowledge of all sectors.

This solution might be suitable for some law firms for which IT does not have a strategic function. For others, a general knowledge of all sectors might not be enough. For a strategic approach to IT, where it is used to create value and is not only a business supporter but an enabler, it is necessary that the provider has a good understanding of the market they will be dealing in.

Great customer service is essential when dealing with users in the legal sector. While larger service providers may rely on their name to generate new business and care more about “sealing the deal” than making a good impression on new clients, this is not the approach for the smaller, niche firms. The latter strive to deliver great customer care as it is their work and not their name that wins clients over.

Skills and flexibility

A smaller, niche support provider has important skills available to suit a law firms’ needs. Having had experience specifically in the legal sector, it is able to fully understand the needs of their organisation and compare them to other firms that are similar to them, putting forward some ‘tried and tested’ ways to improve their IT service.

They can also provide more flexibility in the service they offer. As what they offer is not standardised but bespoke, it can change with the organisation as needs arise, without charging more for every little change. Larger service providers tend to sell standardised models which can be quite inflexible, where they can only include a certain number of calls and charge for anything extra as well as any change to the model. In particularly busy periods the charge for the extra tickets can be very expensive. The same is true in case of a business restructure or merger which involves a change to the IT support model.

Do you need a specialist?

Overall, the choice of service provider depends on how the strategy for IT is set out for the law firm – whether they just need a cheap generic service or they see IT as a potential valued add-in which can help their business become even more successful.

A generic service provider does not necessarily lack knowledge of the legal sector. However, a legal specialist is a safe choice for those in need of a service which is already legal-proof and has a strong track record in dealing with a number of organisations successfully.

Ian Parker, Service Desk Manager

See the blog on Plan-Net’s website: http://www.plan-net.co.uk/news/item/172-legal-it-do-you-need-a-specialist-legal-it-service-provider.html

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Plan-Net shortlisted for Supplier of the Year at the British Legal Awards 2012

October 3, 2012

IT service provider Plan-Net has been nominated at the British Legal Awards 2012 in the category ‘Supplier of the Year’. It is the fourth award nomination for Plan-Net this year, also finalist in two categories at the IT Industry Awards and in one at the National Outsourcing Association Awards.

Plan-Net has extensive experience in delivering IT services to the legal sector, including 14 of the top 15 UK law firms. Understanding the needs and requirements of this particular sector, the provider established a unique and innovative legal-dedicated 24/7/365 Shared Service Centre. It is thanks to this that Plan-Net has been nominated at the prestigious British Legal Awards 2012.

The British Legal Awards celebrate achievement, excellence and innovation in the Legal Industry. The event will be taking place on Thursday 22 November at Old Billingsgate Market, London EC3.

To learn more about the British Legal Awards, visit: http://www.britishlegalawards.com

About Plan-Net: http://www.plan-net.co.uk/

Getting back to work – but with a service provider

June 16, 2010

IT professionals can learn from the tough times.

As the UK officially leaves the recession, although, it must be said, staggering instead of marching triumphantly, the IT job market seems to be coming back to life, but with a substantially changed face. IT professionals looking to get back to work after they were made redundant or to make that career move they postponed while things were tough, should take this opportunity to learn from the past twelve months and make a more informed choice when choosing their new employer.

As IT Support and Managed Services acquire larger space in the UK business services market, the timing is right to take IT professionals through the characteristics, as well as the advantages, of working for an IT services provider. It is also important to raise awareness of the skills and role shift that is occurring, which can have a strong influence on one’s decision.

Working for an IT Services company

When working for a service provider you are able to acquire experience in different sectors, depending on the spread of clients, of course. Working on different client sites means gaining the sort of experience normally associated with a number of jobs while keeping the security of continuous unbroken employment. For those IT professionals looking to specialise in a certain sector, there are service providers with extremely niche specialisms that are able to cater for this. Thanks to this, technicians get to practise and develop a great variety of skills, keeping up-to-date with the latest technologies and practices as the provider will want to keep them appropriately skilled.

When Service Level Agreements are involved, the performance of each individual is monitored and assessed. Thanks to this, engineers learn to keep their standards high and therefore become acquainted to being at their most efficient.

Most of the professional advantages can also be seen on a more ‘personal’ level. Being in a variety of environments can help keep one’s enthusiasm fresh, and staff can get to experience different organisations, verticals, technologies and ways of working. This is crucial to deciding which best fit their personality and ambitions. Unlike what happens in non-IT organisations, where it is not unlikely that CIOs, IT Directors and managers do not come from an IT background, engineers find themselves dealing with IT professionals who fully understand their personal and professional skills, which are appropriately valued. Finally, there is also a personal investment in the company which is sustained through a continuous employment.

The changing IT job market

Many analysts have announced a growth in demand of permanent IT staff, in fact research conducted by e-Skills UK shows that the IT industry will continue to grow at a rate of 1.3% per annum, more than four times the average growth rate for all sectors (0.3%). However, the IT workforce is experiencing a restructuring and skills shift, partly because some work is being outsourced, partly due to a standardisation of IT assets and procedures, and also because of the IT environment switching to a software-intensive platform. Jobs related to management, strategy, planning and software development are on the increase, whereas there is less need for more hardware-related or admin jobs such as line repairer and database assistant. According to the survey ‘Technology Counts: IT & Telecoms Insights 2010’, by 2018, the number of IT managers is expected to represent 27% of the IT workforce, strategy and planning professionals 13%, and software professionals will cover 32%. Computer engineers, on the contrary, have an average growth of -0.2% per annum, meaning that in 2018 they are expected to represent only a 3% of IT professionals.

Agile skills

New technologies and job roles bring along a shift in skills. Organisations are now looking for agile skills in their Service Desk engineers: support personnel have to be able to successfully implement new processes based on standard Best Practice, and be familiar with the latest tools that can speed up operations. Adoption of ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) practices is becoming essential, as is a knowledge of virtualisation. Thanks to an accurate selection of software to help with first-line resolution, and the use of outsourced devices such as servers and data centres whose management is the provider’s responsibility, basic and complex incidents are being taken care of, and on-site engineers are left with anything in the middle. The role of first-line engineers is then extended to some of the tasks originally belonging to second-line technicians, and because of these changes first-line engineers will need to have a broader technological knowledge.

As for higher-level IT professionals, the current upskilling requirements identified by eSkills UK concern the management of business process change, data management and security, leadership and business. The increased need for business skills is due to the fact that the IT department is acquiring a more strategic position within an organisation. Now that the more technical part of IT is moving towards a commoditisation and starting to be easier to deal with, managers and directors need to be able to focus on ROI and cost-effectiveness, and to have the ability to handle increasingly global supplier relationships. As organisations adopt a holistic view, IT is seen as part of the business and not as a service, and IT and business people work together for business transformation – the latter gaining awareness of the power of technology, and the former acquiring broader and deeper business skills, in order to create business value.

The right place to be

Working for a service provider, then, has never been so attractive. A more strategic use of IT means many organisations will search for appropriately-skilled staff externally, leaving selection and management to an expert service provider in order to focus on more strategic parts of the business, and surely IT professionals will want to be in the right place when this happens.

Adrian Polley, CEO

This article appeared in the May/June edition of ITNOW