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Managing Partner’s Briefing on IT’s Role in Successful Legal Services

The context for IT in the legal sector is changing but the winners are those with, amongst other essentials, a defined IT strategy where IT spend is targeted at driving their business performance. Many of our IT Directors have wide experience in this sector and they have created this Briefing Document specifically for Managing Partners/CEOs in this sector.

 

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

IT’s Evolving Role in an Evolving Legal Sector

The context for IT in the legal sector is changing. Legal Aid cuts, new flexible legal service providers, referral fee bans, new ABS and the Big 4 accountancy firms form an increasing threat to the typical traditional mid-sized “partner led” legal firm.

A higher level of freelance and temporary legal professionals and growth in outsourcing creates new cost-pressures and new threats, but also new opportunities.

The winners are those with, amongst other essentials, a defined IT strategy where IT spend is targeted at driving their business performance. Firms must determine their vision; for example simply to use technology to drive automation and cost-savings; or to free up partners and equip them to leverage their personal relationships and to provide the highest levels of personal service.

How can IT make this happen? We see the following areas of focus for our clients:

Optimised Practice Management & Reporting – Smooth-running, effective and efficient processes are the bedrock of a well-run firm. Systems need to provide clarity on matter and client profitability, billing, WIP, expenses and cash management and to free up highly-paid professionals from excessive administration. Firms living with ageing Practice Management Systems need to untangle their processes, identify a clear Target Operating Model and select and implement a PMS to make that a reality.

Mobility – Some firms still need to move from a paper-based, solely office-based culture where senior staff assume IT is for junior staff! This means ensuring that the IT works well, for everyone, anywhere, anytime. It means good access to the full range of systems and collaboration tools for people working remotely or on the move. All staff need proper training and support and need a positive and enthusiastic attitude.

Sales & Client Engagement – Effective CRM and relationship nurturing initiatives go hand-in-hand. Successfully implementing these initiatives is partly about technology but also about process, training and behaviours. Changes to organisation and incentive structures may be required.

Cybersecurity, Risks & Compliance – Reputable law firms can easily lose their reputation as a result of technology-based fraud or IT catastrophe. Adoption of security standards and external audits can help drive programs of security and business continuity planning. Getting these right often involves getting a wide range of technology and process issues sorted out, so this can be good all-round. But there is no end to the money that can be spent, and a commercial and real-world attitude is needed.

Innovation – Most firms have very unremarkable websites, and are not taking advantage of on-line marketing or sufficiently leveraging client portals. Forward-looking organisations are already embarking on a journey to automate “low end” activities using machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). Mid-tier legal firms must be wary of another cycle of “IT industry hype” but also need to avoid being left behind as gradual change can overtake them!

In every case the key issue is IT leadership and culture. IT must be at the top table; all senior leaders must be engaged with innovation, but there must be healthy scepticism and constant attention to ROI. The aim of IT must always be to deliver business outcomes.

IT needs to be owned by a confident, competent leader, well connected and influential around the firm. Good IT can significantly contribute to a unified and collaborative culture; and this can be self-reinforcing as more unified firms tend to adopt good IT more effectively.

Adoption and commitment are often the key factors in successful IT (and perhaps in success more broadly!) and strong IT leadership is the basic ingredient.

Read our Managing Partner’s Briefing on IT’s role in the Legal Sector here.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Top 10 Tips for Effective IT Supplier Management – Infographic

To download, save or print this infographic click here

The IT Suppliers you use in your business are a critical component to your success. Like any other team though, they need managing to ensure they continue to provide you with the service that you agreed.

Once the honeymoon is over, actively managing your IT suppliers is a critical part of the process. Suppliers that are unmanaged often provide a lower grade service and poor value for money. Unmanaged suppliers can be a drain on your time and energy.

If you’d like to read our full CEO’s briefing on IT supplier management click on the download document button.

Alternatively you can read our four key steps to good IT supplier management.

1. Contract & service
Think carefully about what you need and what matters to you. Ensure that these things are laid out clearly in the contract and service level agreement. Ensure there are Key Performance Indicators that measure the things that matter to you, and agree what happens if the KPI targets are not met. Read the contract carefully and only sign if you’re happy. Keep your side of the bargain, including paying bills on time.

2. Measure and report
“What gets measured, gets done.” Meet regularly with the supplier – have a proper agenda and insist they provide a report objectively detailing their performance. It’s an opportunity to discuss where they are succeeding and failing, but also to talk about how you can be a better customer.

3. Focus on the relationship
Engage and invest in the relationship. An ignored supplier will turn into an under performing supplier – ensure your suppliers are great suppliers by setting things up correctly, maintaining the relationship and engaging them in your business.
Choose suppliers who are large enough that they can cope with your business growth, but small enough that you are important to them. Treat their people well and say thank you!

4. Plan ahead for renewal or replacement
Never find yourself renewing because you have simply run out of time to do otherwise! Plan out the time it takes to identify alternatives, tender, shortlist, negotiate details and then go live with an alternative supplier. Work backwards from the renewal notice date to identify when you would have to kick off this process.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Giving Back

Our Principals consistently tell us when they join that one reason they  got out of a corporate environment and have decided to make a career as a Portfolio IT Director is because they want to give back. We work mostly with fast growing companies usually with revenues in excess of £5M, but that doesn’t stop our Principals wanting to do more, particularly with charitable organisations that would benefit from our skills. We do donate to charities, both as a business and as individuals, but money can sometimes be limiting. Giving our time and effort will, we believe, provide a far more significant difference.

This was why we got very excited when we found out about CITA, the Charity IT Association, because it is exactly what we were looking for; an organisation set up to help other Charities find people in the IT profession who could help them with IT Strategy or sometimes specific IT issues within their particular charity. It couldn’t have been a better fit and after talking with Tracey Phillipson of CITA, I was struck by how much alignment there was between the two of organisations. CITA enables charities to register on their website and explain why they need help. Volunteers, like our Principals, sign up and can view those requests and, if they want, take them up on the requirement and get in touch. Most of them want some help with IT Strategy or similar which is why the fit is so good for us.

Until now, Tracey explained, CITA has mostly concentrated on London because that was were most of the volunteers came from, but with our national coverage through our Principals, the opportunity to grow throughout the UK is immediate. This can only be a good thing. Freeman Clarke’s aim is to make a long-term commitment to CITA and provide an opportunity for our Principals to give back and for the Charities associated with CITA to benefit from this relationship.

You can find out more about CITA here: https://charityithelp.org.uk/

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

CEO’s Briefing on IT Risks, Compliance and Security

No doubt you worry about growing your business and being successful, but as the business grows and becomes successful, protecting it against risks becomes a new source of worry!

New concerns range from compliance with Data Protection regulations, ensuring the business will survive a climatic event, or fall victim of a cyber attack that destroys all your data.

This document covers compliance, data management and data protection including DPA (Data Protection Act), GDPR, ICO, PCI (credit, debit and payment cards), FCA and related topics. It explains practical cyber security protection measures to prevent attacks, viruses, hacking, data theft, data leaks, cyber insurance, cyber crime, ransomware, phishing. It also makes reference to backups, system failure, risk management, risk registers, risk and issues logs. It makes particular reference to SME and mid-market companies and specific sectors like life sciences, pharma, defence, builds and construction, legal and accounting, transport, supply. It provides independent advice on anti-virus, patching, IT security experts and IT suppliers, and firewalls. The document covers passwords, audits, audit trails, cyber insurance, security accreditation like Cyber Essentials Plus, and how to get started.

You may like to visit our Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

If you’d like to discuss how Freeman Clarke could support your business Contact us now for a no-strings conversation.

CEO’s Action Plan: GDPR – One Year to Prepare!

There is now just one year until the new GDPR becomes law. The new rules are very different, and there is every indication both the UK and European authorities (regardless of Brexit) will be taking this extremely seriously. So we are too.

We are still meeting companies that have done nothing so far, and time is now getting short. But if you get GDPR on your Board agenda now, then there is still time to make the necessary technical and process changes to be compliant.

We have produced a simple slide deck to explain the new regulations and a starting point template for your Action Plan. Below are some samples from this deck.

To download the full slide deck click on the button below. The full deck explains the following:

  1. What is GDPR and common terminology being used
  2. How will it affect my business
  3. Action plan to start now

To download the full slide deck click on the button below:



Click on the button below to download the full slide deck to prepare yourself for GDPR or you can read our further blog post here. If you require any assistance, please get in touch.

We are currently helping many businesses implement a GDPR plan so they are prepared and compliant by May 2018.

 

If you would like to discuss how GDPR could affect your business and a practical approach to making sure you’re compliant, contact us for a no-strings conversation.

 

Four Key Steps to Successfully Managing IT Suppliers

The IT Suppliers you use in your business are a critical component to your success. Like any other team though, they need managing to ensure they continue to provide you with the service that you agreed.

Once the honeymoon is over, actively managing your IT suppliers is a critical part of the process. Suppliers that are unmanaged often provide a lower grade service and poor value for money. Unmanaged suppliers can be a drain on your time and energy.

Click on the download button for our full CEO’s briefing on IT supplier management or read our four key steps below.

1. Contract & service
Think carefully about what you need and what matters to you. Ensure that these things are laid out clearly in the contract and service level agreement. Ensure there are Key Performance Indicators that measure the things that matter to you, and agree what happens if the KPI targets are not met. Read the contract carefully and only sign if you’re happy. Keep your side of the bargain, including paying bills on time.

2. Measure and report
“What gets measured, gets done.” Meet regularly with the supplier – have a proper agenda and insist they provide a report objectively detailing their performance. It’s an opportunity to discuss where they are succeeding and failing, but also to talk about how you can be a better customer.

3. Focus on the supplier relationship
Engage and invest in the relationship. An ignored supplier will turn in to an underperforming supplier – ensure your suppliers are great suppliers by setting things up correctly, maintaining the relationship and engaging them in your business.

Choose suppliers who are large enough that they can cope with your business growth, but small enough that you are important to them. Treat their people well and say thank you!

4. Plan ahead for renewal or replacement
Never find yourself renewing because you have simply run out of time to do otherwise! Plan out the time it takes to identify alternatives, tender, shortlist, negotiate details and then go live with an alternative supplier. Work backwards from the renewal notice date to identify when you would have to kick off this process.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT directors, CIOs and CTOs. We work exclusively with SME and mid-market organisations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

6 Common IT Budget Blunders

1. No agreed IT strategy or plans
No IT strategy means “the IT guys” will come up with a new way to spend money every week. And no clear plans means that everything is an unwelcome surprise. The IT team won’t know how to explain why something is worth investing in. It feels like they’re going off in the wrong direction because there is no agreed direction.

2. Allowing suppliers to tell you what you need
Given the opportunity, your suppliers will be very happy to tell you what you need – and they will make a great argument! They have things to sell and targets to meet! Don’t talk to suppliers without understanding what you want to achieve and why you’re talking to them. Shop around. If it’s a serious decision then organise a serious tender process based on what you need, rather than what they want to sell you.

3. Overrunning Projects
A seriously overrunning project can torpedo your IT budget. And the most common causes of overrunning projects are companies who buy products they don’t fully understand; suppliers who don’t have the capabilities they claim; and projects that lack direction and aren’t adequately managed.

4. Just renewing a contract because it’s the easiest thing to do
There’s value to be had in doing a benchmark exercise if nothing else. Look around, talk to some other companies. There may be lengthy notice periods so start the renewal process early enough that you have time to consider alternatives without missing the deadlines. Let the supplier know that you’re doing that. Prices will tumble, service levels will improve. Just renewing means the supplier is only making more profit from you, nothing more.

5. Buying products you don’t need or can’t use.
We see plenty of clients who’ve spent money on things they don’t use. Amazing but true! If you’re buying something make sure you understand the value it will deliver, make sure you understand the full effort and cost necessary to deliver that value, and make sure a senior member of the team is on the hook to deliver this entire journey.

6. Not agreeing service levels and key performance indicators
Spending money without checking you get what you’ve paid for is just bad business. All IT services, whether they are insourced or outsourced need to be monitored and a simple set of KPIs should be the main dashboard. You must define what you want in terms of service levels and KPIs and, for external suppliers, bake this in to the contract.

Finally, remember that you can bring IT costs under control, but that doesn’t means much if your IT isn’t delivering real value and contributing to your business objectives.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

5 Steps to Get Your IT Budget Under Control

We meet some companies who are constantly banging their heads against a brick wall when it comes to their IT budgets. For them, IT spending feels unplanned, unwelcome and unproductive. The Board are frustrated and (guess what!) the IT team is frustrated as well! It feels like money is spent on the wrong things and IT rarely seems to deliver.

Here are 5 steps to get this situation under control.

1. Who’s on the Hook?
Serious businesses spend serious amounts of money on IT. A competent member of the senior team needs to understand the IT budget in detail, needs to take accountability for it and own its successful delivery. Too often, no-one around the Board table is really able to say for sure you’re not wasting money; not being ripped off by suppliers; but not under-investing either.

2. What’s the Strategy and ROI?
IT expenditure needs to be justified in terms of alignment with strategy and return on investment. In order to do this there needs to be a strategy and there needs to be a plan! All IT projects need to be mapped to business objectives; they need to be fully costed and efficiency savings or sales uplifts identified to allow sensible commercial decision-making.

3. What’s Normal?
Getting budgets under control is much easier when there is a consensus about what’s normal. Average spending on IT varies between sectors, company size, and other factors and benchmarking yourself against these averages can help create a consensus around what is normal and what your level of IT spend could and should be.

4. What’s Your Insource/outsource Strategy?
Outsourcing can be a good way to rationalise IT and save money but too often companies outsource the wrong things. Which aspects of IT are just commodities and which are core aspects of your business value? If you are making serious outsourcing decisions then go through a proper tendering process. And when you are keeping IT functions in house make sure the senior team are able and committed to managing them well.

5. Refresh & replace
Old kit needs replacing. It becomes unreliable, expensive to maintain and incompatible. You can pretend that’s not true, but then you will suffer these problems and have unbudgeted and unwelcome shock spends. Or you can agree a replacement policy and budget and plan on that basis. Setting and agreeing refresh and replace policies allows these decisions to become routine and budgeted well in advance. So these conversations no longer need to take up much time, and this creates time and energy to have proper discussions about how IT can really make a difference to the business.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

When IT “Just Works” Incredible Things Happen!

When IT runs smoothly conversations become about things that matter – things that make a real difference to your business. Your team can start to ask how can IT help us operate more efficiently? how can IT improve our customer retention? how can IT increase our sales? how can IT help us do more online?

A means to the end

Do you see your management team spending time on meetings about anitvirus software, phone replacements, license renewals and software versions? Nobody wants to waste time or money on IT, but we need technology to get our business to where we want it to be. It’s a means to the end.

Making technology work for your business

IT staff and suppliers need 4 things to get IT working for your business.

1. A clear IT vision and roadmap.
A clear vision and roadmap means people are working on the right things. Budgets and plans can be set and agreed easily, enthusiasm builds as everyone knows what they’re doing any why. Success creates further momentum.

2. The skills to get the technology right.
Despite the importance of IT, anyone can claim to be an expert. Over-promising and under-delivering is almost normal in IT. Everyone involved in IT infrastructure, line of business systems and digital need the basic IT skills to do their job well.

3. The tools to work efficiently.
Even the best people can’t be successful if they don’t have the tools and equipment, whether it’s hardware or software. Often the reason they don’t is because they haven’t been able to properly explain to decision-makers what they want and why it will make a difference. See point 1 about a clear vision and roadmap!

4. The attitude to make a difference and to learn from mistakes.
IT is complicated and things go wrong, even the most hardened business leaders understand that. But people need the attitude to understand and learn from mistakes otherwise they are doomed to repeat them! IT people need to understand what the business is really all about and what matters to its customers. The entire IT team need to be committed to finding ways to say “yes”.

Find out more

We frequently meet businesses wasting time on technology (the means) and failing to get the business benefit (the end). But if you address the 4 fundamentals then you can stop worrying and begin the conversations that matter. Conversations that will help your business thrive.

If you’d like to talk to us about the 4 fundamentals then please get in touch.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

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Graeme Freeman
Co-Founder and Director

Subscribe to our Business Insights

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Thank you.

You’ll now receive regular expert business insights.

Call us on 0203 020 1864 with any questions.