Strategic Technology Assessment

Firms who want to use their technology for more than creating and managing documents, sending emails, and accounting are often stuck with their legacy systems. These firms often seek advice and support from those who have a vested interest in the outcome of any strategic move that upsets the status quo.

When you or your firm is ready to step away from the status quo and redefine the role of technology in client service delivery, promoting a mobile and empowered culture, and refocusing on the strategic benefits that technology is supposed to deliver, we can help.

Clients use our services on a project basis or on a longer-term agreement to help support implementation and change management. Our role can include evaluating how your firm can use technology for competitive advantage, evaluating alternatives, cost per user analysis and change management.

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Benefits

What can you can gain from a strategic technology assessment and what can PerformLaw do for you?

The Process

How does a strategic technology assessment work?

Resources

Where can I learn more about the topics I might want advice about?

Benefits

The confidence of knowing you will receive objective feedback.. Clients who engage PerformLaw for strategic services get objective, experienced, and practical advice about making their plans more effective.

The ability to streamline the discovery steps and quickly create strategic moves.All our tools, templates, proven processes, and management expertise and insights are included in the engagement.

A solution for the long term All our engagements are designed to raise the level of in-house competence and promote self-sufficiency.

The ability to take advantage of today’s best solutions with maximum mobility. Client service and the way people work in the modern world require an easy to use mobile approach..

What PerformLaw can do for you:

  • We help clarify and communicate the role of technology in the firm.
  • We help formulate plans for leaving legacy systems.
  • We put our knowledge, experience, and market insights to work for you.
  • We help with the change management issues.
  • We are available when clients need us; before, during and after an engagement.

THE PROCESS

PREPARE COST PER SEAT ANALYSIS

EXPRESS ALL COSTS IN THIS ANALYSIS AS A COST PER SEAT

The purpose of this analysis is to determine the cost per user (seat) and to compare it to competitive benchmarks. If the cost per seat is high and the systems are inadequate, the decisions are easy. If the cost per seat is low and the systems are insufficient, you pay for what you get. If the cost per seat is reasonable and the systems are adequate or better, from a cost standpoint, we may decide to leave them alone.

Request General Ledgers for all technology and support accounts

Detailed General Ledgers (GL) list all of a firm's accounting transactions. Transactions are coded and sorted by account name or account number. If a firm is paying in expense in an area related to our work, it should show up in the general ledger. For example, the firm will likely code all computer support costs to the same general ledger account. All items listed in the general ledger will have a corresponding invoice to support the amount paid by the firm. It is likely that you will also have to request invoice copies to analyze the nature of the cost accurately.

At the beginning of our engagements, we request a detailed income statement and balance sheet. These statements will indicate the accounts that the firm uses and the amount of the period expenses. We should request detail of all general ledger accounts with balances related to IT Purchases and Support Costs. The balance sheet will contain items about longer-term assets (servers, network infrastructure, the higher-end computer that will last more than a year or two) and the income statement will include service and support costs, and lower dollar equipment purchases.

Long term assets are expensed (run through the income statement) as depreciation. Your cost per seat analysis will account for asset purchases (stuff in the balance sheet accounts) by considering the type of equipment, its age (how long has it been in service) and how long it is expected to last. It is possible that your useful life will not correspond to the firm's depreciation expense for the assets you are reviewing. That is okay. Many assets are written off based on the tax code, which often does not match reality.

Request relevant invoice copies

The detailed general ledger will provide some information about a cost but the description field is limited and often does not contact enough information to accurately assess a cost. Our analysis seeks to identify recurring costs and material purchases that may impact the cost per seat analysis. We are not doing an audit so we want to limit the number invoice copies we request to recurring costs and purchases in excess of $1,500. We can aggregate routine expenses in our analysis in a general expense amount. We only need a copy of on recurring cost invoice. If the terms of the recurring cost are not on the invoice, a copy of the vendor agreement is necessary. Remember to cross-reference invoice copies to contracts or service agreements.

Request pricing agreements (hourly, per seat, other)

Pricing agreements are necessary for any recurring cost or repeatable purchase. As IT costs are primarily service and equipment related. most pricing agreements will relate to support contracts, maintenance contracts, licensing fees, and any equipment buying agreements. Most firms do not buy equipment using a structured process so it is unlikely that they will have hardware purchasing agreements. Our analysis does not include printers or other output devices (multifunction copier/printer/scanners) and we do not need information about those costs. Our analysis seeks to compare the cost of running an IT system in-house with a completely cloud-based approach. Printing and scanning is something that will continue for the foreseeable future in either approach. Eventually, different methods for creating deliverables will become relevant.

Request vendor listing

Understanding a firm's important vendor relationships is an important aspect of evaluating the feasibility of moving a firm to cloud. We need to identify where we will find allies and where we are likely to meet resistance. Vendors who are threatened by cloud-based approaches will likely work their contacts within the client firm. Understanding a firm's current vendor relationships will help us assess the role any one vendor might have. Current vendor contacts can also have a significant role in the process of moving a firm to the cloud..

Prepare cost per seat analysis

The cost per seat analysis is where it all comes together. Using a template, we will calculate the on-going cost per seat. A seat is a user and is the common denominator of how we will measure cost. In a cloud-based approach, the cost per user is almost always wholly variable, and a firm's costs can increase or decrease based on the number of users. In an on-premises approach, the cost per user is a combination of fixed and variable costs — for example, buying servers and depreciating them over time. The server cost is fixed but the licenses to use the software that runs on the server are typically variable, which means that it might not cost anything more to add a user to a server, but it will cost more for a license to run the software on the server. The outcome of the analysis is to compare the current cost per seat plus the necessary upgrades to a cloud-based solution. Remember to include the cost of staff time, vendor support contracts, equipment and security costs, licensing and any other cost related to on-premises and cloud-based approaches.

Prepare cost per vendor pie chart

A simple pie chart indicating each vendor's share of the firm's total IT spend. The point of this analysis is to identify those vendors who have a strong interest in avoiding change. This analysis will also indicate the firm's key vendors. The chart should indicate vendor name, annual spend, the revenue they earn per user, and the function they perform.

Prepare cost per function pie chart

Use the data from the per-user cost analysis to create a breakout chart of the impact that each cost area has on the overall cost per user. Examples include network infrastructure (servers), security monitoring, end-user devices (PC's), routers and switches, internet access, licensing, etc. The goal of this graphic is to indicate the apportionment of IT expenditures by function. In other words, what is the benefit received for the cost expended (what it does, and how much does it cost to do what it does)? We will compare these individual areas to a cloud-based approach, which should involve fewer relationships and less cost detail. Some of a firm's current costs will remain and could increase with a cloud-based approach. For example, we may have to increase internet bandwidth.

Prepare comparative cost analysis (against our benchmarks) Deliverable

If our thesis is that Cloud-Based approaches reduce risk, support compliance with client requirements, reduce capital outlays and provide competitive advantages to law firms, this is where we have to bring all of the research and analysis together into a recommendation.

The availability of applications, real-time support 24/7 anywhere in the world, complete mobility, the elimination of infrastructure and many security issues, elimination of desktop software and storage, reduced end-user cost, and the ability to allow users to work on the device that best suits their needs (Chromebook, Mac, IPAD, PC, etc.) make cloud-based approaches superior. Our job is to help clients find their way to the cloud.

PREPARE APPLICATION MAP

The purpose of the application map is to provide a high-level overview of the firm's software applications, their strategic or operational importance and an assessment of their implementation %.

Identify Apps

The typical firm will have an email and calendaring app (overwhelmingly Outlook/Exchange). Smaller firms may use Gmail or an Apple product. Usually, these applications are on site, but an increasing number are moving to the cloud using Office 365. Word processing and document management typically round out the attorney use of technology. All firms have some time of time and billing system, which are mostly on-site and server based. Most of the time, but not always, the time and billing systems also include an integrated financial accounting and financial reporting module. Other apps differ by firm and it is not usual to encounter lesser applications. We need a complete listing of all applications in use by the firm.

Identify strategic importance

After identifying the applications used by the firm, the next step is to determine the purpose and strategic importance of the software. Have the client indicate their satisfaction with the app and well it achieves the intended use. Consider if better applications exist and if a better strategic definition is needed for the use. For example, the email system may need to include a CRM interface. The time and billing system may require better reporting and profitability analysis.

Identify implementation Degree - total functionality versus functionality used by the firm

Review each menu of the software determine if the feature is in use. Create a survey of all of the features included in the software seek input from the lawyers and management as to their use and knowledge of the function. For example, a time a billing system may include a budgeting module, and the accounting personnel can indicate the degree of use. The idea is to get a feel for the features of each application and the degree of implementation. Another example is a case management system that includes several advanced database fields that are blank. We will then determine if the unimplemented features have value and it is worth the time and effort to fully implement them.

Identify key benefits available for use

This task is a drill-down of the degree of implementation analysis in a prior task. When reviewing the degree of implementation, segment those features not presently in use, their potential benefit, and the degree of implementation difficulty. For example, a case management system may have data fields for opposing counsel, experts and other data that could prove useful in case handling. If these are unused, they are potential key benefits available for use and our analysis should list them.

Determine if we keep or scrap

Prepare Lucid Chart (deliverable)

PREPARE NEEDS AND BENEFITS ANALYSIS FOR EACH APPLICATION

Tools: Surveys, web conf, screen share, research and vendor support

Sub-analysis designed to provide insight into each application. What does it do, why what it does is important, how well it does what it does, what else can it do, and what do they wish it would do, TheApplication Map is a top-level analysis, this is a detailed analysis.

Review the software's function menus

Indicate by checklist those features in use and those not used

Survey the satisfaction with the app from professional users to the end users

Assess the benefit of implementing unused features

Assess alternatives

Assess costs per user for the app monthly and annually

Recommend additional training and implementation or scrap and by a better app

Deliverables: Chart for each app to accompany the top level analysis, recommendations report, cost summary

HARDWARE AGE AND USEFUL LIFE ASSESSMENT

The purpose of this analysis is to assess the age and useful life of the critical applications. We are looking for opportunities to get out of the network infrastructure and expensive desktop environment. The hardware aspect, when complex, is a cost drain, security issue, and requires constant maintenance and support.

Simpler desktop appliances with no local storage are preferred. Aging equipment provides an opportunity to replace with cloud-based solutions.

Create an inventory form for completion by the client (include serial number. age, description, useful life - we don't care about printers or monitors other peripherals - just servers and cpus).

Darrel or Darrah can give you some ideas on discovery forms

Deliverable: Prepare inventory summary and an indication of when - from an obsolescence viewpoint, a move to the cloud becomes optimal.

KEY VENDOR ASSESSMENT

The purpose of the Key Vendor Assessment is to identify potential threat and opportunities to the IT function. For example, the network may run great, but they are wholly reliant on one person. Perhaps there are vendors who can offer more if their roles were increased.

Identify Key Vendors by Network Infrastructure and Application

Assess the concentration of risk with each vendor - one man band, a large company with a support network, large local talent pool for replacement resources.

Assess the firm' reliance on each vendor

Deliverable - Key Vendor Assesment Indicating Vulnerabilities and Opportunities

POTENTIAL ALTERNATIVES AND BENEFITS ANALYSIS

This is where we start considering alternative and the benefits associated with alternatives. We need to make the case either for or against moving to the cloud and who can help them. We will need to involve our partners in a blind discussion of alternatives based on the summary schematic you will prepare. We will do a top-level graphic with key stats and costs for comment by our partners. After receiving comment from our partners, we will asses the feasibility of moving all or part of the network and apps to the cloud.

Review the inventory, app map and detailed app map

Deliverable: Top Level Infrastructure and App Chart with an indication of main needs (met and unmet) and benefits and cost per seat

Practice Management Application Presentation

Listing of Functions and Benefits of Systems like CosmoLex, Centerbase or Zola Suite

Benefits:

  • Long-term cost
  • Mobility
  • Data storage and backup
  • No downtime
  • Limited local support needed
  • Automation
  • Higher productivity
  • More user-flexibility with work stations

Functions:

Case/ Matter Management

Timekeeping/ Billing

Document Management

Calendar & Task Management

Business (Legal) & Trust Accounting

Document Assembly & Automation

Contact Management/ CRM

Reports & Analytics

Mobile Access

All of the IT support budget and focus can shift APP implementation and Competency

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES AND PHILOSOPHY

Should the organization change what they are doing (move to the cloud)? Why and how it will benefit them? What is the ROI, and how are clients better served? How are vulnerabilities addressed, how is scaleability improved and what competitive advantages are gained?

Survey (electronic all) key partners, staff and lawyers regarding what is working and what needs improvement

Interview subset of survey participants

Assess the technology ignorance level

Define the firm's functional technology needs

Indicate met needs

Indicate unmet needs

Discern the firm's philosophy regarding technology (lead, follow, just enough,.rent own, security better on-prem off-prem)

Deliverable: Strategic Tech Approach and Philosophy Document

RECOMMENDATIONS AND IMPLEMENTATION DOCUMENT

This is where is all comes together. A one-page bulleted point summary of recommendation with major implementation comments.

Prepare Recommendation Summary Format ( recommendation, why, how, the economic impact on cost per seat, indicate whether partners are needed and indicate in-house responsibilities.

Resources

NOT SURE WHERE TO BEGIN?

Here are some of our most helpful resources to learn more about ..........

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