A QUESTION we are often asked by law firms contemplating the cloud is: “Do I need to retrain staff?” Expanding that thought, this question is all about change and the amount of disruption moving to the cloud would have on a firm.
Cloud technologies have matured to the point where if you are seeking a new practice or document management system you are able to procure this and move to the cloud all in one step. Alternatively, if you are currently satisfied with your applications and business processes, you can still move to the cloud, keep your existing systems and minimise the disruption on your firm.
We are seeing firms move to the cloud in one of three ways and each one has a different impact on your organisation.
Choose your own commodity cloud apps
Under this option, firms select a suite of commodity (self-service) applications that enable you to manage your business. Despite being old from different vendors, many of the applications in this space integrate with each other, enabling them to work as one.
This option is ideal for firms that wish to spend the effort to understand and administer the applications themselves. You do not need an IT background, just a willingness to investigate and learn. An example suite of apps you may choose are; Office 365 for email; NetDocuments for Document Management; Xero and Clio for Practice Management.
Moving to such a suite will involve retraining your staff in the application and business processes. Additionally you will be required to install, configure and maintain software on your PCs. Firms that have undertaken such a change have seen their legal and secretarial staff disrupted for up to a month and it can take up to six months to bed down all the systems.
Create your own private cloud?
Under this option firms purchase Microsoft servers as a service and use their IT team to configure them for their organisation. When purchasing Microsoft servers as a service, you have moved your infrastructure from on premise to a data centre and have converted capital expenditure to operational expenditure, giving your firm the flexibility to grow or contract in alignment with your business.
This option is ideal for larger firms (100+) and reduces the changes on your organisation by allowing you to continue to use your application suite. However, unlike commodity cloud apps, where management focus is only at the application level, management will also need to be focused at the server level under this option.
Vendor-managed private Cloud
A third option where you can maintain your current applications, but don’t wish management focus to be distracted by the server level is a hosted desktop. A hosted desktop is a preconfigured system whereby your vendor takes responsibility for the delivery of your desktop. Your PC Desktop is running in a data centre with the internet acting as your monitor cable.
This option achieves the benefits of a cloud system where costs are transferred from capital to operational and your management attention can now be focused on how to make the application work best for you, rather than how to make sure the application doesn’t crash.
Given this version supports your existing applications, the disruption to your legal and secretarial staff is minimal.
You may well feel that the perfect system for you combines the benefits of the three options above. Unfortunately, current hardware and software technologies have not advanced to the point where such a system exists in a cost effective manner. There are always compromises to be made and it is important to be clear on your goals so that you can choose the most appropriate system for your firm.
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