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Integreon, Elevate and Version 2.0 of Alternative Legal Services

I wrote a week or so ago about the Integreon reverses at CMS Cameron McKenna and at Osborne Clark, commenting on the way that the press had covered the stories and my view that this was a maturing of the LPO space rather than a significant change in the outsourcing landscape in the legal sector.

Only a couple of days after I published that piece there were two further announcements, coming in quick succession, both relating to Integreon and not exactly laden with positive connotations for the established LPO player.

More Change in the LPO World

First, Elevate announced the appointment of Lokendra Tomar as their new CEO and then, the next day, they announced that John Croft was to become Elevate Services President with a clear remit to launch the Elevate services in the UK and Europe.  Given that both Croft and Tomar held senior positions within Integreon (as President and COO respectively) it is difficult to put a positive gloss on the developments –  particularly as they have joined up again with Liam Brown  who was previously CEO and founder of Integreon.

That Tomar and Croft have joined the number of other senior managers who have trodden the path from Integreon to Elevate is, of course, worthy of note and again I would suggest its fairly typical of new markets as individuals and organisations shift and re-shape as they aim to take advantage of new and rapidly changing opportunities. However, I was more interested in a quote from John Croft that accompanied the announcement of his appointment:

“At Integreon we worked together to build the category leader in ‘version 1.0’ alternative legal services, primarily around labor arbitrage and process improvement. Now, Elevate brings ‘version 2.0’ legal efficiency to corporate legal departments and law firms, helping them do more for less by offering high quality alternative legal services, plus proprietary legal project management cloud technology, with legal operations and legal spend analytics consulting.”

OK – I apologise for being somewhat cynical here – John is a salesman and so a smattering of buzz words and clichés is alright. But what exactly is this V2.0 he speaks of?

It seems that V1.0 was lower cost and driving improvements in quality and efficiency through (I would assume) technology enabled process improvement. The only real difference I can see here is that Elevate has some legal specific project management software and some support to understand legal spend. I know this was just a quote to accompany the announcement but I cannot find anywhere else where Elevate reference this “V2.0 of alternative legal services”. 

What Might Version 2.0 Be?

It got me thinking of how the now established IT outsourcing matured through its various versions and manifestations. IT outsourcing started with big, full service, end to end TUPE deals with headline grabbing cost reduction claims. Then came more sophisticated deals with a panel or alliance of providers – better service and designed to keep providers on their toes. At the same time ‘transformational’ outsourcing became the vogue – taking the cost savings and using this cash to build a better end to end IT capability aimed at supporting the business. And then, a little while later, was the ‘risk and reward’ deal shape – where providers would derive more or less profit depending upon the customer achieving business goals.

In other words, IT outsourcing matured not so much in what it did (after all doing the best IT at the best cost can’t really be improved upon) rather it looked at more sophisticated models and, particularly, risk sharing commercials.

Maybe this is where V2.0 LPO might go?

Summary

I’m really interested to hear more detail on where Elevate sees the V2.0 LPO, or alternative legal services, world going. In the meantime, I suggest that to steal a march on competitors, an LPO provider should consider proposing deals where their profit comes from how well their customer achieves the business objectives that the outsource is seeking to support. In other words, putting their money where their mouth is!

Integreon Reverses – A Change in The Outsourcing Landscape? I suggest Not.

Over the past month, both Osborne Clark and CMS Cameron McKenna have announced significant reductions in the scope of their respective outsourcing arrangements with Integreon. As you would expect, these two announcements coming so close to one another created much comment in the trade press and amongst industry watchers.

Many articles talk of the “turning of the tide” and the “change in the landscape”, with speculation rife that these two high profile losses for Integreon are actually harbingers of doom to the outsourcing industry in the legal sector.

Outsourcing Maturing in the Legal sector

Looking a little closer at the detail of the announcements and I would suggest that the opposite is actually the case. Rather than a demise of the industry, we are seeing a maturing of outsourcing – a natural process that was observed in other industries a decade or so ago.

First, both OC and CMS were keen to stress that they continue to see Integreon as strategic partners with important roles to play in the ongoing support functions for both firms. Second, CMS also confirmed that the workload that was coming from Integreon would be placed with an alternative outsourcing provider and while OC was taking most work back in house, it too will transfer some of the Integreon work to another provider.

Taking the CMS example.  In 2010 they announced an outsourcing deal for “the whole of the back office”. This included IT, HR, finance, business development, communications, knowledge management, facilities management and administration services – WOW! I can imagine the arguments at the time – “giving it all to one provider gives us a better financial deal” and “giving it all to one provider will lead to an efficient integrated service and avoid finger pointing and hand-offs”.

However, when looking at outsourcing there are two really important principles that are at play here:

  1. The outsourcer must be a true specialist in their area – with people, processes and technology that are proven best in class.
  2. Where the scope is broad, it is always best to have more than one provider – each of which can (or claims to be able to) do the job the other is doing. Keeping their eye on the ball!

Whereas the CMS strategy may have been to ‘big bang’ outsource to get cost reduction and process improvement across the board, they have learned the lessons of other industries and are now looking at a more sophisticated model.  In other words they are now applying the principles above.

What Will Happen Next?

It appears that each of the firms are travelling a typical path. They will deploy a more sophisticated sourcing model with ‘best of breed’ providers working alongside each other and in harmony with in-house functions.

The next challenge they will come across is what is sometimes termed ‘service integration’.  They are building an environment with many providers responsible for different functions. To deliver a seamless service to end users, these providers need to work effectively with one another. This doesn’t happen by itself!

I mention this in my ‘top Ten Tips’ piece on IT outsourcing. You need to consider the end to end organisation when outsourcing – not just the component you are looking to put out. In a simple operating model you need to consider all of the functions, who is responsible for which part and then overlay all of the support processes – service integration is about the ‘who’ and the ‘how’ of making those end to end processes work.

Summary  

The Integreon reverses are not negative stories for outsourcing, they are simply the growing pains of quite a young outpost of the outsourcing world.

Big Data: More Marketing Hype or a Legal IT Essential?

In January I posted my five key areas of focus for legal IT departments this year.  I also looked around to see what other commentators had suggested.  Big Data was everywhere and looking a little further I could see that pretty much all of the legal IT trade shows consider this as a key area for debate.

Reading a few pieces on Big Data and I was sceptical – another industry created buzzword aimed at selling product and consulting services I thought.  I was at IBM in the mid to late 80s and was supporting sales and implementation of DB2 and related relational products – the sell was that you could take unintelligible operational data, transform it and load it into understandable tables for analysis and reporting so creating competitive commercial advantage. That’s pretty much what the Big Data gurus are saying, right?

I decided to get a bit deeper into this just to see where the Big Data opportunities lie for legal firms (if indeed they exist). This post summarises my findings after trawling through a myriad of papers, articles and opinion pieces on this. 

What is Big Data?

I think most people know that it’s a term that is used to try and describe the phenomenon  that the new online, mobile, social media obsessed world is creating gazillions of bytes of data every day – Facebook has 300 million photos uploaded every day and processes 2.7 billion ‘likes’.  Also, most have heard examples of retailing organisations predicting buying patterns of customers and tailoring their marketing messages accordingly.

If you read a lot of papers you get just as many Big Data definitions. Here is mine:

Rapidly accumulating data that is too large, too raw and too unstructured to be analysed using traditional tools and techniques.

Four key characteristics:

  1. It’s about huge volumes which give statistical significance to conclusions reached from its analysis.
  2. Often it’s about getting the conclusions very quickly and applying those conclusions in almost real time – e.g. in catching fraud in financial transactions.
  3. Every shape and size of data – structured and unstructured.
  4. Ability to trust the data and the analysis from vast databases emanating from different sources and suggesting different conclusions.

What Does Big Data Mean to Law Firms?

Making an initial conclusion that the availability of this vast amount of accessible, albeit unstructured, data is indeed a new business dimension then it seems logical that there must be opportunities for all commercial organisations.

In the business world then the Big Data opportunities are generally seen to be in identifying trends (customer buying patterns and financial market movements) to help sales and marketing efforts drive revenue.  However, while big business can see great opportunities here there is an acknowledged  natural tension between these potentially huge opportunities and the legal issues surrounding privacy and security of personal data.  Naturally this is where there is a great opportunity for law firms – many are creating new practices to advise on exactly these types of issue.

So the first opportunity is unique to law firms – a new and rapidly moving aspect of the law is emerging and represents a great opportunity.  Remember that in the gold rush it was the shovel makers that got rich!

But what of the mainstream opportunities?  Law firms are commercial operations after all so what opportunities are there for them in the Big Data world?  My thoughts on some of the proposed law firm specific Big Data opportunities:

  • E-discovery is about trawling huge data sets to find the information that is needed – this is Big Data in action but is covered in so much depth elsewhere that I am not going to consider it again here.
  • As described above, retailers analyse customer data to predict buying trends – realistically law firms have orders of magnitude fewer customers and so while understanding client needs and intentions is absolutely vital, I’d call this CRM rather than Big Data.
  • Some have claimed that analysing billing data for your existing client base in order to uncover opportunities to optimise billing rates is a Big Data opportunity.  Again, my view is that traditional analytics tools do this against traditional applications and databases – smacks of jumping on the bandwagon.
  • The best I came across, which is a true exploitation of Big Data that is unique to the legal industry is to use huge volumes of historical data to predict the outcome of disputes, to craft case strategies and to predict overall costs.  This capability is in its infancy but has the capability to make a huge difference to the service a law firm can offer its clients. 

Marketing Hype or Big Opportunity?

My view now is that this is indeed different to what I was doing in the 80s but only in so much as the scale of the data is fundamentally different and the tool set just had to change – however, the goals are the same, understand stored data to drive commercial advantage.

In the legal sector the real opportunity is in supporting large corporates as they strive to seize the advantages out there without falling foul of the rapidly changing legal landscape. Law firms are quite different to large corporates and retailers and so the typical Big Data opportunities may not be there – and as always, beware the salesmen who try to wrap up their ‘old school’ analytics tools as Big Data solutions.

I really do like, however, the potential in understanding many years of case and trial data to predict the outcome of still to be heard disputes – it’s not there quite yet but is worth keeping an eye on.  If the LA Police Department can use crime data to successfully predict the time and place of ‘to be committed’ crimes then this use of Big Data to predict dispute outcomes is not so far fetched!

Optimising Legal IT – My Response To A Post On Legal IT Professionals

I read a column on Legal IT professionals today talking about how to make maximise the success of your legal IT department.

I posted my response and thought I’d include it here as well.

The original piece is here http://www.legalitprofessionals.com/index.php/col/geoff-zodda/columns/5370-three-keys-to-maximizing-the-success-of-your-legal-it-department

My response was aligned to a previous post in this blog albeit a condensed version.

Hi, to be devil’s advocate, I’ll raise your three to five!

Excellent IT in the legal sector isn’t hugely different to excellent IT in the beans making industry. It’s about supporting efficient and effective business process and helping to drive new business through customer relationships and interaction. Doing these things better than your competitors drives revenue and reduces cost.

My five keys are:

Building infrastructure with sufficient capacity and resilience. Make sure that your networks, servers and desktops are designed to allow the applications/services to run with the required availability and performance.

Maintaining an applications landscape that covers all of your business processes, is up to date and properly deployed and understood across your business.  You must have the right applications and you need to be able to deploy new ones quickly as and when your business changes shape.

Active management of the systems (infrastructure and apps) and the service.  A good starting point is to use the 27 ITIL processes as a checklist – it is essential that you proactively manage the technology ecosystem and that you have clear processes for whenever the service breaks, a user wants some new equipment and to prioritise the workload coming ‘over the wall’.

Optimise your resourcing strategy. Not everything is done in house – be clear on what you will do in house and what will be done externally. For in house operations be sure you have the required skill base and that all tasks and projects are properly managed.

Manage your third parties actively – the squeaky wheel always gets the grease! 

Take these five – infrastructure, application set, system & service management processes, resource management and third parties – and drill down in each area and you will quickly move towards excellence.

This is exactly how Dave Brailsford made UK cycling the best in the world – by the aggregation of marginal gains.

See my blog for more on this. http://wp.me/p3391e-s

Really Good News for Elite Lawsoft Customers – Quorum Legal Joins Services Partner Programme

Today Thomson Reuters Elite announced that Quorum Network Resources has joined its Partnership Programme.

http://www.elite.com/quorum-network-resources-joins-as-services-partner-02-28-2013/

Personally I see this as a really encouraging development for all Elite Lawsoft clients.

First, I have worked with Quorum and know that they are a first rate organisation. As a well established MS Gold Technology partner who have really ramped up their legal industry capability, Quorum recently appointed James Frost as MD of their Quorum Legal division. They already have an impressive list of legal clients and with James’ experience (previously IT Director with Turcan Connell and Lindsays) and in-depth Lawsoft knowledge I can see this division going from strength to strength.

Also, as I’ve commented previously, Lawsoft sales around the globe continue to grow – very much in line with the Thomson Reuters Elite strategy for Lawsoft to be the main integrated suite for worldwide (non US) mid market firms. However, and possibly as a consequence of this, I’ve heard increasingly loud rumblings from Lawsoft clients who complain that they cannot get the support they need from Lawsoft for their upgrades and enhancements. Growing the partner network will allow Elite to grow their international footprint and develop product functionality at the same time as satisfying their installed client base.

Recently I posted on my perception of the Thomson Reuters strategy in the legal arena – and in particular their stated intention of being ‘a software company’. Well this announcement is further evidence that they mean business – if you are a software business then do software and do it well!

Lastly, I had a quick look at the TR Elite partner list and I see that there are only two Lawsoft services partners listed in the UK – looks to me that Quorum Legal have a great opportunity to match their capability against a growing demand for Lawsoft services.

Worthwhile looking at the Quorum Legal website – http://www.quorumlegal.co.uk/

Tikit Continues Push into Managed Services – First Response Services

I was chatting to the IT Director at a well known UK law firm last Friday afternoon when his phone chirruped. He instinctively glanced at it and the said “that’s interesting – I’ve just received an offer of 7*24*365 Help Desk from Tikit”.  Indeed it is interesting, he is not an existing customer of Tikit and the email was clearly a mail merge to (I assume) all UK IT Directors in the legal sector.

The email was entitled Tikit Managed Services: First Response Services.

Although the email did not refer to this service as ‘new’ it certainly doesn’t show itself on the Tikit website and is not a service I’ve heard Tikit reference previously. The description of the service is fairly high level but seems to be offering a London based Help Desk 7*24*365 to provide first line support for standard MS Office tools and legal applications.

I blogged previously on Tikit’s push into managed services first when they announced new recruits and referencing the press release confirming the acquisition by BT. As I said at that time, Tikit really is well positioned to take advantage of the outsourcing and managed service opportunities in the legal sector – which, in my opinion, are likely to grow strongly in the next 18-24 months.  Their unparalleled client base, their undoubted expertise in the legal sector and now the scale of the BT organisation combine to make a pretty compelling proposition.

But.. and, in my opinion, there is a pretty big But.

It’s really not that easy to deliver top rated IT services. While Tikit offer telephone support on some in-house developed and Autonomy products it is not straightforward to suddenly offer end to end IT services – going from being a cog in the wheel to building, owning and maintaining the wheel if you like. IBM, Accenture and the like do this very well indeed, they have operating processes honed over time, these operated by folk who have run commercial support services for many years – creating this true specialism is not easy.

My view of Tikit is that they are a sales led organisation who understand the legal sector very well. My experience of their support is mixed – in summary, some good people who are stretched pretty thin and who operate only fairly basic procedures.

Generally looking at the new players in the managed services and outsourcing arena, my concern is that they are opportunistic and have moved from their core offering – which may be hardware maintenance, software reselling, technical consulting, ‘rackspace’ providers or hardware reselling. Few truly understand ‘industrial strength’ IT service and system management and most think that they can simply extend their support desks and maintenance processes into outsourcing.  My experience is that when really pushed they have only a superficial understanding and experience of the processes, tools and skills needed to offer premier league services. A trap that many fall into, which illustrates the lack of deep understanding, and which I’m afraid Tikit displayed in their First Response Services email – is to claim ITIL accreditation and then straightaway describe their services without using the correct ITIL terminology.

So in Summary

Tikit is pushing forward into managed services.  A sound strategy and given their market position one with great potential – I just hope that they really invest in this new service rather than it being “an extension of an add on”.  It will certainly be interesting to watch this story evolve.

IT Governance – A Simple Approach For Law Firms

Managing Partners and those with overall responsibility for IT will have often heard the term ‘IT Governance’. Typically they have a vague understanding that it has something to do with making sure IT does the right things with the IT budget. They also know that they, and not IT, are responsible for IT governance but in many cases this action just hasn’t quite reached the top of their ‘to do’ list.

IT governance is important but is definitely not an overhead – taking simple steps will make overseeing IT a quicker and easier task and will, in a short space of time, really help the firm’s top and bottom lines.

This post aims to offer an IT Governance ‘Lite’ framework that is easy to get started, is effective and will deliver results quickly. It is based on the IT Governance Institute definitions and approach, has some of my own experience thrown in and is pared back to be appropriate for law firm implementation.

What is IT Governance?

The structures and processes that ensure that the firm’s IT investment is optimised in pursuit of the firm’s strategies and objectives.

This is my wording and is consistent with both the ITGI and with Gartner’s definition of IT governance. Read more…