Briefing April 2020 column by Pulsant: Let IT grow

Discussion around the impact on the legal sector of new technologies – such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and cloud – are perennial, with collaboration and automation often the areas of highest priority.

But how many firms looking to drive strategic advantage through improved work efficiency and competitiveness are actually realising the benefits? And how can businesses balance the need for innovation with the need to keep the lights on?

Innovation requires actively seeking out ways to improve things in the future – and a conscious effort to avoid the present-day diversions. This can be a challenge for law firms dealing with operational efficiencies and regulatory requirements. For example, with AI, machine learning or other new technologies, the real value is in identifying the right use cases and developing them – not the implementation of the technologies themselves. Whether we’re thinking of practice management automation, document assembly or legal research, it’s about delivering the outcome, rather than the mechanism to do so.

But at many firms, the everyday challenges faced by the IT team constrain the time and headspace needed to drive innovation and deliver on the firm’s aspirations. These distractions can include anything from facilitating remote working through to improving security infrastructure and keeping the patching strategy current.

To drive a better balance between the day-to-day tasks and innovation projects, law firms need to reset the status quo, and this means passing the routine or ‘bread and butter’ tasks to a third party. A supplier can focus on routine tasks, or worry about ageing infrastructure, and enable the in-house IT team to better use their expertise for the good of the business.

In essence, the third party can be the engine room, taking the pain away and freeing up IT resources to focus on what delivers most value: driving innovation and collaboration, which improves competitive advantage.

A common challenge in the legal sector – as in many others – is that IT is viewed solely as a service provider. It provides a function, and keeps the business running. But to remain competitive, firms need to change those perceptions. Getting the most from new technology requires a shift in mindset around the purpose of IT; no longer a function on the periphery, the IT department needs to transform to become an innovation driver.

However, in order for this to happen, the way the IT team is used also needs to evolve. Law firms need to move away from the old model of using the function just to ‘keep the lights on’ and envision a function that adds real innovation and value to the business operation.  

Written by Andy Bevan, cloud sales specialist, Pulsant, for Briefing April 2020. Read the full issue here: https://bit.ly/BriefingApril2020 

 

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