Evolution or revolution? The impact of cloud technology on law firm innovation

As consumers of cloud products and services, we have come to expect unlimited access, anytime, anywhere, through simple user interfaces. IT providers within organisations want cloud services that have the ability to be fully scalable, reliable, efficient, and maintain the highest quality of service and security. The advance in technology of smartphones, and other mobile devices, has opened up opportunity for a more productive workforce where cloud and agile working can be harnessed.

However, as IT professionals begin to look seriously at the possibility of migrating away from on-premise servers to a hosted cloud environment, they cannot simply disregard the large investment they have already made in existing technology systems. Firms have historically had all systems deployed onsite and therefore have significant investment tied to them.

Many firms are already using cloud technology without really thinking too much about it, using solutions such as Workshare Connect, Dropbox, OneDrive or NetDocuments. Firms shouldn’t be thinking they have to be ‘100% cloud-based or nothing’ when making choices, or that agile working can only be achieved using the cloud.

Becoming entirely cloud-based is a long way off for most firms as technology still has a way to go to overcome some of the limitations that prevent applications matching on-premise counterparts. The challenge now is to operate a hybrid technology infrastructure, combining cloud and onsite solutions to achieve an agile working model. The combination of connected, fully integrated, on-premise, pure cloud and virtualised environments allows law firms to take steps towards the goal of pure cloud. The advantages of the integrated mixed technology stack are streamlined user experience, increased productivity and agility – regardless of where the application is hosted.

If you’re looking at innovating your technology to support agile working, consider the following:

  • Your practice management system (PMS) should be central to everything you’re doing. Ensure that it can support integrations with cloud-based applications as well as onsite ones, as this will enhance your firm’s ability to work in an agile way in a mixed environment. This also applies when your PMS is in the cloud.
  • Firms need to be careful about picking solutions from suppliers with limited integrations. This is because the benefits realised from the cloud approach could then be diluted by the challenge of managing data that is disparate and unconnected, in different places with varying terms and conditions, as well as experiencing technical challenges.
  • Don’t try to tackle everything at once. Moving to a purely cloud-based model is a big commitment. Agile working is a journey and adopting an integrated technology approach will provide users with access to the best-of-breed cloud applications, which will further allow agile working without compromising the functionality of your central PMS.
  • Take the time to understand where that data is stored. Have a single, central data source, which should be your PMS database – that way, regardless of where other applications and integrations are hosted, data is flowing back to the same central repository.

The more forward-thinking law firms absolutely recognise that stagnating is never an option, but also recognise that cloud and agile working requires an evolution of working practices and technology setup. It’s not just about moving to the cloud at any cost.

Adrian Jones is an LPM columnist. See this article in the full issue of LPM September – Table plans.

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