The Benefits of an Independent IT Review
All aspects of your business should be constantly monitored and regularly reviewed. Support functions are cost centres (the term “fee burners” is often used to describe these functions) but there may be ways to reduce these costs. Better still, these functions can be business enablers to provide opportunities to generate profits or to open new markets. The IT function in particular should be regularly reviewed as change happens quickly in IT and it is very easy to fall behind.
Many organisations have strong IT teams and as a result may feel that the internal IT team should undertake its own review. However, it is often the case that internal teams have been in place for many years, often with many of the same staff, which can lead to blinkered thinking. It is also true that many organisations, law firms included, do not provide sufficient training budgets to ensure staff are kept abreast of the latest developments in their field of work. Furthermore, the pressures of the day to day job can prevent internal staff from identifying new solutions and opportunities. It may also be the case that the IT team does not have trusted advisor status to the business and is kept at arm’s-length from planning conferences or strategic decision-making groups, meaning their ability to support the business is limited.
It is quite a different scenario when using an external IT consultant. Consultants work in a range of organisations which are often in the same sector and which have similar problems to yours. If they are doing their job correctly, they also know the relevant suppliers within the sector and meet with them regularly to keep abreast of their products and solutions. External consultants also bring a ‘fresh pair of eyes’ and see the situation differently to those who have been immersed in it for some time. They also have the time to make detailed assessments without getting distracted by day to day tasks. Equally, once a firm has recognised that a consultant / external view is required, it is much more likely the firm will engage with the process and follow the advice given. Sometimes the injection of external input brings the desired changes and outcomes more quickly. Here are some IT reviews that might help in this situation:
- Full IT strategic review – Top to bottom review of the IT function and its service to the business.
- IT infrastructure review – To assess the technologies that are in place and to recommend technical solutions about which the current team may be unaware.
- IT software review – As above, to ensure the organisation is using the correct software and is using it efficiently.
Other organisations have less than strong IT teams and can benefit even more from an independent IT review. Apart from the assistance mentioned above, the IT consultant can recommend changes to the current IT team or simply bring about improvements through mentoring and training. This situation may warrant the following:
- IT team review – To ensure the team is structured appropriately and that the correct skills are in place.
- Mentoring – To enhance the skills of strong staff through guidance from an expert in their functional area.
Of course, there are also organisations that outsource much of their IT. It would be hoped that the supplier is doing its job and that no issues would exist, but every customer-supplier relationship has the potential to have problems or to benefit from improvements. Once again, IT consultants will have knowledge of several IT service providers and how they work within various organisations. They will therefore be able to give an independent view of whether your supplier is operating efficiently. In the case of customer-supplier disputes an IT consultant will be viewed as more independent meaning their findings and opinions will carry more weight.
There is nothing wrong with an outsourced IT strategy, indeed it is becoming the common approach. However, it is often the case that the vendors do not have as much of a client focus as they ideally should. They are typically focused on delivering to the contract to “keep the lights on” but not as focused on issues such as strategic changes, proper usage of software applications or reducing costs. The following might be of assistance:
- IT supplier review – To ensure the correct supplier is in place and that they are using the appropriate technologies.
- Independent advice – To assist with supplier negotiations or to provide independent information to aid contractual disputes or legal action.
- IT software review – Many IT service providers focus on hardware and standard software such as Microsoft Office and may not be assisting you in getting the best from your specialist legal software.
We have seen above that there are many ways in which an IT consultant can provide an IT review and add value through their knowledge and independence. A good IT consultant can be obtained for a cost that is similar to that of a law firm Associate and the changes that they bring can be lasting and highly beneficial.