Modern Practice Management Systems (PMS) have become essential tools that law firms rely on every day to run their business. Transitioning to a new PMS – or moving an existing one into the cloud – are both complex, intricate exercises, with moving parts, a wide array of stakeholders and no room for project failure. In this article, we’re going to take a look at a couple of the key issues and problems that firms face along the way, and suggest some ways to ensure your project runs smoothly and is delivered on time.
Choose a specialist IT partner
When selecting your IT Infrastructure provider, don’t underestimate the value of familiarity with your industry, platforms and applications. Over the course of any PMS implementation project, your IT partner and your software provider will need to work closely to configure and optimise the infrastructure to work in the manner appropriate to your practice.
This relationship is key, and if not managed properly, will end up with your IT department running between the two, causing disruption and delays to the project. When comparing bids, ensure that your IT partner has experience working within the legal sector on similar types of projects to avoid this issue.
At Converge TS, we’re proud of the strong track record we’ve got in the legal sector. We’ve got excellent relationships with the major legal software players – Thomson Reuters, LexisNexis and more. Our delivery teams are familiar with the idiosyncrasies inherent to each product and can help you see off any potential pitfalls on the horizon by working in close partnership with your chosen provider. In the case of Thomson Reuters, we’re a Strategic Alliance Partner, and a Preferred Hosting Partner to LexisNexis – which means we’ve been recognised for the quality of the service we provide by each software provider themselves.
Agree on your aims
Large-scale IT projects are cumbersome, slow-moving and get mired in delays, mission-creep and budgetary disputes. Without a proper roadmap, accountable project managers and a realistic timescale, your PMS implementation project is doomed to failure before it even begins.
It’s crucial that you have agreed objectives from across all areas of your practice. Practice management systems are almost infinitely customisable, and you’ll need to make sure that all stakeholders have clear expectations agreed of the new platform – before any work starts. Do you want to simply replace an outdated, insecure end-of-life system and replicate current functionality, or is your goal to increase fee-earner productivity, or implement complex automated processes and workflows?
Make sure you lay out clear deliverables, goals and services you want to offer. You’ll start to see whether your timescale is realistic, or whether you should think about extending it, or breaking down your aims into different phases.
Ensure you have the right skills
To deliver the project, you’ll need a wide variety of expertise, from project management skills, software-specific application knowledge to cloud infrastructure experience. You’ll need specialist IT skills in the technologies you select, such as Citrix, VMware, Windows Server and Exchange, and you’ll need to ensure you have a top-tier business continuity and Disaster Recovery solution in place from the very beginning.
It’s here that the broad benefits of outsourcing this work become clear: by contracting in a team of experts, you can be assured that each person assigned to your implementation is a designated specialist in the technologies required for your delivery.
Beyond the assurance of platform, industry and application experience, assessing the capacity of your internal team to deal with a project on such a large scale is key. It’s easy to be over-optimistic with your internal resource allocation but your in-house team will have day-to-day functions to carry out that cannot be ignored. It is worth considering resource allocation carefully, and whether a mix of outsourced experts and internal staff would make sense, or whether you want to fully outsource elements of the project completely.