Posted by Paul Humphreys, director of Legal Futures Associate Zecter
IT has been a major investment and a major headache for all businesses for many years. High resource costs, increasing support costs, laughable licencing costs, expensive change and implementation, poor reliability and decidedly average functionality, are not what we all thought we were buying.
Those of you with large IT departments or recent investments in off-the-shelf software, look away now as this article may upset you.
The IT service of the future will be customisable, versatile and cost effective. It will do what you want when you want it to and you will only pay a small, monthly fee that covers exactly what you use and no more.
‘IT as a commodity’ has been buzzing around for the last couple of years but it seems those clever technical types have finally got their acts together.
Those equally clever people who started the cloud computing trend were on the right track all along. It had its challenges, of course – security, reliability and frustrating down time – but it is getting more resilient by the day. No longer do you have to worry about your servers going out of date and becoming unstable, about buying and installing the latest version of Windows, about your security or your data, because now, they’ve cracked it.
Microsoft has hit the nail on the head with Office 365. It is so well positioned in the marketplace that the trade in illegal, cracked copies has virtually disappeared. What about Windows 10? Free upgrades for life and there will never be a version 11. It all sounds too good to be true.
What about those traditional software sellers who sell you a product that will be the answer to all of your woes, all for a one-off fee… but with a complicated contract and a support model that means you never really stop paying? The real kicker is that this Nirvana software really doesn’t do the things you wanted it to even though they said it would. You get stuck with a legacy system that you persevere with because you just don’t want the experience of a costly departure to trade in for a better model.
Finally, something is about to change.
Hardware, operating systems, resilience, back-up, security and updates are now not yours to worry about – those wonderful boys and girls who are our cloud providers will do it for you.
If you do not have most, or all, of your IT estate in the cloud, you are going to be left behind, as simple as that. If your IT department tells you different – well, they would. After all, turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.
There is one possible argument, however, and that is that cloud environments rely on a reliable broadband connection, which is one thing that a large number of businesses find difficult to achieve. Mind you, I do have the answer for that one too, towards the end of this blog.
The next big thing is actually going to take all this even further. It’s called ‘cloud native’.
The geeks really have cracked it this time. Now you can have all of the products that you dreamt about, working together, seamlessly. Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, they just fit – simple.
The really clever bit is that, just like cloud computing, you only pay for what you use. That means the small-to-medium-sized firms can now have access to systems and interfaces that even the big boys have been dreaming about for years and it will cost a fraction of the price. If you want a conveyancing module for just one transaction for a long-standing client, then just drag and drop the module for the time that you need it. If you want a customised CRM that interacts with your clients on their tablets and smartphone, it will be easy.
You also won’t need to be a developer to customise your tools as they will all be done through your personal user interface with some gentle drag and drop.
Remember the large consultancies? They are the guys that come in and charge a substantial fee to tell you the stuff that you didn’t already know: best-of-breed technology evolutions and market changing insights. All very relevant in the day but things have moved on. You can have the best of everything and you don’t have to be in a secret club to gain access.
Once you have committed to cloud and cloud native, all you need is a good connection and that is what is coming. Whilst we all worry about wires, fibre, upload speeds and download speeds, 4G will be turning to 5G in 2020 and that will give all of us lightning speeds to our phones and computers, wirelessly, reliably, anywhere. For those of you who don’t have a fibre connection today, it must come as music to your ears.
Law is a rapidly changing and competitive industry and it is no secret that it will be about the survival of the fittest in the coming years. It’s not so much about size any more – recent news stories have told us that even the largest are vulnerable. It’s about agility and confidence. After all, if your costs to complete a transaction are considerably less than the next firm and your clients’ experience is dramatically improved, why can’t you be one of the fittest?
If you still want proof, the smart venture capital invested in the UK in the last 18 months has been in fintech – a lot of small but perfectly formed finance firms trying to revolutionise how we invest, save and spend our money. The banking industry is about to change, forever. Then there is the little company called Xero shaking the traditional accountancy software companies to their core. Why? Because it is cheaper, requires no maintenance, is easier to use and even easier to buy.
The legal profession has been due a significant technology overhaul for many years and, for those brave firms ready to take the next steps, the rewards will be significant.
My advice is simple: join the many forward-thinking firms who have realised that things don’t have to be this difficult or expensive any more. Talk to one of the new breed of technology solutions companies that are creating a new future for law. The future will belong to those who prepare for it today.