Kevin Goosman writes:

It’s good practice to monitor and review all aspects of your business. But with IT change happening so quickly and technology so pivotal to most firms, it pays to evaluate your IT function regularly to ensure that it continues to perform in an optimum way, from both a delivery and cost-efficiency perspective.

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.

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 and blinkered thinking can prevent internal staff from identifying new solutions and opportunities.

A fresh pair of eyes

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.

Here are some types of IT review that might help in this situation:

  • Full IT strategic review – Top to bottom review of the IT function.
  • 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 good staff through guidance from an expert in their functional area.

Benchmarking performance

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 or whether there might be opportunities for improvement. 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.

The following might be of assistance:

  • IT supplier review – To ensure the correct suppliers are in place and that they are using the appropriate technologies.
  • Independent advice – To assist with supplier negotiations or to provide objective 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. But isn’t this just extra expense that you can do without? In reality 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.