Law firms, IT managers and IT Directors that are going to be successful from this point (particularly the mid-market firms) will be under pressure and driven harder to find more efficiency and productivity improvements and/or cost reductions. All of which is totally justified because there is still plenty of scope for radical improvements if IT, lawyers and managers would just start to talk the same language. Who is holding who back varies from firm to firm - but CEOs and Managing Partners, who may now be better equipped (because they are getting better) to be more understanding of the issues, will be less tolerant of failure to manage projects and achieve change in working practices to improve results .
As IT people slowly get more involved with business strategy, it’s more likely that any investment in IT-related projects will be backed up with some kind of ROI-driven business case (now that more commercial IT minds are coming into the sector - and not before time). Historically, few firms have done this; and even fewer firms measure actual cost savings achieved, post implementation. In 2010, there will be more frustration with more decision-makers in each firm who expect a strong ROI-driven case to be made prior to project authorisation being given. Information and benchmarks will continue to be hard to find – so there needs to be more serious thought, research and innovation in this area, which has huge potential to lead radical improvements.
With improving options available, heads of IT who are keen to take a more strategic position in the business will begin to promote use of more specialist support from third-party managers of IT - from outsourced and managed services and, increasingly, from hosted providers of solutions. Use of some elements of managed services will become an aspiration in many more IT strategies, with the objective of enabling IT people to adopt a more effective project management approach to new initiatives that improve the business – not just keep it ticking over. Projects need to involve participants from all areas of the practice; enabling IT to focus on development and use of legal and business processes.
Too many firms will fail to make effective decisions in these areas. There will be a steep increase in acquisitions of the weaker legal practices that have failed to get their house in order, where partners will suffer financially as a result because they cannot negotiate a deal from a position of any strength.
A selection from the predictions posted at www.scl.org will appear in the SCL magazine, arranged by topic. Check back regularly for more predictions – they will be posted in batches throughout December.