PARTNER COMMENT

PARTNER COMMENT

Clarity settles on the cloud imperative

Matthew DeVoll

Matthew DeVoll

In an environment in which headcount growth is forecast by three-quarters of respondents and automation is top of mind for all, it is interesting to see productivity and efficiency emerge as major themes in this year’s survey responses, especially in the wake of last year’s focus on transformation and competitiveness. After all, the legal industry has been deploying technology aiming at greater productivity and more efficient operation for more than two decades. How to think about this year’s responses, and what they mean for those of us who exist to make law firm business leaders more successful? Where does this research intersect with the big ideas that we hear law firms talking about in other contexts?

It is difficult to attempt any analysis without factoring in the enormous consequences of the pandemic, and the ongoing uncertainty it creates about work models. Perhaps last year’s apparently strategic themes reflected optimism about a return to normalcy that was later forestalled with the emergence of the newest virus variant. Now there really is an acceptance about a new normal, and changes in the work model that we once saw as temporary appear in fact to be permanent. In a world where employees are likely to be physically present in the office just 2-3 days each week, perhaps igniting new energy around productivity and efficiency makes sense.

What isn’t surprising is continued interest in all things cloud, and in the rapid movement seen in last year’s Briefing Frontiers report from cloud-averse to cloud-first. This makes sense as collaboration is a major imperative and everyone is part of a distributed team. Microsoft has provided tailwinds with Office 365, and use of Teams is growing rapidly. As firms grapple with a collection of on-prem and cloud solutions, the need for a strategic approach to cloud deployments will only increase. We have clients who are talking about ‘cloud everything’, from martech, to new business inception, to PMS systems. Figuring out how to get from here to there will be a unique journey for each firm.

Against a backdrop of new entrants, substitutes, and continually increasing buyer power, law firms are operating within the most competitive industry dynamics ever. If getting the distributed architecture in place to empower remote workers is job one, close behind will surely be the imperative to modernise business development with data insights from across the firm. We see hints of this in comments about the need for data lakes to inform firm knowledge, about matter budgeting and pricing, and about getting new clients. Exciting innovations in data governance, master data management, and data visualisation will impact law firm marketing and business development going forward.

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