Roundtable: Technology Solutions - A Vital Choice

Monday, February 28, 2011 - 01:00

Editor: What are the major factors to consider in selecting technology solutions, from legal point applications to integrated platforms?

Poag: Selecting the best legal technology system can be grueling. Many solutions appear to provide the same capabilities, but there are key differences. Knowing up-front what factors to consider is crucial.

Point solutions do offer a department some technology support, but they only address narrow aspects of the legal function. Organizations looking to upgrade their legal technology landscape should seriously consider a platform approach.

A platform allows legal departments to choose best-in-class point applications to meet their business needs, but have a single point of access for tasks, such as reporting, across all point systems. At Datacert we've had organizations come to us seeking a particular point solution, such as matter management. Once we help them identify long-term strategies and goals, many realize they need to identify matter management applications built on a platform since there are greater long-term benefits from a more comprehensive solution like PassportTM , our patent-pending technology platform for consolidating and integrating legal applications. This "change of heart" often stems from the productivity, visibility and cost benefits that result from this approach.

During selection there are key areas that require thorough examination. Companies should carefully consider total cost of ownership (TCO), system configurability/scalability and integration capabilities.

With a platform, TCO should decrease over time. TCO includes all of the upfront costs of procurement, including hardware and software, as well as ongoing operational expenditures such as, training, administration, maintenance and system scaling to support growth. A true platform provides a full set of packaged tools to allow organizations to quickly configure existing applications and build, deploy, and integrate new ones, without returning to the vendor or hiring a third party. In addition to cost savings, the company now has the flexibility to easily evolve the system to meet their needs today and for the next decade at least.

An important question to ask is, "Can we easily extend the solution internally to address changing needs?" This provides insight into whether or not the solution offers the benefits associated with a platform strategy.

You won't want to purchase a system only to discover you have to "rehire" the vendor for new integrations. Passport, for example, is equipped with an "Integration Toolkit" that allows clients to easily build and maintain integrations themselves so they can continue to expand use of the platform as their needs change, without returning to us.

The only constant in business today is change. During the selection process, ensure the system under consideration offers long-term benefits and can easily expand and grow with the department's evolving business needs. Svoboda: Whether you are purchasing hardware and software for use in-house, or selecting technology services provided by a third party, here are some factors to consider:

Capacity

The products and services under consideration must meet the capacity needs of the organization. Consider the maximum amount of work that may be required during your planning horizon. One size does not fit all. Your workloads - data processing, hosting, analytics, web and collaboration applications, and more - need systems that help them perform to meet your needs.

Upgrades

As events occur, even the most carefully developed plans will require adjustments. Your selected technology platform must be able to accommodate those needs through easy-to-implement upgrades in capacity, new features and advanced functions. You need systems that store and move massive amounts of data, systems that help you analyze data in a time frame that matters and that scale-up to meet your needs.

Support

Select products and services that are accompanied by comprehensive training and support programs. The very best service providers offer the most complete and effective training tools and support packages. Select service providers that offer a comprehensive portfolio of technical training and education services designed for individuals and organizations to acquire, maintain and optimize their skills.

Security/Business Continuity

Make sure the technology solution you choose has a framework that provides security best practices and protects access to critical data. In today's interconnected world, virtually every aspect of a company's operation is vulnerable to disruption. Make sure the solution you choose addresses these critical issues.

Project Scope & Implementation

The formation of a strategic partnership with a managed service provider or outsourcing provider can be an effective alternative or interim step to in-house operations. This approach provides the flexibility to transition and transform to the next generation of infrastructure and applications, and allows you to focus on your core competencies.

Cost

Maintenance costs can sometimes be the factor that helps decide which option to choose. Look for offerings that include low-cost maintenance options. Some cost elements include hardware, software, staff, space, energy and HVAC. Plan your IT project with a financial strategy that addresses every phase of the IT life cycle. Whether you're forging ahead with cloud computing, implementing a new application solution or simply acquiring PCs or other computer hardware, a solid financial acquisition strategy is essential.

Gaines: When deciding upon a technology solution, several major factors need to be considered from among most solutions on the market today. In addition, cloud computing is a new offering and in its infancy, and seems to be of interest to most people nowadays. It offers clear advantages over traditional computing models and should be considered when selecting a technology solution.

The first challenge with cloud computing is to understand all of the possible options and determine which one best suits your specific situation. The cloud model has two dimensions, the different types of cloud offerings and the manner in which the solution will be utilized. The four basic types are the internal private cloud, the hosted private cloud, the public cloud, and the hybrid cloud. Cloud offerings are being utilized in some basic ways and include software as a service, infrastructure as a service, platform as a service and desktop as a service. This provides a minimum of 16 different kinds of cloud offerings. Add in the location where the cloud resides (in-house versus at a cloud provider's premises) and you have 32 kinds, and so on.

All of these options provide tremendous flexibility in how the cloud can provide the most productive and cost effective solution for your specific needs. For example, Salesforce.com's CRM offering is a public cloud providing software as a service, while Carbonite Online Backup's offering is a public cloud offering infrastructure as a service (i.e. a storage cloud). There is no shortage of cloud offerings or cloud providers.

Most importantly, how do you know if you are ready to consider a cloud service in whatever best suits your needs? Some solutions provide cost-saving alternatives especially where additional capacity is needed to satisfy short-term requirements.

Our team of experts at Micro Strategies has elected to provide education around this very interesting subject and make it available to our clients and friends. This is to help keep everyone aware of best practices around these many cloud offerings, and showcase ways in which some of our clients have used a particular type of cloud offering successfully.