What the three little pigs can teach law firms about IT strategy
Cleary the nursery rhyme about the three little pigs has nothing to do with IT strategy, however, it still provides a nice analogy on the difficult situations a law firm, or any business, can find with their IT systems.
For those a bit rusty on the details, three pigs each built a house: one of straw; one of sticks; and, one of bricks. A wolf easily blows down the straw and stick houses and eats the pigs. The wolf can’t blow down the brick house and the pig eats the wolf (various versions of the rhyme exist, I have gone with the original).
Keep reading to find out what the little pigs can teach law firms about IT strategy.
Some initial decisions have a lasting impact
The pigs’ fate was sealed the moment they decided their building materials. In the original rhyme, the pigs choice of building material was determined by who they met. If the pigs were better informed, they each would have had a brick house.
From an IT perspective, some initial decisions also have a lasting impact. For example, if deciding on an outsourced case management or matter management platform, often firms will use the same supplier for both the primary system and the disaster recovery system (assuming there is a disaster recovery system!). This is not true disaster recovery, as a disaster that impacts the supplier, leaves you vulnerable. Unfortunately, while many providers will let you export your data to protect against such an event, due to custom configurations, it can be very hard to use the data in a meaningful way without significant time and effort to convert the data to the format required for your new system.
Incremental improvements can be fruitless
For the pigs who made their houses out of straw and sticks, the advice in hindsight, is easy, “rebuild your house with bricks“. Most likely, if the pigs had been given this advice, the predictable answer would be, “I’ve just spent my time and money building this house! I am not tearing it down to build a new one“. Unfortunately for the pigs, incremental improvements to a house made of straw or sticks is a waste of time. Until all four walls are made of brick their houses are vulnerable.
The above advice can equally apply to the IT systems of some law firms. As described earlier, selecting a case or matter management system that is dependent on the same supplier for disaster recovery is unwise. At worst, the fix here may be a new case or matter management system. With that said, it is better to plan ahead, rather than waiting for when the wolf comes knocking.
The wolf will come knocking
In the nursery rhyme, we don’t know if it was reasonable for the pigs to expect the wolf to come knocking. From an IT perspective, we must plan as if the wolf will come. This is clear through the SRA code of conduct, the Data Protection Act, and the upcoming GDPR. In addition, rather than just focus on the downside, there is significant upside in making sure your firm has an IT strategy that supports your business objectives. Depending on your firm this could include: remote working; improving efficiencies on handling client cases; automation of document production; or, increasing employees and office locations. Regardless of your firm’s objectives, having an IT environment that was built by chance does not bode well for supporting the future.
So what should you do
I provided a simple example that relates to disaster recovery, however, there are many other examples covering user identity management, software compatibility, cyber security management, and legal process improvement. The best place to start is not to look at your IT, it is to understand what your business objective are, and what your firm’s risk profile is. This is a key input to understanding the IT strategy required for your firm. This then provides a reference point to assess your IT capability, and determine how you can plan for a house made of bricks.
For further information on how to plan an IT strategy for your law firm, please see our free webinar. Register now and receive our cyber security checklist for law firms.