Ask an attorney about their most critical communication tools and they’ll mention email and their cell phone. Throw in a document management system and many firms’ core technologies look quite similar.
What’s a firm to do to get a competitive edge? Many look to optimize their attorney productivity, billable hours, geographic expansion, and client relations by using Microsoft Office 365 and Skype for Business.
***Check out "An Interview with Veronica Morton, CIO, Beckett and Lee"
Benefits and Opportunities
To name a few, Microsoft Unified Communications enables:
- Attorney Productivity:
With Unified Communications, attorneys spend less time leaving and checking voicemail and less time chasing down internal expertise, especially between offices. “Physical distance has been overcome,” said Jen Rous, CIO at Whiteford Taylor Preston. We still use email but are moving lots of conversations into IM chats.” At Epstein Becker Green, “We see attorneys using multiple Multiparty IMs while on calls” for behind-the-scenes strategy said Prem Rajendran. “When traveling between offices, presence is important because assistants can see a partner is available and they can transfer calls” instead of having calls roll to voicemail.
- Billable hours:
With less time chasing internal resources, attorneys can spend more time acquiring and billing clients. Attorneys can collaborate from their iPhones, iPads and Android devices. “Our attorneys can access Lync with direct access,” said Rous. “No VPN is necessary, it just works.” Lync/Skype can integrate into Thompson Elite and others for time tracking purposes. “We’re a Microsoft shop, so we integrated presence in our portals and applications as well,” said Rajendran.
- Geographic Expansion:
Offices (brick and mortar or virtual) can be spun up quickly, getting revenue. “Our executive board meetings include a remote partner who can join via Lync from their summer home and conference with other members in a board room on a Polycom room system.”
- Client Relations:
Customer satisfaction can increase because they get answers, and results, more quickly. “When an attorney is on a call with a client, they can check and see the presence of colleagues who’ve worked with that client before,” said Rajendran. “They can then add them into the call to help.”
Changes don’t come free. Enabling has found several major pitfalls during our 1500+ UC deployments.
- Network Readiness: if the IP network is taxed or unequipped to provide QoS, user satisfaction will suffer. A solid network, continuous monitoring, and occasional traffic testing can minimize glitches.
- IT Operations: Lync/Skype has multiple moving parts from many vendors. While the management of the system can be a challenge, proper Standard Operating Procedures and teamwork will be invaluable.
- Culture and Organizational Change Management: While the benefits of such new tools can be impressive, users must be equipped and motivated to use them. Epstein Becker Green’s approach was to initially offer the tools as an option, to improve upon (not replace) the current communication system. “Users have embraced presence and click-to-call whole-heartedly,” said Prem Rajendran, “because we offered it as an optional feature set and didn’t force them to change.” Through Enabling’s 1500+ UC projects, we’ve been sure to focus on people and process, not just technology.
Your first step may vary.
- If you know where you’re going and want details to get there, start with a Planning & Design session
- If you think you’re going with Skype for Business but need to prove the concept, start with a pilot with Cloud PBX Skype online