Empowering a global workforce with mobility and cloud
Photography: Lorentz Gullachsen
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Empowering a global workforce with mobility and cloud

Kenny MacIver – March 2017
Pinsent Masons’ IT director Colin Smith outlines how the international law firm has transformed its mobile IT services with a user-led technology revamp.

Establishing a truly mobile workforce is as much about rethinking business processes and changing users’ mindsets as applying cutting-edge technologies and IT services. That was the starting point taken by Pinsent Masons’ IT chief Colin Smith when the international law firm set out to provide its 1,800 legal experts and 700 business staff around the world with the capabilities to work more efficiently, productively and securely from smartphones and tablets at any location.

Driven by a strategy to support the operations of its increasingly global business, in 2015 the UK-headquartered law firm set out to provide the infrastructure, processes, applications and devices that would empower a truly mobile workforce, enabling staff to collaborate with colleagues, track their activities and engage fluidly and securely with clients.

“Whether focused on tax, employment, corporate or construction legal services, our teams are travelling more and constantly having to come together collaboratively. They found that the existing technology — email and a classic BlackBerry phone — was too restrictive,” says Smith. “There was already a groundswell of thinking that the technology had become more restrictive than helpful, especially among younger lawyers who wanted a mobile window into all our systems.”
Broader vision

But, with that, Smith saw a wider, more strategic opportunity. “We wanted to make sure that in making this investment, it was the start of a longer-term strategy around mobility and accessibility. We saw an opportunity to provide a flexible platform through which we could deploy mobile applications and ensure we have consistent devices, communication approaches and mobile working culture across the organization, irrespective of location, country or practice group.” That consistency drive was regarded as vital for a company that — along with its rapid international expansion — has been through five major mergers in the past two decades.

The pressure for change was not only from internal teams. Many of the company’s clients — notably those in the technology sector — had heightened expectations that they should be able to fully engage with Pinsent Masons teams across secure mobile channels.

 

“Equipping staff with managed mobile capabilities was the first step to the introduction of apps that dramatically enhance the way people work and make a massive difference to the business.

Critical from the outset for Smith was to ensure that such a shift would meet both the expectations of the business and users. And that meant diving deep into company-wide working practices.


To capture how users would best be supported by new mobile systems, the company set up a test group of around 80 staff, drawn from different parts of the business and its geographical regions. Using Fujitsu’s Workstyle Analysis model, this steering group engaged in workshops to define what would — and would not — work for them. “The understanding was that they could express any opinion: from saying a particular device was a complete waste of time through to how a proposed app would only work for regional needs if delivered with different functionality,” outlines Smith. That six-week exploration also involved an honest analysis of what was wrong with the existing mobile set-up based around traditional laptops and BlackBerrys.

“The Fujitsu Workstyle Analysis engagement worked really well,” says Smith. “It allowed us to really listen to how the workforce wanted to use mobile technology.” It also helped the company define four distinctive types of user, each with a different but overlapping set of technology needs — ranging from an office worker with only occasional work mobile usage through to a heavy mobile user working across different legal jurisdictions, practices and international teams.

That profiling helped manage the inevitable demands from users for their favorite device types, says Smith, as the IT organization was able to highlight how it had mapped users’ needs very closely to their work activities and responsibilities, geography and the demands of the business.

The upshot was a matrix of 25 core requirements that could be traced throughout the project, with every piece of work linked to an item in the business strategy. “That was very powerful because we could demonstrate to the board that the proposed investment was not based on giving people shiny new devices,” says Smith. “It helped us create a watertight business case that showed that equipping staff with new, managed mobile capabilities was the first step to the introduction of applications such as mobile time capture and project management, on-device dictation, speech recognition and video conferencing that would dramatically enhance the way people work and make a massive difference to the business.”
Device of choice

After that extensive investigation — and an evaluation of the capabilities, application support and costs of various devices — Pinsent Masons chose to standardize on company-approved set of Microsoft Windows smartphones. “A key consideration was that this is a business tool, not a companion lifestyle device,” says Smith. “It’s a corporate device offering everything users need from a business perspective.”

Windows devices also had the appeal of compatibility with desktop systems. Moreover, Pinsent Masons planned to deploy Microsoft Surface Pro hybrid laptop/tablet devices, and wanted to employ a single, cloud-based mobile device management (MDM) solution, in the form of  Microsoft Intune, that would manage all device types.

“In terms of supporting email, Office Professional and the target business apps, the Microsoft device proved the right choice,” says Smith. But the proscription was not draconian. “We did rule out Android phones purely from a security perspective, but we do allow Apple iPhones — albeit  with a set of engagement rules.”

“If you insist on buying an iPhone, you have to register on our MDM so we can manage and control it. We have to be able to deploy software to the device and restrict usage under our standard working practices and policies. Users also have to sign a remote-wipe waiver so if we need to kill the device they’re aware they will lose their data and photos. Plus, when we’re deploying software, Windows smartphones come first.” Those rules brought the reality home to a lot of staff, says Smith, and out of 2,300 devices now deployed, only about 50 are iPhones.

The argument to the board was more of a commercial reality. “Either we bought 2,300 iPhones at £500 (total cost £1.15 million) or we provided a device that delivered exactly what users needed and provided access to our corporate systems for £100 each (total cost £230,000),” explains Smith.

 

“Over the past year, the increase in the amount of chargeable time logged by lawyers can be directly traced back to their use of mobile devices. It rapidly demonstrated RoI.

The supported apps list was also not a free-for-all. The working group and other users made it clear that the number one priority should be mobile time capture. And that has already made a huge difference from a productivity — and return on investment — perspective.


“That was a no-brainer,” says Smith. “It’s very easy for lawyers to neglect to bill for the odd hour here and there. Over the past year, the increase in the amount of chargeable time logged by lawyers can be directly traced back to them entering time via mobile devices, rather than through desktops. It rapidly demonstrated RoI.”

That time capture has joined a select group of other device apps: a travel booking application; hooks into the company’s knowledge bases and IT service desk; document production and correspondence applications based on Office Professional; and collaboration, presence and instant messaging based on Cisco unified communications cloud platforms. But the applications ramp up has been  intentionally staged, says Smith. “We wanted to make sure that people became familiar with the device before introducing too many applications.”
Big bang roll-out

The IT team was also mindful that the new ways of working involve a learning curve. The devices were rolled out office-by-office in a three-month ‘big bang,’ accompanied by a company-wide internal marketing program through the company’s intranet and a series of technology fairs in the offices around the world, as well as the introduction of cloud-based training modules, known as mLearning.  

The reaction to the mobile solution has been highly positive, says Smith: “As well as acknowledging this is a far better way of working, the inclusive, international nature of the requirements capture was particularly important. It created the perception that the IT group listened very closely to users opinion and delivered, resulting in good user buy in.”
    
Building on that success, Smith now wants to empower team collaboration even further — this time by tackling the inefficiencies of email. “There’s a real crusade in the business at the moment to cut down the amount of email that flies around,” he says. Grabbing his attention are secure, cloud-based team collaboration platforms like Cisco Spark.

Smith has also been using Fujitsu Workstyle Analysis to ensure that other projects meet user expectations. “We use that same model for engaging with representative groups across the firm,” he says.

And his team’s achievements have not gone unrecognized in the wider market — fittingly, The Financial Times last year ranked Pinsent Masons as one of the top five most innovative law firms in Europe.

First published March 2017
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