Part five in a six-part series on developing a successful client-centric culture and how to address the resulting operational implications.

Developing a client-centric culture requires a business that runs as efficiently as possible to pass on the benefits of greater efficiency to clients, such as better service, lower overhead, and ease of collaboration. For many firms, that efficiency can be found through cloud computing.

As recently as a few years ago, however, if you had walked into most CIO’s offices and uttered the words “cloud migration,” you would have been met with a furrowed brow and perhaps a disapproving glance. The idea of hosting the firm’s critical applications and data in a far-off location, managed by someone else in someone else’s environment, would have had many a CIO’s blood running cold.

Fast forward to today, that naturally, risk-averse sector is opening its thoughts to the capabilities and possibilities a cloud-first approach can deliver. Perhaps this turnaround has been driven by the times, but law firm perceptions have likely solidified around the benefits versus the risks associated with cloud computing.

Essential to successful cloud migration is understanding your firm’s readiness to adopt a cloud approach and strategy. Consider the drivers for the firm – efficiency, growth, availability, aging infrastructure, etc. Addressing the business case for change is crucial, whether it’s a holistic approach or targeting specific parts of the firm or operational processes to introduce cloud across.

In our work helping law firms migrate to the cloud, many of our clients focus on core business-critical applications such as time management, CRM, and matter/financial management. Providing high availability solutions to support end-users who are dispersed across home offices is a hot topic today – in that “Martini” approach of any time, any place, anywhere capability.

If your firm is at the starting blocks for a cloud journey, here are some key considerations to help your firm think through and prepare for its ascent.

1. Budgeting and costing models

As more solution providers introduce cloud offerings, one of the first things to adjust to is the change to budgeting and costing models. Cloud computing enables a shift from large server and operating systems CAPEX costs to a monthly subscription licensing model. Monthly fees may be higher but are more predictable with a leveling of cash flow. In addition, typically, you only get charged for what you use.

2. Adoption and change management

Cloud comes with an ethos of continuous improvement and updates, which has pros and cons and is definitely a huge adjustment for many firms. With cloud services, new features and functions are rolled out to users continually and incrementally (as we have seen with Office 365). Users can adjust to small changes frequently rather than the traditional way of delivered all at once as part of a significant upgrade/new release. While training doesn’t disappear for users, the small and frequent approach has a major tick in the box for easier adoption and change management, which can be a struggle for many firms.

3. IT and infrastructure

Turning to IT, the new model of continuous improvement will entail a bigger change for support teams than for end-users. Maintaining cloud systems requires a different set of skills. For instance, application interoperability and packaging—the practice of making sure that software is compatible with each other so that they can run smoothly—will become hugely more important now. The processes of architecting, designing, testing, and deploying major systems, which IT teams usually take months to do, will now have to be completed at a much quicker pace. New iterations of systems are released more quickly – for example, Intapp’s cloud offerings are delivered quarterly.

4. Testing

As firms shift to these continuous updates, many are considering their deployment strategies and a focus on testing with a move towards some level of test automation. Long gone are those extended periods of user acceptance testing that draw on key business teams for resources for many weeks or months.

5. Customization and configuration

The legal sector has long suffered from a tendency to take standard business applications and retrofit them to meet each department’s demands. The result is IT overhead and technical debt that limits the firm’s ability to be agile and consume technology changes in a fast way. With the cloud, the ability to customize heavily is somewhat removed with a standard set of capabilities delivered consistently and in a consumable form. Innovation comes from the technology supplier through incremental improvements, rather than the firm having to become software developers to re-engineer an application to its bespoke needs.

Getting your firm ready for take-off

Timing is often a critical component of making any change. The reality is that the cloud is here and is gathering steam across the sector. The real question is where your firm wants to be positioned on the curve of technological advantage. With careful planning and a steady approach, you too can introduce the cloud into aspects of your firm’s technology stack and gain the many benefits the journey brings, which brings us to the next post in this series, If You Deploy It, Will They Use It? Modernization Through Change Management.