Whether it’s transcription and typing or marketing and managed IT services, outsourcing support offers most law firms productivity and profitability gains over in-house alternatives.
Whilst some firms will engage specialist consultants to help them select a managed IT service provider (MSP), the choice can be made simpler if the provider not only addresses the firm’s current IT concerns, but understands the likely trends and challenges, whilst proving to be a good, responsible partner at the same time.
Here are a few trends and questions that will affect the future of your potential MSP partner and they should be discussing these technology topics when you meet to make your selection.
Managed services market trends
When you sit down with your board or your consultants to draw up a list of suitable MSPs, you need to understand if the selected firms offer more than just a list of services.
Do they truly understand the direction of their industry and how technology changes and future trends are likely to impact your business throughout the lifespan of the relationship? There are several key trends that they should raise as topics of conversations that should help underpin your decision making.
1) Security should be your top priority for your firm with support from your MSP
Whilst many of the trends are positive, the most important focus will be on the negative of cyber-crime. It is critical your selected MSPs truly understand the risks law firms face and offer a comprehensive service to defend your business and aide recovery when/if the inevitable happens.
It’s a repetitive message and perhaps that’s part of the problem as some firms choose to ignore the very real threat and hope the storm passes them by. However recent research underpins the scale of what is happening.
In 2018 alone, £354.3 million was stolen via authorised push payment fraud, with criminals using social engineering and phishing attacks to steal victim’s money – a 92% increase on the 2017 figure.
These figures are put further under the spotlight because according to HM Government around 1,400 criminal organisations are currently targeting the legal sector, exploiting out of date or inadequate security, so the 2018 figure will see a further increase.
If that’s not scary enough, then the Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2019, released by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) found that at least 80% of businesses had experienced sustained and frequent phishing attempts last year.
Ironically there seems little to discourage the criminals, with only 1% of UK cyber-crimes leading to a prosecution, which compares badly to the 17,900 cases of computer hacking reported in 2018.
These figures highlight the need for law firms to do everything they can to protect themselves, as there is little likelihood of cyber-crime reducing any time soon. And unfortunately, it seems that the vast majority of businesses are still struggling to plan for data breaches and attacks of this nature.
The DCMS report also claims that only 56% of respondents had a valid cyber certification in place and only 16% have implemented any formal procedures or cybersecurity incident management processes.
Staff training was also poor with only 37% of businesses actively training staff to spot a cyber threat, which shows some irony as they are usually the focus for most attacks.
We recognise that clients typically believe it is the responsibility of the MSP to handle security of their information and data, despite the possibility of each user within the client business to fall victim to a cyber-attack.
This has forced MSPs to adopt a security-first mindset, not just centred around solutions though, but also on processes on what to do if an attack takes place and any associated recovery. An MSP who understands and can confidently support your business around cybersecurity will have a strong point of difference when you are making decisions.
2) Doing the day job with an app-first strategy
Security is the number one consideration, but the bills must be paid and the day job must still be done. So not only does your MSP have to support the security aspect it is critical that they also have an app-first strategy around your business.
Here are a few of the questions you should ask and have confidence in the answers.
What are the mission-critical applications on which your organisation relies? Here is where IT needs to strike a balance between delivering high availability and ongoing security.
What are the business-critical applications helping to improve the productivity of your lawyers? Legal services and other lines of business will need peak performance for business operations, but IT will also need to secure the sensitive data collected.
What are the customer-facing applications that help you engage directly with your clients? These might require the flexibility to handle sharp spikes in usage, without unnecessarily eating up costly resources.
When working with clients around their digital journey the conversation with the best service providers should focus on security, infrastructure, cloud and connectivity, as each one of these areas will be dictated to by the app-first approach.
Anyone of the major components within the solution can affect the way applications operate, especially practice management systems, with a knock-on effect on the overall operation.
3) Emerging technologies shape the future MSP
There are several technology trends emerging that are forecast to impact the UK legal market, with Artificial Intelligence (AI) perhaps the one currently gaining most attention and indeed momentum.
With massive investment in the technology from all the major technology players and the rise of productised AI, we are now seeing it becoming more and more accessible law firms of every size.
With the advent of cloud technology, AI is becoming cheaper, faster and far more accessible. The ability to utilise the technology on a per-use basis, rather than the traditional investments methods, only adds to the attraction and its growing use will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the UK legal sector.
The ability to exploit this technology and support your journey will depend on the skillset and understanding within the MSP. The best will demonstrate a deep understanding and partner network that will support your journey – blockchain, virtual reality, augmented reality will also find favour in 2019 and beyond.
4) Cloud solutions will require greater subtlety
Cloud is now increasingly used to create new platforms to enhance customer engagement as businesses seek to drive digital transformation.
Application of multi-cloud environments is enjoying significant growth, with customers relying mainly on just one cloud, while using others more sporadically, which should see leading MSPs offering consumption-based pricing models.
One of the most critical areas that you should consider is how MSP’s proposition is supporting cost optimisation, it is estimated that cloud spend is 30% over where it should be due in many ways to the complexity and volumes of the environments.
It is critical that the MSP understand governance, security, and compliance and has a level of expertise when it comes to your requirements for cloud optimisation.
5) Growing demand for outcome-based services
Result-based outcomes with pre-defined or expected standards are likely to be in more demand, with MSPs needing to develop a full-stack service rather than single-tower services.
Therefore, MSPs will evolve their style of management and the functions they deliver, backed by an ability to offer consulting services to help ensure measurable results.
Reasons to shortlist MSP in the legal sector
We have written extensively on this subject in recent months, but to recap, we believe that when you are drawing up a shortlist of MSPs, their offering should be more than just a list of IT-related services – their expertise with Cloud and IT systems should be a given.
The cloud marketplace has changed everything dramatically and now the service offered by MSPs must be client-focused around the solution, its delivery and ongoing management. The solutions should be tailored to what you need, not necessarily what is easiest for them to deliver.
The best service providers will adopt new technologies, whilst investing in the people and associated infrastructure to support their clients’ current and future requirements.
The offering should include the deployment and management of cloud solutions, some solely public, some combining public and private clouds and other deployments including on-premise – whatever works best for the law firm.
And perhaps most importantly, the chosen MSPs must understand the legal sector and the unique challenges faced by firms like yours, with relatable experience deploying solutions and services in a law firm environment.
The MSPs should demonstrate experience working with law firms of all sizes, from single office firms to larger multi-site firms, including international locations.
If they are to help you on your journey of digital transformation, ask yourself if they have the experience to consult on your future IT strategy and help advise your direction of travel?