Earlier we posted part I of this two part Q&A with legal technology veteran Tom Lee where we discussed the history and future of document management and he ended by joking that I was giving him too many difficult questions. So in part II I lightened things up a bit but still managed to slip in some tough questions.
Q: OK Tom, a bit of light relief now, what Football Team do you support?
Tom: CHELSEA FC - I have been a Chelsea fan since I was eight years old.
My Grandfather, Father and several of my uncles were regulars to Upton Park to watch home matches at West Ham United. This was in the heady days of Geoff Hurst, Johnny Sissons, Martin Peters and of course, the great Bobby Moore. Come to think of it, almost everyone in my family supported West Ham United as most lived within walking distance of the ground.
The first game I remember seeing was West Ham v Burnley which I didn't like very much. However, the second was West Ham v Chelsea and right there, the bug bit! I was never a regular supporter i.e. watch every game, I was more a follower because at 3.00pm every Saturday I was playing also.
Believe it or not, I still play a bit for Marbella Vets and I am quite proud to say, I am still one of their younger players. Although, these days it takes me about fifteen minutes to warm up, I play for around twenty minutes, my knees give way, and it's straight to the shower!
Q: How have UK firms reacted to the idea of SaaS and cloud computing?
Tom: If you had asked me that question just eighteen months ago my answer would have been radically different. However, with the advent of BT's 21CN backbone giving far greater bandwidth and QoS to business this undoubtedly has increased the uptake of software being provided to the desktop as a service.
I think that UK firms are beginning to adopt the SaaS model for a number of very good reasons. Firstly, over the past year or so, we have witnessed smaller companies from a plethora of industries embrace the cloud model. Indeed, we have quite a number of clients that are totally in the cloud i.e. they don't even have a Network Server! All software is delivered as a service from within the cloud. I can also include my company, Quintec International where we run our CRM, Accounting, Document Management, Email, Telephony and Time Recording software, all in the cloud!
More recently, the adoption of SaaS for larger companies has been quite phenomenal compared with just a year ago when the take-up could only be described as sluggish! I can honestly say that I have only witnessed one such radical transformation in I.T. which compares with the move towards SaaS. This was back in the 1978/9 when almost every company moved away from the Mainframe environment onto semi intelligent distributive processing by adopting the WANG range of mini computers, among others! I think we are witnessing a similar event here - it's a mass migration, and just like the events of the late seventies, definitely one for the history books!
Of course, people out there would expect me to say that Cloud is the best thing since sliced bread, as I am in the business of providing Cloud based services and software! OK, my comments may drum up a little business but I don't think so! This is far more reaching than that, I don't know of a single I.T. Director or Head of I.T. who is not planning to a move to the cloud in some way shape or form over the next year!
I can still see large companies maintaining some of their legacy back-office systems such as accounting, practice management and you could throw Human Resources into that for the next few years but for front-end processing where your users have to work in a multitude of environments, there use of CRM, document management, document production & manipulation these seem to be moving faster than I had anticipated.
I have to add at this juncture that there is a vast reduction in the cost of ownership for SaaS adopters. We have recently carried out analysis at several large companies where we halved the cost of ownership over conventional software. These savings are further reduced when you include the cost of both Disaster Recovery and Online Backup; the additional savings in this area are considerable!
Q: If you were to start a law firm today, what technology would you start with?
Tom: Put simply, I would never start a law firm! Far too complicated for me!
We started our company with the idea that we will never own a Network server. Quintec International is now totally in the cloud and I wouldn't have it any other way. I must confess the day we moved into our new offices a little over a year ago I was still a little skeptical because I had used client/server technology for so long and had relied on it, I was comfortable!
After one year, I can say that I have had no down-time whatsoever and the services delivered over the internet are fast, intuitive, and I can work from anywhere in the world, and believe me, I have found myself in some rather unusual places. I even work from my place in Spain way up in the mountains where the internet service is notoriously bad. I also work on my documents on the train up to London on my iPhone so I don't have to lug a heavy laptop around town.
Besides, if our guys are recommending our software products to clients surely they need to be using it themselves... don't they?
So my answer to your question, if I were to start a law firm what technology would I use? I would have to say Software as a Service delivered from the Cloud.
Danny: I'd like to thank Tom for the insightful and excellent discussion.