A transformation has been taking place over the last few years in the workplace. The legal sector is one of many industries which have been exploring the benefits of agile working, providing employees with the opportunity of working more flexibility both in terms of hours and location.
Offering more flexibility to fee earners not only helps to attract and retain talent, but it can also improve efficiency and free up office space, reducing overheads and increasing profits. However, successfully adopting agile working often requires certain adjustments, not least of which is the implementation of an effective remote infrastructure.
What is the basic infrastructure which needs to be put in place to implement agile working?
Moving to the cloud
Although it is possible to offer agile working using an on-premise IT infrastructure, the costs of doing so can prove prohibitive and this requires a dedicated in-house IT team on hand 24/7. It generally makes financial sense to move existing operations to a cloud-based environment and take advantage of Software as a Service (SaaS) products; practice management, case management and CRM software can all be transferred to a remote infrastructure. Aside from the agile working benefits which which come with harnessing SaaS, it can also improve cybersecurity and data protection by eliminating the need for USB devices, print-outs and unnecessary emailing of confidential documents.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) refers to the use of personal laptops, smartphones and other communications devices for workplace activity. Allowing staff to use a single set of devices can help to streamline remote working, avoiding the need to switch between personal and work hardware. However, there are concerns which arise with BYOD - not least security - so it's a good idea to have a policy in place which sets out any rules and expectations.
Benefits of allowing third party to remotely manage infrastructure
Handing over on-premise IT infrastructure to be remotely managed by a cloud provider will undoubtedly raise various questions and not every firm will be at the right stage of its digital transformation to make this change. However, there are some key benefits which should be considered, including:
- Freeing up time of key IT personnel – rather than spending most of the time “keeping the lights on” in terms of managing the on-premise IT, with a remotely managed infrastructure in place IT managers can work on more productive tasks
- Allow IT to be more strategic – working in a cloud environment can help to promote a “failing fast” approach which encourages trial and error when developing new IT systems and products
- Improved cybersecurity – using a cloud provider allows a firm to leverage world class expertise to manage the security risks, which is particularly crucial with an increased focus on data protection in light of the forthcoming GDPR
Cultural aspects around remote working
Aside from the practical aspects of adopting a remote infrastructure, there are also cultural implications which need to be considered if it forms part of a move towards agile working. The move from a 9-5 office based mentality to a more independent way of working will not suit everyone; although many staff will appreciate the greater flexibility, some fee earners may find the reduced routine and loss of regular contact with colleagues challenging.
It's important to manage any move towards agile working sensitively and to avoid any sudden changes which could otherwise affect staff morale. Providing effective infrastructure to allow remote working is not enough; HR should be involved with planning a gradual digital transformation which works for everyone.
Points to keep in mind for remote infrastructure management
When selecting a suitable third party IT provider for your remote infrastructure, it's worth checking that their policies meet any compliance requirements. Consider the following points:
- SLA – what is the stated uptime?
- Where are the remote servers based? Could the geographical location impact upon jurisdiction?
- Data protection – are they aware of SRA rules and prepared for GDPR?
- Will the firm own the data at all stages – including termination?
- What are the cybersecurity credentials?