"When we set out to research telephony we were not aware of unified communications," Low says, but during the research they became increasingly aware of technology and processes that would enable collaboration and unified communications seemed to provide these functions and tick all their required boxes.
"It fitted in with the business efficiency improvements that we've been focussing on. Unified comms is part and parcel of keeping information in a single place," Low says. Mills & Reeve was already using a telecoms system developed by Redstone using Cisco hardware. Low wanted to remain with Cisco because although he had looked at some impressive technology from other providers, he wanted to be sure that the supplier would be around in the future. "Some of the more traditional telephony providers changed their offer due to Microsoft Live coming on to the market," Low says of the procurement process.
Low used a consultant to vet the various vendors keen for the Mills & Reeve contract, with Redstone, a company they already used, coming back as one of the recommended providers. With the list narrowed down, Low created a panel from across the business to assess the merits of each system on offer. A wiki was created for members of the panel to add their requirements for a system to. This narrowed the list down to two and then the vendors were invited in to Mills & Reeve to demonstrate to the panel before the final selection. The panel worked well, "Occasionally people were fixated on particular items they required and it was difficult to get them to see the whole picture of an eight year investment.
Redstone integrated IPFX unified communications software that can deliver 10 communications capabilities through a Cisco network. These include internet telephony, a PC console for managing communications and connecting telephony to the functionality within Microsoft Outlook. "IPFX are smaller and I liked what they offered. When investing in technology it needs to be an eight year investment."
"Lawyers live on Outlook," Low says of the main attraction of IPFX and he has now even integrated the company document management system into the communications system. "Therefore it's a single place for all their information and its support model for their working." Low doesn't expect unified communications to drive down costs, but is certain the improved information management abilities will help then lawyers. For example when a lawyer is working on a matter (a subject to be tried or proved in court) and they make related calls, these will automatically billed to that case account. "We see it as a time saving. A lot of time is spent responding to bills, if a cost such as a call cannot be explained, it will lead to a right off of that item on the bill." Therefore any system that improves the billing efficiency of an organization is going to be welcomed.
Low is honest about the widespread adoption of the technology though. "Lawyers don't like change, they are traditional in the way they work. The challenge will be getting them to take advantage of it, as they don't like technology being pushed at them."
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