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Q&A: JWS Lawyers CIO, Ross Forgione

Q&A: JWS Lawyers CIO, Ross Forgione

Forgione talks about the law firm’s move from BlackBerries to iPhones

JWS Lawyers CIO, Ross Forgione, at Cisco Live in Melbourne.

JWS Lawyers CIO, Ross Forgione, at Cisco Live in Melbourne.

Since joining Adelaide law firm Johnson Winter & Slattery (JWS) in 2011 as CIO, Ross Forgione has introduced technology designed to help the firm’s practioners.

Faced with a large inter-state travel bill and the need to keep partners abreast of the latest law developments, he began the roll out of five Cisco Telepresence videoconferencing systems in April 2012 at its Adelaide, Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane offices.

After JWS’s lawyers started using the system internally, they invited clients into the videoconferencing areas. This meant that the lawyers could work with clients across Australia and internationally.

The TelePresence systems have been so successful that JWS has installed two more video conferencing systems in its Sydney and Adelaide offices.

During the Cisco Live conference in Melbourne, Forgione took time out to speak with CIO Australia about other projects at the law firm and why the iPhone is still his favourite gadget.

What are some of the technology projects you have been working on?

Our intention is to migrate off the BlackBerry platform onto the iPhone. We’ll be replacing approximately 75 BlackBerries.

This achieves a couple of goals for us in tethering in terms of reducing network communications costs and providing a link to our partners who need to be connected to the office without having to provide a wireless dongle and installing software. It is a lot simpler to tether with the iPhone.

Because the iPhone uses more of an active sync approach with large mailboxes, it’s more or less instant. With a large mailbox, the BlackBerry server needs to do its synchronisation process before it can update the [mail] client.

We’re coming from the traditional BlackBerries with the keypad so the screen real estate is not great. If you’re trying to read lots of documents on those screens, the benefits outweigh the emotional attachment some staff have to their devices.

We also have iPads in trial with a select few partners. It’s about matching that product to a specific role because we have a team that is reading documents on a regular basis. If you look at the demographic of the partners in the firm, the Gen Y staff expect those devices.

We also have senior partners with established work practices who deliver for their clients. We will offer them the iPad services and training if they want to go through that process.

What are some of the challenges you face in the role of CIO?

Conveying the benefits that IT can deliver to an organisation in a way which is relatable is challenging.

CIOs need to link the business challenges and hit all the right touch points to help the executives in the organisation see the value and benefit. Once they are along on the journey, it runs smoothly because they can see you are delivering the results.

How important is it for you to have a good relationship with the CFO?

I work very closely with the chief operating officer and the general manager of finance, who is effectively our CFO, sits near me. Because we are in close proximity, we talk on a regular basis. I see that as critical because in this organisation the COO is the conduit to the management committee. It’s through him that we build relationships and we can talk to individual partners on the board.

What is your favourite gadget?

I’d have to default to the iPhone simply because of its flexibility and what you can achieve with it. The phone also allows me to strike a good work/life balance so after 7PM at night I won’t check my emails until the next morning. If the phone rings, that’s a different story, I respond straight away.

Hamish Barwick travelled to Cisco Live in Melbourne as a guest of Cisco

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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