By Russ Haskin, Senior Director, Business of Law Consulting

As my former peer and good friend, Mead Sarrett, once wrote in 2018, “Cloud computing is a broad-based definition for a software delivery system that is internet based; while traditionally, software was installed locally on servers. In today’s world, law firms are very hesitant to move to cloud-based computing. With recent security breaches making headline news, this comes as no surprise.”

How times change. Those fears quickly shifted to excitement and fervor in just two years. As firms struggled to work on-premise during the pandemic, moving to the cloud became much more attractive. The benefits of that switch can be significant for some firms. It allows for easier maintenance with quicker upgrades and roll-out of new features. It also enables the flexibility of working from anywhere. For some firms, operating costs can be reduced along with the burden of maintaining core systems internally. The pandemic brought these considerations into sharp focus.

Now, here at the tail-end of 2022, many legal technology vendors are primarily, if not solely, focused on cloud delivery.

So, where does that leave the hundreds of firms that have already invested in on-premise solutions? How should they go about moving to cloud alternatives?

First off, firms considering starting down the path to cloud need to do their homework and make preparations.

Set your strategy

Wilson Allen believes firms must understand the impact a shift to cloud-based systems has on their entire technology landscape and on their operations. Firms looking to the cloud should spend the proper effort creating a cloud migration strategy. By reviewing the current state and evaluating the people, processes, and technology that support operations, firms can be prepared to make the right decisions about cloud migration – approach, timing, sequence, and more.

The pathway to the cloud can be broken into four stages:

1. Cloud-readiness assessment - more below 2. Vendor discussions - vendor assessment and contracts 3. Preparation - operational and technical alignment 4. Implementation - the actual migration

Every firm should start with a cloud-readiness assessment, without exception.

If a firm leaps into the move-to-cloud decision without knowing the impact on operations, the results could be alarming.  For example, if your firm depends on customized fields and workflows within a business process and moves to a multi-tenant cloud solution, then it’s possible that those elements could be compromised depending on the chosen cloud solution. Mission-critical integrations may no longer be supported. Or client-imposed security requirements could be at risk.

Assess your readiness

Even if there is not a ‘gotcha’ issue discovered, the very act of reviewing operations and technology will allow the firm to align and document processes. And, this effort provides a clear roadmap—with identified costs and benefits—for the migration.

A cloud-readiness assessment should focus (at least) on the following areas:

1. Current infrastructure and technical gaps 2. Technology strategy 3. Master data management 4. Security and information governance 5. Operational deliveries Business challenges and desired improvements 7. Operational data elements 8. Processes and information flow 9. Personnel and resourcing needs 10 Ability, timing and sequencing

By self-diagnosing, ahead of engaging with the vendors, firms will clearly understand their current and desired future state and how that affects requirements. And only then can a comprehensive plan for their cloud considerations be completed.

As mentioned earlier, cloud fervor is genuine, and some firms may think this assessment effort just delays the inevitable. I don’t believe that’s correct. Undertaking a cloud readiness assessment is not as time intensive as it may appear—a proper evaluation can be completed in a few months even for the largest firms.

But, with the assessment done properly, law firms can move to the next stage—vendor discussions—in an informed manner and feel confident about what is needed, as the findings from the assessment will help shape the vendor approach and engagement. (I will explore this more in the next article.)

By taking the time upfront, the potential in time, effort, and money savings through the entire process is significant. Firms owe it to themselves to do this right.

If you’d like to learn more about how Wilson Allen can help you with cloud readiness, please contact us.

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