Next Generation Of Legal Service Delivery


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Case study appearing in the July 2012 edition of Peer to Peer about next generation elexica.

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Next Generation Of Legal Service Delivery

  1. 1. peer Law2020®topeer the quarterly magazine of ilta Two Years and Counting June 2012 The Next Generation of Legal Service Delivery by David Fitch of Simmons & Simmons LLP “elexica” is Simmons & Simmons’ online • Consolidate our market position, making the elexica content legal service that is used to deliver know-how, training and value- set and user experience more representative of a leading added services to clients and contacts of the firm. It also has a international law firm developing range of subscription-based online services. When first launched over 10 years ago, elexica was market- In January 2012, the next-generation elexica service was launched. leading. Despite being “home-grown” and implemented in a It was a complex (and ambitious) project, but one that has resulted in the very cost-effective way (some would say on a shoestring), elexica delivery of a world-class online service of which the firm can be proud. developed into an online service with over 20,000 subscribers and 7,000 resources (including a broad range of legal and regulatory know-how, specialized microsites, video-based training and video Building the Business Case podcast resources). There is no doubt that the last three years have been challenging In 2010, the firm set out to completely rebuild the service. The for business. Law firms have not been immune to the impact of the strategic drivers behind the project were to: global financial crisis and the pressures to provide “more for less” while attempting to protect overall profitability. • Provide a stronger platform on which to develop our The case for investing in the development of a service like subscription-based online services business elexica therefore needed to be compelling for it to be approved by the firm’s international executive committee (IEC). Our business • Improve (and automate) the firm’s e-marketing to clients and case was, in many ways, simple: contacts
  2. 2. The Next Generation of Legal Service Delivery • We wanted to further develop our subscription-based online (especially around security management, user administration, business (with an ambitious growth plan for the next five permissions and e-marketing). years) We were ultimately excited about the provider based in Australia. We liked their work, their understanding of our business • We needed to respond to client feedback regarding our drivers and the way they treated us during the RFI/RFP process. perceived “scatter gun” approach to e-marketing, giving They presented a compelling argument that Sitecore was a stronger clients more choices and control over what they receive technical solution for our requirements and gave us confidence that we could run a development project from the other side of the • Doing nothing was not an option because the technology and world, regardless of the difference in time zones. infrastructure being utilized were coming to the end of their shelf life and would no longer be supported Preparing the Project The IEC was receptive to the business rationale proposed, The RFI/RFP process confirmed our preference for the “left field”but wanted to see more detailed cost models and a recommended solution — a digital agency (BlueArc Group) based in Sydney,approach before committing to the project. developing on Danish technology (Sitecore). We were confident in bringing together a team virtually, using tools like WebEx and Live Meeting. We were also mindful that if handled correctly, weAssessing the Market could use the time zone differential to our advantage — allowingWithin the preceding year, we had approached and tested a number development to take place during Sydney business hours andof providers and technology solutions, but we weren’t confident review during London’s business day, we had the potential to keepabout selecting a provider until a thorough RFI/RFP process was the project moving 16 hours a day.completed. In late 2010, we commenced this process with the In early 2011, we moved into the commercial negotiationsupport of 3Kites, a London-based consultancy we trusted to help phase (working on the basis of time and materials in the earlyfacilitate the process in a fair and impartial way. scope and analysis phases to a fixed fee for the various stages of We contacted well-known suppliers and one from left field build). While the commercial side was being locked down, we were(a digital agency based in Sydney, Australia). A key part of early lining up our internal project team, bringing together our specialistsdiscussions in the market assessment was technology-focused: from KM, IT and business development to lead the project. Our team, based in London and Hong Kong, brought together a useful • Should we use Microsoft SharePoint? mix of skills. By March 2011, we were in good shape to get started. • Were there better Web content management systems (than Contracts with the vendor were signed, licensing discussions SharePoint) for producing a public-facing website? with Sitecore were underway, we were exploring options for a managed infrastructure and we had locked in a high-level • Given the requirements around producing a complex timeline for analysis and prototyping to commence onsite in multilingual site, could we exclude any solutions or providers London in April. in an early phase? • Could we utilize social tools or open-source software for a lighter, more cost-effective design and build? Rapid Prototyping To Elicit Requirements The RFI/RFP process was a helpful way to understand Eliciting business and functional requirements is often a difficultdifferent ways we could deliver our solution and prioritize our task. Upon arrival in London, our lead from BlueArc spent time withrequirement set. It allowed us to meet and get to know a number each of our key stakeholders, learning about the current solutionof vendors, and it enabled us to exclude a number of solutions and what we wanted to achieve in a new one.early in the process because they did not meet essential minimum Instead of translating these requirements into a writtenrequirements. The process produced a short list of two candidates: document, they were turned into a series of wireframe prototypes that were used to map out key functional requirements, allowing the • A U.K.-based provider specializing in SharePoint development team to visualize how the site would be assembled. The wireframe prototype carried no graphic design but provided us with: • An Australia-based provider specializing in Sitecore development • The overall sitemap • High-level navigation We were concerned about our ability to get a SharePoint • Page layouts (including page elements)site to market quickly and whether SharePoint (out of the box) • Various user journeys and how they would operate throughcould deliver a number of our more sophisticated requirements the site
  3. 3. The Next Generation of Legal Service Delivery Proceeding to elicit requirements through rapid prototyping/ • That we are a leading, world-class international law firmwireframing was incredibly valuable. • The brand values of the firm, our people and culture • That we are forward-thinking and innovative • That we are experienced and trusted advisers in the sectors inCreating the Functional Specification which we operateOnce the prototyping exercise was completed, our next objectivewas to create a functional specification that provided a complete Designing by committee is always difficult because designblueprint of the site and how it was to be developed. The (and usability) is subjective. Each of us had a perspective on whatspecification covered: we wanted to see in the new site, and the early concepts produced were actually very close to the design that we settled on. That was a • Information architecture real credit to the creative designer. • Security and user permissions When talking to our lawyers and clients about the new • Navigational and functional components site, feedback has commonly centered on the simplicity of the • Administration and content management design and its ease of use. Our project team is proud of this • Content templates and features accomplishment, and we are very appreciative of the support we • Integration points received from our development partner during this process. The specification document was self-contained and allowedour project team (and the development team) to come together Agile Developmentand share a joint understanding of what we were building (and Like many Web development projects, we followed a mix ofnot building). waterfall and agile methodologies in different phases of the project. Working our way through the functional specification (all 170 We followed an agile methodology during development, producingpages of it) was the most time-consuming — and most important four sprints in relatively quick succession.— aspect of the project, and we had to get it right. We completed The first of the sprints was quite a large build (probably muchit in iterations, spending time on each of the key site areas, bigger than you would ordinarily see). Sprint one gave us theproviding feedback and then signing off on sections sequentially. website foundation, including:Once all sections were reviewed, the specification was signed offin its entirety. • The first series of content templates Although this was a time-consuming process, it was worth the • Various common panels and facetstime and effort invested. The document continues to be a reference • Basic content management and administrationpoint for us and a valuable aide-mémoire on the decision-making • Core functionality, such as user registration and multiplerationale during the early phase of the project. languages Sprint one was therefore the largest of the four, and otherProject Budget and Timeline aspects of the site depended on it.The specification document addressed two other important aspects Each subsequent sprint added additional (and richer) siteof the project — providing a mechanism that allowed us to: functionality. By the time we had completed the third sprint, we had a stable site in which we felt confident that we could • Detail the costs of project delivery more accurately commence the process of migrating content from the old system. • Project our timeline for completion When seeking our budgetary approval for the project, we had Testinga broad estimate because all of the details of the build had not yet It took time and attention to detail to review each of the sprintsbeen extracted. The specification process helps you form an idea from a functional and usability perspective. This is one of theof what is essential to include, the “nice-to-haves” and those areas areas where we used the Australia to London time zone differencethat can be excluded or delayed until a later phase. to our advantage — we reviewed work during London business We also started to have a much clearer view of key project hours and handed things over to Sydney, and updates were readymilestones and when we would need to line up resources to for us the following morning. Although routine morning callssupport the review of development sprints, content migration and were sometimes onerous, this aspect of the project worked well,user testing. allowing us to move at a good pace and stay on track with other day-to-day tasks. As with the functional specification, the more time you canCreative Design invest in testing, the better your system will be.One of the most exciting parts of the project was seeing the We tested across platforms and browsers, making sure the sitewebsite come to life through the creative design process. We behaved well with IE, Safari, Firefox and Google Chrome. Lookingwanted to convey to our audience: back, getting functions and features to operate under IE was
  4. 4. The Next Generation of Legal Service Deliveryconsistently more difficult than in the other browsers. We had to those around user validation, security and permissions.make aspects of the site backward-compatible (e.g., video), where Over one weekend in January, we brought the old elexicawe built to support HTML5 and provided backward compatibility system down and began the process of switching to the newwith Flash for older browsers. platform. When we had finished on Sunday evening, DNS records Overall, we invested hundreds of hours in testing the various had been updated to point to the new site and, as far as the outsidesprints and giving meticulous (some might say overly meticulous) world was concerned, we were “live.”feedback to the development team. Our attention to detail, The following Monday, we triggered over 11,000 emailthorough testing and feedback paid off however, as we anticipated messages from the Sitecore CMS, inviting our elexica subscribers tomany problems early, dealing with them weeks before we were revalidate their accounts on the next-generation platform. It was ascheduled to go live. rather stressful day, but certainly satisfying!Content and User Migration Was the Project a Success?A significant part of the project involved the automated migration Since launching the next-generation platform, feedback fromof around 7,000 articles and newsletters, and the manual migration our clients and contacts (as well as lawyers internally) hasof microsites, training resources and video podcasts. We formed the been positive. The features that have resonated most with ourview that we could automate the migration of routine resources, subscribers are:and that it was worth the time and effort to rebuild the morespecialized areas. • The ability to operate the site in a choice of eight languages, We had previously been using a number of different video including Chinese and Japanesehosting providers (a different provider for the online training videosand another for the weekly video podcasts that were integrated • Personalization and user preferences, allowing subscribers to with iTunes). As part of the rebuild, we wanted to standardize how tailor the content they view and the alerts they receiveour videos were managed (moving to MP4 from WMV), and wewanted to manage the assets in one place. • Visual (map-based) navigation and report builders to improve We had to completely rebuild and upload content for our content access and report creationsubscription-based online services. This required an extreme attentionto detail because clients pay for the service and rely on the information • Complete mobile compatibility, allowing the site to be viewed contained in the services to inform management decisions. across platforms and on many mobile devices, including iPad, Agreeing to a process and then migrating the 20,000+ elexica iPhone and Androidsubscribers was a logistical exercise in itself. Our objective was tomake it easy for our clients and contacts to seamlessly revalidate Twelve weeks in, we have 8,000 active users on the system.their elexica accounts in the new system (hopefully in one click, Eighty-five percent of subscribers are taking the time to build theirwith minimal additional details required). We culled our subscriber personal profiles, the majority electing for a weekly digest and thedatabase prior to migrating user accounts, ensuring that invalid delivery of breaking news addresses (accounts where we had bounce-backs) were We have been able to retire our old platform and feelexcluded. We also decided we would not automatically migrate an confident that the system we’ve built will provide a solid foundationelexica subscriber who had not logged in during the last two years. for at least the next five years. We have built the system in a veryOur user migration covered around 11,000 “active” users. modular way, which is important as we consider the development of the next round of subscription-based services. We’re proud of the project we delivered, which is a credit toPreparing To Launch our team internally and our development partner, BlueArc Group,In late November 2011, we made the decision to delay the launch who proved to be one of Australia’s leading digital agencies.for six weeks to allow for further testing and to upload as muchcontent as possible. At the time, this felt like an incredibly painful decision. With the What Would We Have Donebenefit of hindsight, it was absolutely the right decision to make. Not Differently?only did we have more time to test and migrate content, our internal Hindsight is always a wonderful thing, but there wasn’t too muchteam developed a deeper understanding of the content management we would change. We probably underestimated complexities in asystem. That six-week extension has since proven invaluable. few areas, such as: • Integration with our CRM system (InterAction) Launching the SiteWe “soft-launched” the system internally one week before the client • Multilanguage complications (especially how fonts were launch. This allowed us to check many of our processes, especially handled in the different browsers)
  5. 5. The Next Generation of Legal Service Delivery • Automated email alerts (i.e., the complexity of the business rules behind them and its overall implementation) • Video streaming We were fortunate to find solutions to tricky issues, andto have the time to test and work through scenarios on logicand business rules (especially where the CRM integration wasconcerned). One can always question whether we should have consultedour audience in more detail or asked more clients to be involved.Ultimately, I’m of the view that we struck a good balance, makingkey decisions confidently and seeking more specialized advice andfeedback when needed. Next-generation elexica is demonstrative of our firm’scommitment to remain at the forefront of legal service delivery.We are sure to see more firms creating innovative solutions as theyrespond to client demands to improve the quality and reduce thecost of the legal services being delivered. David Fitch is the Knowledge & Learning Director at Simmons & Simmons LLP. He is a recovering lawyer with an inquisitive (and sometimes disruptive) passion for technology. David has 10 years of experience at leading international law firms, developing and implementing knowledge systems andprocesses. He can be reached at peer This article was first published in ILTA’s June create innovative 2012 issue of Peer to Peer titled “Law2020®: Two topeer services reinvent Years and Counting” and is reprinted here with Yourself adapt to change permission. For more information about ILTA, visit the quarterly magazine of ilta their website at ® Law2020nting June | 12 issue 2 voluMe 28 Cou Two Years and illustration by thomas boucher, all rights reserved