Staff: 70 across six offices Areas of work: Conveyancing; trusts, wills and probate; family; PI; commercial
Michele Morton, Head of IT and Accounts, shares how change management has been key to the firm-wide adoption of SOS Connect at Goughs.
What were the original reasons for investing in a new system? “In preparation for the changes in the legal market, in 2010 we decided it was time to move forward and become as efficient as possible. We were already using the legal accounting software from SOS to its full potential and needed an integrated system that would enable us to achieve more uniformity in the way people work in relation to case and matter management.”
What were your short and long-term objectives in moving to a new system? “Short-term – originally we wanted to keep to the same format we were using, but with improvements. Longer term – within two to three years we wanted workflow for each department but in a way that was not too intrusive, which supported efficient ways of working rather than hindering people.”
What is your business strategy and how does IT fit in? “We have a five-year business plan designed to ensure we maintain our position as a leading Wiltshire legal business and stand out from our competitors. We recognise that in order to progress the plan we need up-to-date technology and streamlined processes across every area of the business.”
What process did you follow in looking for a (new) supplier? “We took the time to research the market as it was not a foregone conclusion that we would go with SOS Connect, although it quickly became evident that moving elsewhere would cause unnecessary heartache as SOS Connect, as a product, and SOS, as a company, stood out from the others.” Why did you choose SOS? “The working relationship with SOS was a key factor. We firmly believe in building strong relationships with expert partners to ensure we get the most from our investment. With regard to the product, the complete integration with Outlook was the star attraction.”
How was the changeover to SOS Connect? “It was pain-free. We didn’t take any undue risks ensuring our time frames were realistic and moved at a pace which would suit all users. We have a fairly off-the-shelf version of SOS Connect, with some tailored workflows, and did not need a data conversion as we were already using SOS software, meaning at a technical level, that it was a smooth transition.“
How did you manage the switchover? “I liaised with the heads of each department and set up a committee to gather ideas and establish what their requirements were to enable us to go live. Next I organised road shows in each of our branches to encourage partner buy-in, and also to get support staff familiar with the system. Alongside this we provided a range of regular updates to communicate the status of the project. As go-live approached we held group training sessions as well as one-to-one training at work stations. This was all done at a pace designed to avoid a culture shock, which could put the business at risk. Now I tend to send a monthly update and release notes when needed, and we have a process for change requests.”
What advice would you give to a firm looking for a new supplier? “The product is the key but equally, the people. Aim to work with an organisation that has credibility and inspires confidence. That ensures a good working relationship and constant access to knowledge.”
How does the system underpin the work you do? “It’s simple: SOS Connect underpins processes across the firm and we can’t operate without it.”
Have you any tips for others rolling out a major system? “Be clear on your processes and don’t be tempted to over-script and pack every idea into any workflows you are creating – otherwise you will struggle to go-live on time with a workable system. Tailor the system to your needs so that it supports, rather than hinders, the way people work; keep it simple and allow people to work in their own ways as much as possible within the bounds of uniformity.”
What are the biggest benefits? “Having proper tools for database management, case management and time recording. Now staff have access to centralised information and a full case history without having to have the physical file in front of them. SOS Connect integrates seamlessly with Outlook so all electronic communication is automatically attached to the case and time is tracked. Being able to properly record time means we are realising the true value of our work and increasing income. Database management tools, such as alerts and email notifications, mean we are able to deal with things as they happen.“
What have been your biggest challenges? “The key is not making any workflows you require overcomplicated for the sake of it. We embraced everyone’s ideas about ways they wanted to work but were careful to analyse each idea as part of a wider process. This has ensured our workflows are as simple and uniform as possible.“
Do you have any examples of best practice in using the system? “We have Lexcel accreditation so it is important we maintain high standards and are in compliance with the changes being introduced by the SRA and Legal Services Act. With regard to risk assessment, we have file creation protocols that address conflict of interest and money laundering, for example. We can also run risk reports through SOS Connect which means that with the click of a button, we can create risk reports which are then sent immediately to our risk partner.”
Plans for the future in relation to technology? “We plan to use the online module from SOS. This will enable clients to access a portal so they can view their case, its history and current status. Over time we would also like to move towards online will writing and conveyancing.
We are also undergoing a major data health project. This has involved running reports through SOS Connect that show up any duplicate and missing records and will ultimately help provide our marketing manager with a deeper pool of knowledge.
We want to maximise our use of the marketing module so as to help our marketing manager understand exactly where our enquiries are coming from. This will make it easier to communicate with existing and prospective clients when it comes to organising client events and designing e-shots, for example.“
What three words best describe SOS to you? Friendly, expert and flexible.