Office Suite Improves Process and Communication at Northern Irish Law Firm

Having identified three ways to improve business performance, Tughans, a Belfast-based law firm, achieved all of its goals by standardizing on a suite of business productivity tools from Microsoft. The seamless integration between the tools has delivered other unexpected benefits, such as creating more opportunities for employees to work remotely and improving customer relations.

Situation
It is easy to imagine that Tughans, established in 1898 and one of Northern Ireland’s leading law firms, is part of a profession that got stuck in time. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. The Tughans managing partners have long understood that information and communications technology (ICT) can be a differentiator, and they have always made the practice more competitive by giving the firm’s strong team of 120 legal professionals and administrators the latest high-tech tools.

Tughans was one of the first Irish law firms to issue smartphones to its partners and was an early adopter of virtualization in its data center. It is also a long-standing Microsoft customer, having identified that the suite of Microsoft Office applications was the best way to drive productivity and improve efficiency in a workplace where paperwork and document management underpin almost everybody’s job.

When it came to the latest refresh cycle, IT Manager David Marley saw an opportunity to leverage more from a new wave of Microsoft products. “We had a look around at alternatives, but it didn’t make any sense to move from Microsoft and change what people were used to. And there were significant advances in the new products that tied in with a lot of what we were planning,” he says.

Any IT investments had to be aligned with three strategic objectives of the business:

  • Improved workflow and communications. Tughans prints about 150,000 pages a month, a figure that it hoped to reduce with more document management and collaboration tools.

  • Remote working. Employees needed more flexibility, including the ability to work from home or during visits to client sites, while maintaining access to the same information from anywhere on any device.

  • Better customer interaction. Clients increasingly expect law firms to facilitate online interaction and provide ongoing visibility of work in progress.

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*Organizations like Tughans can see that there has to be something more efficient and cost-effective than having 50 bodies stuck in an office. With the new range of Microsoft products, you can give people full connectivity to a centralized data center and the applications they need, anywhere, anytime.*

Steven Goldblatt
Managing Director, Leaf Consultancy

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All three goals share a common thread of increased productivity and efficiency, making information worker (IW) solutions from Microsoft a natural fit for the company’s business needs.

Solution
Having implemented the Windows Server 2008 operating system and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data management software in its data center and after moving to the Windows 7 Professional operating system on PCs and laptops, Tughans was ready for the application layer to be deployed. It would be a complete software upgrade, carried out by Belfast-based Leaf Consultancy, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network.

Steven Goldblatt, Managing Director of Leaf Consultancy, immediately saw an opportunity for the company to make a giant leap forward. “Organizations like Tughans can see that there has to be something more efficient and cost-effective than having 50 bodies stuck in an office,” he says. “With the new range of Microsoft products, you can give people full connectivity to a centralized data center and the applications they need, anywhere, anytime. From an IT perspective, it’s much easier to control, and for the business, it makes people more productive.”

The software refresh entailed two phases: upgrading existing applications and introducing new ones. Implementing both at once had advantages for Tughans in terms of getting the most from its volume license agreement with Microsoft, but there was also significant productivity to be gained through the integration of the products.

“You can’t get all the benefits out of every package unless you move everything at once. Move everything up to the next level simultaneously and the productivity rewards are much more apparent,” says Marley.

The first phase involved an update from earlier versions of Microsoft Office and Microsoft Exchange Server to the 2010 editions. While new features and functionality are immediately of benefit to users, the real impact on the business came when Tughans invested in Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and Microsoft Lync Server 2010.

SharePoint Server 2010 allows organizations to set up websites to share information and collaborate—to work on documents from start to finish. It holds templates for electronic forms and is quickly searchable. Because it is integrated with Microsoft Office, SharePoint Server is a valuable workflow tool that replaces paper-based processes. Lync Server takes it further, facilitating access to SharePoint and the other applications from anywhere by using a suite of unified communication tools.

Employees can use one set of contacts across Lync and Office, and they can communicate from within applications by using tools like presence and instant messaging, ensuring that they reach the right person as quickly and effectively as possible.

The challenge that comes with liberating the workforce is retaining control over the company’s IT assets. Microsoft addresses this with Windows Intune software and services. Windows Intune is an online tool that uses Windows cloud services and Windows 7 to help manage and secure PCs from anywhere. Although Tughans is still testing Windows Intune, Marley is able to use the tool to extend the reach of the IT environment, addressing the needs of the business while keeping the environment under tight control, a prerequisite for his IT department.

In addition to improving internal communications, Tughans used SharePoint Server to improve customer communications. “It has become a big factor in tenders,” says Marley. “Customers want to collaborate on documents and be able to access work in progress in real time. SharePoint has made this possible. They don’t need to ring us up or send an email—they just go online and sign in.”

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*It has become a big factor in tenders. Customers want to collaborate on documents and be able to access work in progress in real time. SharePoint has made this possible. They don’t need to ring us up or send an email—they just go online and sign in.*

David Marley
IT Manager, Tughans

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Microsoft Dynamics CRM, a customer relationship management system that is accessible from the Microsoft Outlook messaging and collaboration client, was another application that slipped seamlessly into the set of Microsoft IW solutions. The marketing department at Tughans was the first to benefit from the deployment of Microsoft Dynamics, as it is helping the team to better profile customers, manage levels of satisfaction with online feedback forms, and provide fresh insights into the individual needs of customers, which will inform the business strategy going forward.

Benefits
The company’s experience highlights the advantages of building a business around the Microsoft IW solutions. Not only does standardizing on a technology alleviate risks associated with application upgrades, it lowers the overall cost. The biggest payoff, however, is the easy integration of a product suite that drives further productivity gains.

The power of the software has stretched far beyond routine tasks and infrastructure. Tughans now benefits from improved business processes and collaboration with SharePoint, desktop management that facilitates remote working with Lync Server, and improved understanding of customers with Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

“The driver for building a Microsoft environment is the seamless integration of diverse applications,” says Marley. “Before, we had all our information in different systems and none of it spoke to each other. Now, with SharePoint as the umbrella, everything will integrate and work well together.”

This is not just an IT project, however, and its alignment with business goals has been the key to its success, according to Adrian O’Connell, a Partner at Tughans. “As a modern law firm, Tughans has always had a keen interest in technology that delivers for us as a professional firm and as a business. In addition, clients are increasingly asking us to build more flexibility and access into our processes,” he says.

O’Connell identifies SharePoint as the key product. “Bringing these elements together, we identified SharePoint as the platform upon which to build existing and new functionality for a modern law firm with multiple practice areas, as well as the platform for realizing Tughans’s ongoing need for business and operational efficiencies.”

The familiarity of Microsoft helped the process. When applications like Outlook, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Excel spreadsheet software are standard workplace tools, the integration of more advanced productivity solutions like SharePoint and Lync Server is easier. As Tughans employees grow familiar with the new tools, “telephone tag” becomes a thing of the past, fewer emails are flying back and forth, and the printer is not as overworked. Unified communications changes the way people interact with one another and share information, which helps to break down the last bastion of white collar work: having to be in an office.

Microsoft Office 2010
Microsoft Office 2010 gives your people powerful, timesaving tools to do their best work from more places. With new capabilities and insightful updates to Excel, PowerPoint, Word, and Outlook, Office 2010 offers the complete package—with familiar, intuitive tools. Now you can express ideas, solve problems, connect with people, and create amazing results—in the office, at home, or on the go.

For more information about Microsoft Office, go to:
www.office.com

For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
www.microsoft.com

For more information about Leaf Consultancy, visit the website at:
www.leafconsultancy.com

For more information about Tughans, visit the website at:
www.tughans.com

Customer Size: Medium Organization
Industry: Legal; Professional Services
Country or Region: Northern Ireland
Solutions:
  • Microsoft Office 2010 Suites
  • Windows Server 2008
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2010
  • Microsoft Lync Server
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM
  • Windows 7 Professional
  • Windows Intune
Organization Profile:

Tughans is a leading legal practice based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, with a second office in Derry.

Business Situation:

Disparate systems and a paper-laden process were slowing down the business and reducing the company’s competitive edge.

Benefits:
  • Improved process
  • Better communications
  • Mobilized workforce
  • Enhanced productivity andcustomer relations
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