DAC Beachcroft: At a glance

Team size: 110
Andrew Keith, COO
David Aird, IT Director (Reports to Andrew Keith)
Investment in IT: Circa 6.5% of revenue
Innovation: No separate division – focus on driving innovation throughout the firm
Key objectives: World class basics; strategic data; security; infrastructure simplification; ebracing technological change; buy not build
Immediate priorities: Major office move; digital refresh including Windows 10 and Skype for Business; 3E implementation
Andrew Keith, COO, DAC Beachcroft
What is your remit as COO when it comes to IT within the firm?
My remit is to coordinate and leadthe business services within the firm, (excluding finance). I represent business services on the executive board, I influence strategy at a board level and execute strategy across all our locations..
How does that affect IT? Well, the IT Director, David Aird, reports to me and we have accountability and responsibility for the delivery of our IT capability across the business. On a day-to-day basis, it is David who leads the IT department and sees to execution of the strategy.
How big is the IT department and what functions exist within it?
We have around 110 people in the department. We have an enterprise architecture team; business solutions team; projects team; operations team, which includes site support, applications support and a service desk; and then we have a management information team. So, you start off with design, then you move into development with business solutions team, delivery through ourprojects team, we operate in operations and then report through management information.
And where does innovation sit in relation to the IT team?
Innovation is something that we as a firm want to embed across all our operations – not just in business services but across our legal teams as well. We don’t have a specific innovation piece because everyone is responsible for innovating in our view.
What we do have is a methodology for capturing those ideas, and then turning that into a design, with finance wrapped around it. So, we make sure we know what we are doing, what the ROI is, and then we on deliver that. Those ideas could come from anywhere. Part of  my job is then coordinating all that, bringing together IT, data scientists, the business process teams, HR, practice management, whatever is required, to deliver the solution to the business.
Do you have any plans to change the shape or size of the team?
We continually assess whether our current structure is delivering what we want to deliver. Certainly, the board is very keen to understand the most effective ways of driving innovation and the delivery of our projects, and those are really interesting conversations that ensure we are always seeking to strengthen our teams and the way work.
What are the key objectives for the IT function at DAC Beachcroft?
Focus on world class basics; mine our data strategically; be secure; simplify our infrastructure; be resilient; embrace technology change across the business and buy not build as appropriate.
What about specific projects or priorities for 2019?
We have a number of major projects under way on a firm-wide basis. We are moving to significant new premises in London. That will be a big project for the IT team. We recently opened a new office in Paris, as well, which has been an interesting challenge due to the speed we needed to complete that. That required a lot of resources but we managed it in time.
We are also coming off the back of a significant investment in a complete refresh of our some of our core systems, including Windows 10, Skype for Business and Intapp Time. We are in the midst of a 3E implementation. All these strategic projects are going to run through 2019.
What level of investment does IT receive within the firm?
We are benchmarking at around about 6.5 per cent, or perhaps a little more than that. It is really important that our business, as a whole, is technologically advanced, therefore investment will grow in line with the growth of our firm. Last year, we saw a lot of investment with a number of those big projects being put in place. The next part of the cycle will involve consolidation, doing what we are doing really well.
Can you elaborate on why you have made the decision to buy and not build?
Historically, we have taken a developmental approach and I think that has created a a more complex IT ecosystem. . The market for legaltech products is much more sophisticated than it was even five or six years ago. Many of those products can deliver what we need through vanilla implementation. A vanilla approach means our upgrade pathways are simpler, our maintenance is simpler, our usage is simpler, our integrations are simpler. The challenge, therefore, is to bring our procurement  and vendor management to world class levels..
What is your approach to shadow IT?
I think we are pretty good at not having too much shadow IT. We are pretty good at hunting that down and embracing it where it’s right and managing it where it’s not a priority. It may make me a hostage to fortune, but I don’t think we have too much shadow IT.
What is your biggest challenge or frustration when it comes to your IT responsibilities?
From an IT perspective, and I don’t think we are particularly unique in this, I think our biggest challenge is managing the level of change that IT strategy is going to bring. The challenge is to make it easy for people to take up and learn new technology and then reap the benefits.
If we were toasting your success in five years’ time, what would we be toasting?
All the systems that we are putting in place would be well used, and used well. That is all about adoption and change acceptance. It’s about understanding the new technology that is there to make our clients lives easier, and the lives of our lawyers easier as they deliver the sophisticated services we provide for those clients.