In mid-January 2013, BT formally concluded the acquisition of Tikit Group. There then followed several months of organisational and personnel changes, but now with well over a year of experience under the bridge since the takeover, Legal IT Insider editor Charles Christian recently caught up with Tikit CEO Tim Springham and Jamie Ford, the Managing Director of BT Business Solutions (the BT division within which Tikit sits).
“Whenever you buy a business,” says Springham, “there is always a risk, so along with bridging the gap between the management of Tikit and the management of BT, one of our first priorities was explaining the rationale behind the acquisition to existing Tikit customers. BT bought Tikit for its performance and in depth knowledge of the legal market, and the last thing we wanted to do was harm Tikit or jeopardise its business.”
Springham adds “One of the objectives of the acquisition from the outset was to leverage Tikit’s expertise and benefit from their long term customer management experience to introduce BT to the legal sector and increase its involvement with the law firm in their communications and infrastructure needs. There are many synergies between software and infrastructure, networks and communications. The acquisition means that Tikit clients see the benefit of working with market leaders from both fields.”
Jamie Ford’s (pictured left) opinion is that “This is a very exciting acquisition. We’ve never been interested in just buying market share. Our strategy is always to take a successful business then invest in both it and its products to take the business to the next level. Yes, this will help BT grow its market in the legal space as Tikit have a real understanding of the legal business, as well as all their connections and explicit expertise however, it also comes at a pivotal time in the legal industry.”
He continues, “Today, we are seeing an exponential growth in data and the demand for data-related products and services, such as VoiP, the Cloud and data communications. BT has the scale, stability and financial performance to deliver the infrastructure needed to support this evolution, including hardware, networks, managed services, datacentres, storage and bandwidth. Mergers,” continues Ford, “are prompting law firms to look at optimising their global WANs. Ageing IT is driving an interest in infrastructure refreshes – we’ve got some mid-tier law firms where the partners have faster bandwidth at their homes than linking their offices. These factors are all driving classic IT and classic telecommunications closer together, particularly where firms are also looking at hosted VDI (virtual desktop infrastructures) strategies.”
“With the Tikit connection,” says Tim Springham (pictured left), “we simplify the equation because there is no longer a split between the IT and the comms suppliers. BT’s scale also means we can offer OPEX rather than CAPEX deals, so major IT infrastructure projects do not involve major capital expenditure coming out of the partners’ pockets. In fact we expect to see a big take-up of LAN-as-a-Service, where customers can specify the services they need and get the whole computing environment as a commoditised/ productised package on a scalable, pay-as-you-go basis. Not only does the firm cease to have to be its own systems integrator but it also fits in with the policy we are seeing in more and more organisations, including large law firms, of reducing the number of suppliers they have to deal with.”
One of the earliest changes brought in by BT was to move nearly 20 BT staff, specialising in communications and data product sales, into Tikit to provide a unified sales and customer account experience for the company’s legal customers. So, how did this work out?
Jamie Ford says “It is really encouraging the amount of success we are seeing and the progress the team have made.” He adds that Tikit is now able to deliver much more complete solutions. “ The economies of scale we can offer with managed services, everything from datacentres and Cloud support, mean that over the last few months Tikit have won contracts with many large law firms including Holman Fenwick (upgrade to global WAN), King and Wood Mallesons (installation of Cisco LAN), Walker Morris (Mintel IPT and WAN) and WP Thomson (Mintel 3300 telephone system with a Smartnumbers Proactive Recovery solution).”
“Firms recognise that, if we are providing a hosted desktop, it removes the need for them to continue to run their own integration and 1st and 2nd line support services. We can bring it all together – the applications, both our own and third-party systems (Tikit is already doing this with a number of clients) plus the integration plus the platform (including hardware where BT’s economies of scale also open the way to competitive pricing other vendors cannot match) all around a common hosted environment.”
Were there any surprises that BT didn’t anticipate on that snowy morning in January 2013, when Tim Springham first walked into the Tikit offices in Gough Square?
“I think it is fair to say we didn’t anticipate the opportunity for software development. We knew Tikit had some good products but we now realise they have far more potential than we first thought, particularly in the corporate legal department/general counsel sectors. This is the reason why we have been prepared to commit such large sums (including £1.2million alone on the Carpe Diem time recording system project) on major software development and upgrade projects.
“We see both the eMarketing (Emarketing v6.0 out later this year) and the latest version of the Template Management System (TMS 6.0 launched Q3 2013) as being horizontal rather than strictly vertical products with a potential in other markets besides legal.”
As for Carpe Diem, says Springham, the combination of the redevelopment plus a big push into mobile time recording (via iOS, Android, Windows 8, BB10 and HTML browser platforms), its integration with legal software applications and Microsoft Office to support passive time capture and the ability to ‘white-label’ it, so law firms can add their own branding to the product, will establish the next generation Carpe Diem as the predominant player in the global time recording market.
As part of the company’s commitment to its existing customers, the new software versions will be available as a free upgrade to users on support contracts (even Carpe Diem 2014, which is available now and Carpe Diem ‘Next Generation’ that will be released in early 2015). “Being a telco,” says Springham, “we are used to working on a subscription/rental model for our products – capital pricing is not in our psyche. One new innovation is all Tikit customers will be able to move from a traditional licence fee model to a subscription basis for all out own IP products. And, we are also now looking to extend this to include some of the third-party software applications we resell. Because of BT’s size, we have the financial resources and trading freedom to do this!”
The final words go to Jamie Ford: “We’re now just over a year and a half into the new era and I believe the next couple of years are going to be even more exciting. For me the key is the combination of Tikit’s specialist expertise with the breadth of products and economies of scale BT can offer. This is already delivering better services on all fronts, as well as opening up new opportunities for Tikit in the fields of networking, Cloud and VDI technologies.”