It’s the classic IT “build or buy” decision when it comes to deciding on a law firm’s approach to an intranet. What on the surface would appear to be the “safe” route is to go with Microsoft SharePoint. But that’s a bit like saying “no-one ever got fired for buying IBM” a couple of decades ago.

For me, SharePoint is a “part buy, part build” approach, as with SharePoint you buy the application, but then you have to build everything else. You want a calendar, it has to be built; a collection of news stories, it has to be built.

Then there’s the issue of cost. Costs come in two forms: physical costs for the things you buy, and time costs, either buying in someone’s time or the internal cost of tying up a member of the IT team to develop something.

SharePoint comes in two versions, WSS and MOSS. WSS is free with Windows Server 2003 (what do you mean you are still running Server 2000?). MOSS licences are server- and CAL- licence based and for a 100-employee law firm the total software cost can be as much as £7,000. A packaged application such as Intranet DASHBOARD can cost as little as 50 per cent of that for a typical installation of 100 end users.

The packaged approach

So what of the packaged approach? With packaged applications, of which there are many, one product delivers everything you need for a fully-featured intranet; not a set of technologies, web parts or building blocks that need to be assembled. Let’s use a car analogy. With a packaged intranet you purchase the car, on the road ready to drive, fitted out with full accessories and features. Other vendors supply the build it approach. They give you the engine parts, the wheels and the panels and you are expected to put it together to create a car.

Making the right choice of packaged application means that you get 80 per cent of what you need “out of the box”. You get the basics up and running quickly and can then use specialist tools, such as HR systems, as necessary.

Over the last two years, we have worked with over 15 law firms on their intranet strategy and our approach has been to resell a packaged application – in our case Intranet DASHBOARD.

In most cases, a firm will still need some assistance from a software house or consultant. However, of the 15 projects we have worked on with law firms in the last two years, three clients just bought the software from us and did everything else themselves. Two others (including Willmett & Co – see case study below) required very little implementation support.

Features

We think that the basic features that one should expect from a packaged intranet application should include the following: document manager, text page publishing, meeting room booking, surveys, news, company calendar, forms manager, image library, RSS news feeds, e-newsletter, quick polls, FAQs, layout manager, search, forums. Any packaged application should provide this set of modules at the very least. It should also at least comply with the WAI Level II guidelines for accessibility, which Intranet DASHBOARD does.

Version control – Lexcel tick!

One of the key reasons we chose Intranet DASHBOARD to implement for our law firm clients is that when content is added or edited a new revision is automatically created. A version list is available for all content through the administration area to all admin users. Older versions may be viewed for comparison but not edited or removed. This is particularly useful for firms who are Lexcel audited, as any changes to content, eg to the office manual, can be audited.

David Gilroy is Sales and Marketing Director of Conscious Solutions Conscious solutions provide websites, marketing and intranets for law firms.

Email dgilroy@conscious.co.uk.

Comments from Willmett & Co Solicitors

In March 2007, Willmetts of Maidenhead and with four other offices, needed to upgrade their intranet. Tony Jones, IT Manager for the firm, was the project manager and has this to say about their decision to deploy Intranet DASHBOARD:

“In selecting a solution for our new intranet, there were a number of criteria that were important to us. Firstly, as we had no in-house development capability we needed a product that allowed simple, wizard based configuration. It had to be “DIY”. Within a few hours we had Intranet DASHBOARD installed and running in its basic configuration.

The next most important criteria was that the product gave us the majority of the “standard” intranet functionality we needed “out of the box”. I did not want to have to buy additional modules to give us basic functionality.

Cost is always an important element to any technical project and the balance between software costs, implementation costs and ongoing support and maintenance costs is an important one. With Intranet DASHBOARD we have only needed three days of implementation support in the time since we implemented the application a year ago.

The key to me for the selection of a packaged intranet application was the speed of implementation, the low cost and the range of standard functionality included.”

Email tony.jones@willmett.co.uk.

Possible intranet solutions

Here are a few notes from Delia on possible intranet solutions, including Intranet DASHBOARD, based on information from their websites.

Intranet DASHBOARD (iD)

Intranet DASHBOARD has offices, consultants and representatives in the US, UK and Australia. You can view a demonstration online, download a fully functional demo, or speak to someone by phone. Here is what it says on the site:

“iD delivers a comprehensive all-in-one approach for managing your intranet or portal. An unlimited number of users can communicate, publish and collaborate within an infinite number of on-demand workspaces and customizable intranet sites. iD features an impressive suite of over 40 intranet tools to enhance and improve the efficiency of your organization.”

IntraNomic

The IntraNomic Portal has been developed by a Hull software company, Styletech.

“The IntraNomic Portal provides a window into your organization and is the starting point for every desktop PC in the business. The Document Management module provides a secure and controlled central repository for all the documents within your organization. IntraNomic Office Integration is available from within Word, Excel and PowerPoint and also works fully with Outlook.”

Adenin

Adenin is based in Boston and Nuernberg, Germany.

“Adenin provide IntelliEnterprise, an integrated Intranet Suite including Enterprise Portal, Content & Document Management, Collaboration, Dashboards, Search and Workflow modules. These powerful modules are accompanied by a variety of customizable applications like contacts, employee directory, CRM, asset manager, issue manager, event/meeting manager, recruiting requisitions, job candidate tracker, knowledge base/FAQ, help desk, private and public calendars, tasks, web mail, discussion forums and virtual communities.”

Note

If any firms or chambers use these or other intranet solutions, please email me on delia@venables.co.uk. We would like to cover these over the next few issues.

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