IT compatibility speeds Cameron McKenna deal

Liz Davidson reports

COMPUTING incompatibility could have held up the recent merger talks between Cameron Markby Hewitt and McKenna & Co, according to the partner in charge of IT, Richard Goodman.

A former Camerons partner, Goodman said both sides "would have paused for thought" during merger talks had there not been a "basic level of compatibility" between the two firms' information technology systems. Although incompatibility would "not necessarily have affected the outcome" of the firms' 1 May merger, it would have "meant a lot of work", he added.

Goodman now has the task, along with Camerons' IT manager Andy Gilmour and McKennas' IT director Ed Dean, of heading a 30-strong team to iron out differences between the information systems. Although "roughly half a dozen" contract staff had been hired, the process was costing "round about the estimated amount", he said.

"We were fortunate because there was an underlying compatibility between the two firms' systems. Obviously there are going to be hold-ups and glitches but we are following the same basic path."

The firms' technology differed in two main areas: word processing software and the "know-how" system for storing information. Both firms used the BRS know-how system for storing information relating to cases and clients, but Camerons used it in combination with software from Informix.

Goodman has had to "accelerate" McKennas' move from WordPerfect to Word for Windows with PC DOCS, the word processor and document management system already used by Camerons.

The firms also used different e-mail systems, although they were still able to exchange messages. A new Cameron McKenna web site was due to be launched last week, although both firms retained their own sites at the time of going to press.

Goodman added: "There had to be basic compatibility from day one so that everything would work when someone moved from one building to another. We will now work towards an intermediate position from where the systems will grow together."