City firm opts for Telemation

Alison Laferla reports

City law firm Fox Williams is getting rid of its existing IT applications and "starting from scratch" with a firm-wide implementation of a new IT strategy known as Telemation.

The Telemation programme was initiated by Irish technology management consultants The Coolfin Partnership. It aims to create an IT infrastructure in which telecommunications and computer systems converge in a common structured network, so that they can share data and are designed to meet the same standards.

The programme brings together some of the best known computer and telecommunications organisations, including Microsoft and IBM.

All the companies involved were tested to ensure their equipment complied with Telemation standards before being approved as partners. Practice management suppliers will be similarly tested.

Gavin Maxwell, Telemation programme director, said: "The demand for convergence and reduced support costs has created the need for a radical overhaul of the way in which we plan, select and implement information and communication technologies.

"The Telemation structure breaks down the vertical market culture which has pervaded the legal IT industry so that law practices do not go down a technology cul-de-sac and have to constantly revisit their technology."

Maxwell said the programme could be adapted for practices of any size, from one-man operations to global enterprises.

Fox Williams currently uses a Novell network running a mixture of Windows and WordPerfect and "a hotchpotch of stand alone applications", including Lotus organiser and Microsoft Excel.

The firm is now in the process of throwing the whole system away and starting from scratch, installing products approved by the new programme.

Nigel Miller, Fox Williams commercial and IT partner, said that the new system will enable the practice to integrate different applications much more closely. It will bring all the telephone and desktop applications onto the screen so that, for example, voice-mail and faxes can be controlled from PCs.

Cables have already been laid and the practice plans to have its new telecommunications system live by Christmas.

The PC network should be installed in six to 12 weeks and a new practice management system will follow. The practice will also become one of the first City firms to use Microsoft Office 97 on an NT platform.

Miller said: "We have had to start again. This will mean a lot of training for the firm. It's a big challenge but everyone wants this to happen.

"The Telemation programme was just what we needed really. We don't have a huge IT capability in-house so we are relying on established standards."