Nov 22 2016

OneNote and Office Lens – hidden gem or does everyone know?

Jason

This is one of those blog posts that I’ve thought about for a while, but worried that I was stating the bleeding obvious and so have put it off. I’ve used Office Lens and OneNote for so long now that I figure others must know about it and be using it? But if not then there are folks missing out on a really useful tool for anyone who needs to collate information from various sources (whiteboard write ups, projector screens, hand written notes on paper, printed documents, business cards etc). Given that law firms are mainly users of Microsoft Office and are now generally on smartphone platforms it’s a great combination for the lawyers.

So here we go.

Office Lens: This is a smartphone app for iPhone, Android and Windows 10 Mobile. Its purpose is to allow you to quickly take notes using the phones camera.

The app allows simple selection of some defaults (whiteboard, document etc) to set things up and then attempts to auto crop the content (and does a good job for most things). You can then fine tune this before accepting the photo, where the app then flattens and straightens up the image (so if you’ve taken the photo at an angle what you end up with is a nice flat image).

officelens

You can then email the document or import quickly into one of the key Microsoft Office apps, the most useful I have found being One Note. It’s a really quick way to collate notes together in a OneNote notebook. For scanned images where the text is machine readable OneNote then OCR’s the content and makes it searchable in the notebook. For business cards you can of course simply photo the card and immediately add the information directly as digital contact to mobile address books – there’s an article here on how to do this.

Best of all it’s totally free.

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Sep 28 2016

RIP Project Managers

Jason

OK the title is a bit “click bait” as this isn’t quite the case, but I’ve just been on a Scrum training course for a couple of days and realised the traditional project manager (PM) isn’t part of the team anymore! Product Owners and Scrum Masters are the new roles for Agile project management. Kind of ironic when legal has just embraced project managers, always behind the curve eh! [edit]: I am not saying the PM isn’t required, more that to work in the scrum framework their role changes, see below for more on why trad PM skills are still needed.

It’s impossible to distill a two day course into one blog post, let alone a whole framework. And after two days I don’t profess to be any kind of expert! But with a background in project management, I thought a post that explains some of key takeaways would be worthwhile.

  • First off it’s not a replacement project management methodology, it won’t work for everything and is most suited to “projects” where a product is being developed (the product can be a software development or a “hardware” product).
  • The aim is to deliver to the customer a minimum viable product as soon as possible, thus introducing value as soon as possible. Addressing one of the key issues of the traditional waterfall, that of something tangible for the customer not being available until right at the end of the project in the release or implementation phase. This allows for early feedback.
  • The key aspects are the small teams; the product owner, the scrum master and the dev team.
  • The team has a product backlog that covers everything that might be needed (features, requirements, enhancements etc) is an ordered and estimated list.
  • The sprints (typically of a couple of weeks in length) go through a sprint planning to determine the product backlog items to tackle, then create a sprint backlog of the tasks to deliver a potentially releasable product increment.
  • After each sprint a review and retrospective allows immediate feedback into the process for the next sprint. Improving planning, product and the development as a whole.

 

There were some key points that were raised to watch for.

  • As we covered the Agile Manifesto. In particular the need to keep teams together as much as possible, as the successful team relationship with all the required skills is key. As is the need to face-to-face conversation, it’s not impossible to run across disparate sites but productivity decreases dramatically.
  • The PM isn’t finished, some key aspects of traditional project management isn’t catered for in Scrum. For example, stakeholder management, ROI, governance, marketing, feasibility etc. Scrum caters for the “How we build stuff” phase.
  • Also keeping the “noise” from the team is crucial, avoiding constant interruptions. This could prove difficult where teams are traditionally balancing projects and support demands.
  • Overall it was clear that moving to a Agile framework isn’t an easy task, it’s not just a case of deciding to do it and renaming all your project managers. There needs to be thought on how things are set up, the office, the people and the institutions.

It’s not a solution to all project failures and without a lot of effort I suspect could cause more. But I can see areas where agile would work really well, much better than traditional waterfall methods and would recommend anyone with a stake in delivering projects to find out more.

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Jan 12 2015

Explaining things in 140 characters is impossible!

Jason

I remember a time when you were wary of trying to explain things in email, would you be able convey exactly what you wanted to say in a way the recipient would understand? That now seems child’s play compared to making a point on twitter, a simple “I think A” statement creates a raft of responses “Why not B???” “Hey what the hell is wrong with C???” **

The benefits of having a blog is I have the space to write more than 140 characters to try and explain what I was trying to say in such a tweet this week:

I tend to judge how successful companies will be on their social media abilities nowadays. #LegalIT

This tweet was based on two IT companies who I have dealt with recently, both with good and very similar products. My attitude to them has been shaped by their social media abilities, well OK my perception of their abilities based on their attitude to social media. Both companies have new products or features on the horizon.

One company went out of their way to let me have advanced information about their product in the hope that I would blog about it, they know about this blog and therefore for them it’s a channel to get word out. It’s a risk, as I wouldn’t necessarily give the product a positive spin, but they’re confident enough in their product.

The other company insisted that the information they had told me remained confidential and shouldn’t be blogged about or posted online. I’d actually love to write about this firms new product, I think it’s a great direction and one that would interest the market they’re in.

This scenario was the point of my twitter post. To me the former shows confidence in their product, a real understanding of the modern IT environment, a willingness to engage customers and potential customers and to receive negative as well as positive feedback. The latter, well the opposite. I understand that in certain scenarios there may be a need to stop others getting to market before you release a killer new product, but this isn’t the case here. These attributes for the first company though for me are attributes of a firm more likely to be successful going forward (most other things, product etc being equal).

As an aside the status actually generated a conversation that took a different direction, even though that wasn’t the original intention of the point. So be careful when you tweet, either be prepared to converse on twitter or get a blog to explain yourself!

 

** thanks to a colleague for the first paragraph, that’s how he explained this twitter phenomenon

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Sep 30 2014

Windows 10 in the law firm

Jason

Back in June I did a talk at a conference on mobility. There was a bit of future gazing from me on where I thought law firms would go next with their desktop PC’s. It was a conference sponsored by the UK magazine Computing, unfortunately one of their journalists then reported what I’d said as the current strategy for our firm!

Windows 10

Today’s launch of the next version of Windows by Microsoft, Windows 10, made me more sure that the future of legal desktops is from the Redmond company rather than from Cupertino. The following are the highlights I picked out, things that iron out those kinks in Windows 8 to make Windows 10 more of a certainty in law firms.

  • Continuum” – this is a new feature that adapts the OS to the device, got a keyboard and mouse and the new modern UI apps will open in windows and the device acts like a Windows 7 desktop machine. Snap off the keyboard and use like a tablet and things revert to a full screen more touch friendly interface. You could do it in Windows 8.1 but this now works as it should, automatically.
  •  The Start Menu is back. This wasn’t a big deal for me, but for lots of folks it was. So can only be a good thing it’s back, allows that desktop or modern UI split in a seamless rather than jarring way.
  • Desktops for different purposes. You can use one for personal and one for business. I’m not sure whether this is more than Windows 8.1’s ability to have a desktop on one monitor and a modern app on the other, it sounds like it but information is light at the moment.

I’m sure there’ll be much more over the coming weeks, but I’m convinced Windows 10 and the hybrid desktop/modern UI works for legal. Allowing old legacy apps to continue in a desktop mode as now, but then brings the flexibility to pick up the screen and access data in a modern touch friendly way on the move. Also this will be one version of Windows for phone, tablet and desktop with one Windows Store. This one platform and the develop once platform Microsoft are pushing should be great news for legal vendors. In fact it’s the one thing I liked about their Matter Centre product they demoed at ILTA (more about that in a post I promised early in September but have yet to write!)

But to pinch a headline after seeing the launch today, I do believe Windows 10 could be the catalyst for law firms next PC refreshes!

Update:

Just read some more on Windows 10 and the new security features really stood out. Whereas bitlocker in Windows 7 protected the data on the device, Windows 10 will have an additional layer of protection using containers and data separation at the app and file level to protect the data wherever it goes – on tablet, PC, USB drive, cloud etc. Very interesting from a law firms point of view in protecting client data.

 

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Jun 25 2014

“Mobility First” – our move to the “third platform”

Jason

I attended an IDC conference recently entitled “Mobility First“, they have coined a term “Third Platform“. According to IDC we’ve had the first platform (the mainframe), we’re in the second (client/server/Internet technology) and next up is the third platform. They define the third platform as the next-generation IT software foundation comprising of Cloud Computing, Mobile, Big data and Social. Clearly in the consumer space we’re already on this third platform and use mobile, cloud and social in our daily lives. Big data is emerging but I think as a concept it’s still a little difficult to grasp and many confuse it with BI and data warehouses.

This all reminded me though of a few notes I’d made in OneNote a year or so ago for a blog post on the current transition in IT, though I hadn’t coined a nice snappy term to sum it up. What I had written were a couple of bullets to remind me:

  •  IT in the 90’s – the transition from control of mainframe to the chaos of client server
  • IT now and the transition from client server to consumerisation of IT in businesses

I also jotted down a quote that I saw on twitter that I was going to use:

I still think it’s cute when IT leadership tries to pretend that there is no change, & tries to run IT on cruise control using 90’s methods

Which was the same criticism laid at the door of IT directors when I first started in corporate IT as a placement student. Back then the issue was trying to run the new client/server model with the iron fist we did mainframes.

I also had an article on “shadow IT” that I’d saved and my point from this was that it also wasn’t anything new. Working for a utilities company in the mid-nineties we saw depts. create their own “mini IT depts.” as the central IT team struggled to keep up with the new technology and deliver them the solutions they wanted.

My point of the post was going to be how I thought there is the same criticism being levelled at legal IT now that there was at other corporate IT depts. twenty years ago, more agile consumer focussed companies leap ahead and look back at the corporate IT sector as luddites. But there are so many lessons from the move from the first to second platform (to pinch IDC’s term) that can be played forward to now. Look how we went full circle from the control we had on the mainframe through some uncontrolled chaos back to control again, the experience of this and how we could minimise the chaos can surely be reused?

I’m not buying the story that Legal IT depts. are luddites that won’t move, they will move towards the third platform I’m sure. The fact that I got a bit of criticism on my last couple of posts because some lawyers thought I was being too critical of lawyers and their ability to use/exploit the new technology shows there is an appetite for technology. I wasn’t intending to suggest lawyers were anti-technology, no my point in those posts was that this kind of technology shift will just develop the current business model and not revolutionise law firm business process. I actually think lawyers will embrace this third platform much faster than they did the second, I mean look how fast blackberry use (mobility) took off in your firm compared to say the use of the desktop CRM system!

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Jan 28 2014

Smartphones in law firms – which way’s the wind blowing?

Jason

Back in September I finished a poll on my site that asked which platform people thought was going to become the leader in law firms. iOS topped that poll which was not surprising from a consumer perspective, but from a costs perspective it was rather surprising given the high device costs AND the higher tariff costs for non-consumer tariffs (particularly in the UK where 50%+ of the traffic for this site comes from).

So since then I’ve been running a poll asking a slightly more specific question, focussing much more on the costs aspect to see if the results matched.

Are you considering as a firm to remain with BlackBerry 7 to control your costs? 

The results were interesting, 20% indicated they were going to stick with BlackBerry 7 devices (either keeping the same handsets or upgrading to the latest/last BB7 device). Only 12% said they were going to go BlackBerry 10, this roughly tallied with the 16% in the previous “Which mobile platform do you think will become the leading platform in law firms?” poll.

Still though I was surprised that 68% said they would go with a different OS, meaning one of iOS, Android or Windows Phone.

I still struggle to grasp how in such a cost sensitive industry like Legal there can be a cost-benefit analysis that justifies iPhones for all, smartphones yes but high end smartphones? It’s an interesting landscape that is going to change dramatically in 2014 I’m sure, but I still think that Windows Phone has a big part to play here. I know of a few large international businesses (outside Legal) that have gone the MS way, will further integration into products like Systems Centre for management of mobiles make this easier for firms? Or will a more consumer own device with business providing SaaS (Software as a Service) facilities be the norm? Time will tell.

 

p.s. I’m running another poll at the moment looking at what people use for news (rss) feeds since the demise of Google Reader. Why not take a vote? It’s at the top right of the home page of my site.

 

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Jan 16 2014

Looking back on 5 years of blogging part 5 – My favourites

Jason

To finish up this look back on 5 years of blogging I’ve pulled out some of my favourite posts from the first few years.

Back in May 2009 I covered a topic that was and still is a hot topic across Legal. That of the “billable hour”. I’m sure there will be a blend of billing options for clients going forward, but I still like my example at the end of this post as to why for many clients fixed price may not be the nirvana to low costs. – The billable hour isn’t going anywhere!

I think there must of been something stuck at that “good enough to go” stage back in August 2009. The post I wrote was on the 80/20 rule. Looking at the extra effort that last 20% can take, when it’s the first 80% that will get you the majority of benefits. – Following the Pareto principle (aka the 80/20 rule)

The control and management of email has been a recurring topic over the last 5 years, topics on top tips, products to help etc. But this one I’ve pulled out with a title that sums it up nicely! It was less a help guide and more a rant at email that I’m sure will chime with many. – email, hate the stuff!

I alluded the other day to it taking a generation for law firms to change, well it could be Generation Y that starts that ball rolling. This post from April 2010 was an insight into the experience of a young lawyer just starting in BigLaw. – Generation Y trainees about to shake up Legal and Legal IT

Also from April 2010 I took a look at CRM systems in Legal and wondered whether LinkedIn could be a valid replacement? LinkedIn does seem to have gone a different direction since 2010 and is more focussed on business social with its groups and posts, but recruitment agencies certainly use it as their “InterAction” I’m sure! – LinkedIn to replace InterAction?

Finally a post from May 2011. It was looking at the challenges, both externally and internally, we’re going to have when communicating. Since this post I’ve experienced similar frustrations with firms that have twitter streams but don’t use them to communicate with customers. – What happens when a Baby Boomer lawyer meets a Generation Y client?

On a slight related note I could this great TED talk the other day that is worth watching on the challenges of working with introverts v extroverts.

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Jan 13 2014

Looking back on 5 years of blogging part 4 – Simplicity

Jason

Continuing to look back at old posts I noticed one of the themes that has come up a few times is my wish that Legal IT suppliers would keep their software simple.

In fact it’s not just an issue with Legal IT, the product that has highlighted this to me more this year than any other is actually Google+. Google continues to push this product and in doing so bloats all their other products. It’s now in search results, in YouTube comments. Yuk, I long for when Google was just search and a great RSS reader**!

So here are three posts I’ve picked from 2009 and 2010 that distil some of my thoughts on simple design:

First up from September 2009 was a rant at Microsoft for creating IE8 bloatware, thanks goodness they saw sense with IE9 onwards which stripped Internet Explorer right back to basics. Shame Firefox didn’t learn from this as that once great browser is now more bloated than IE ever was! – No, no, no! Who asked for that?

Then in December 2009 was a look at another place where simplicity is useful, policies! I still love the social media policy from ABC in Australia. – “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – social media policies

Last up from May 2010 which re-iterates the first two posts a bit, this time the ire was aimed at Spotify (who’s basic product has gotten worse with all the addins!) – Simplicity rules

** have you voted yet on my poll in the top right? I'm looking to identify what people now use as a replacement for Google Reader.
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Jul 11 2013

How computing in schools was “dumbed down” and computer education became ICT

Jason

Not specifically a Legal IT post I know, but I’m sure it is of interest to anyone involved in IT. The announcement by the UK Department for Education that it plans to teach “rigorous computer science” to all children.

This to me is fantastic news and about time. I totally agree that ICT in schools has gone down the path that this article indicates:

“…attempts to teach programming and the deeper ideas of computer science were dropped and in their place children were exposed to word processors and spreadsheets – mostly Word, Excel and, of course, all running on Windows.”

The rest of the same article rings true too, especially that there was a big interest in programming around the time of the ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro etc (anyone remember INPUT magazine?), but the army of home grown programmers then tailed off. The arrival of the iPhone/iPad and the “App” has garnered some interest again and hopefully we can inspire a new generation of UK kids to code.

2481308054_399d280ddc

My only worry with this initiative is that the BCS (British Computer Society) are involved. I worry they have the governments ear, yet do not really represent modern day IT and deliver a more academic view of IT. What we need is to encourage the IT industry to help and really get involved with local schools and teachers to enable them to give kids a real world understanding of modern IT programming.

So like I said this isn’t necessarily Legal IT related, but a call to Legal IT developers to get involved!

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Apr 4 2013

“In praise of rude nerds”

Jason

The Spectator Magazine – 9th March 2013 – “In praise of rude nerds” by Mark Mason

Around this time last year I wrote a post extolling the benefits of a good first contact with Legal IT when providing good customer service. One of the points I mentioned was “be polite”, however I read an article this week (again in The Spectator) that suggests the “rude nerds” are where the good service is. Or as they put it “rude is the new polite”.

Have a read at the article, it stereotypes a little but effectively it’s about those that man technical helplines that “have the social skills of a breeze-block — but by Christ can they tell you how to defrag a hard-drive”. I suspect it’s intended to be a little tongue in cheek, but the sentiments are right. We’ve all been on calls where at some point you know whether a) the operator is reading a script and doesn’t understand your problem or b) you’re going to get a resolution.

At least with the Sheldon’s* of this world you know where you stand and ultimately your problem is fixed! So maybe the last line is right.

“This man hadn’t been rude, he’d just been true to his nature. A nature that, yes, shuns small talk, but also — and more importantly — lets him do his job brilliantly.

Give me that over futile, scripted politeness any day.”

 

* Sheldon Cooper – a character from the TV show “The Big Bang Theory“, someone who exhibits a strict adherence to routine and a total lack of social skills.

 

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