LONDON, 18 APRIL 2008 - Jason Haines, global IT director of law firm Allen & Overy, has introduced a number of initiatives to allow IT to work with super-users who are partially responsible for driving the law firm's innovative use of technology. Allen & Overy picked up last year's Most Innovative Law Firm award from the Financial Times and Haines is aiming to build on that profile.
He believes the firm has a number of super-users within its "friends and family" group. "If we have a new software version we use people who are willing to take it on early release to iron out any problems. There are people in our friends and family who are happy to try things out that we suggest, and also some who develop uses of their own."
Haines acknowledges that more innovative users do bring their own management challenges. "On the one hand, this can be useful or it can be challenging to fit the adoption of new ideas in with a conventional governance process.
"Those who want to be at the leading edge sometimes try to do things that are challenging and there is a balance to be achieved."
Each Allen & Overy department has its own IT relationship manager and part of that job role is to monitor and foster super-users' ideas. "All interaction flows through the relationship manager; this is how users interact with IT," Haines explains.
Haines is also making sure that his department plays an active part in the culture of user innovation, with a new scheme called Technology Watch.
"The business strategy has to drive IT and at the same time IT can inform the business," he says. "Through Technology Watch, I engage the whole IT department in identifying what the opportunities are, looking at the hundreds of new technologies out there. The IT department works out the most interesting ones and takes it to the business to see if there is something worth exploring."
Ruth Ward, head of knowledge systems and development, was a pioneer of social networking technologies at Allen & Overy. "There is a good open dialogue and communication with the research and development group in the IT department. We partnered with them to do experimentation," she says.
"The R&D group was very conscious of the emergence of Web 2.0 and it was a challenge for mainstream IT. They can see that it is interesting but how to get a feel for the best place to begin to pilot it can be a real struggle. They want to start somewhere where it is going to be successful. We were able to provide an idea and business support and initial analysis and testing. It was a clear business process wrapper."
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