Thursday, January 06, 2005

Project Management, why aren't more law firm IT departments doing it?

A while back I attended a webinar titled "How to Create a Successful Project Management Environment". The webinar was hosted by Sally Hatchett, the Director of Project Management for Bingham McCutchen. Project Management (PM) has been an effective tool for many years, and thankfully is now slowly making its way into law firm IT departments. It couldn't be coming any sooner, as PM has been a glaring hole in most law firm IT Departments. The need for PM is even more important as IT moves from 'plumbing' related projects, the level of sophistication rises and as with most firms the department is asked to juggle more projects without increasing staff.

The upcoming LegalTech NY Conference will hold another session on project management, sponsored by ILTA (formerly known as LawNet), as part of their Advanced CIO track. While the LegalTech conference sessions cost a few hundred dollars, ILTA members can attend this Advanced CIO track for free.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would ask a broader question, namely, why aren't more law firms using PM? Large legal matters are complex undertakings and would benefit greatly from project management discipline. This does not necessarily require all the work of say construction management. But how about at least a spreadsheet or two to track tasks, deadlines, and, dare we say it, budgets!

Ron Friedmann

Rick Varju said...

I attended the session on “The Value of Project Management From a CIO’s Perspective” today at LegalTech and found it to be very interesting and informative. The session panel included Doug Caddell of Foley & Lardner, Sally Hatchett of Binham McCutchen, Barbara Kunkle of Nixon Peabody, Robert Marburger of Alston & Bird and Eva Steiner of Dewey Ballantine. All have formal project management (IT Governance) methodologies and systems in place and are seeing the benefits that come along with it :

•More effective IT portfolio management and analysis

•Clearly defined and consistent project initiation, development and planning requirements and processes

•Greater project reporting and communication within and outside of the IT organization

•Closely managed project execution

•Valuable project resource cost/time tracking and analysis which can be used to help justify additional staffing where needed

•Formal project close out and review

•The establishment of a project library or archive that can be used as a reference for future projects

The development and implementation of a formal IT Governance methodology and project management system does not come without some challenges. It takes a great deal of time, effort and commitment form all involved. Clearly communicating the benefits throughout the IT organization early on in the process is very important and will go a long way to help ensure an easier transition to the new way of managing IT projects.

At Foley, we brought in a consultant and involved all of our IT managers in the IT Governance/Project Management System development and implementation process which helped to build 100% buy-in at the management team level early on. We then involved every member of the management team in the IT Governance/Project Management “marketing” process by having each manager send an email to all IT staff (one message per week from a different member of the management team each week in the months leading up to implementation). Each message highlighted an important benefit that the new IT Governance/Project Management System would bring to the IT organization and to the Firm. This show of strong support and commitment by the management team helped to build support quickly among IT staff throughout the IT organization.

Developing and implementing a solid IT Governance methodology and Project Management System can be done on any size budget as long as your organization is committed to it. Doing so will greatly improve your project management success.

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Computer News
China's Google rockets on debut
It was a remarkable debut. Chinese search engine Baidu.com's shares sold in the United States for US$27 ($39) - then surged on day one to close at US$122.54 ($177.46).

Friday's result was the biggest first-day gain for a new listing in the US for five years.

Investors had more than quadrupled their money.

An analyst in New York with IPOdesktop.com, a website devoted to initial public offerings, John Fitzgibbon, said: "This one is the return to the internet bubble. Last time we saw a deal skyrocket was during the frothy IPO markets of 1999 and 2000."

Then came the post-mortem.

Some analysts said the internet search engine could have had an even better payday for itself if underwriters had sold the deal at a higher price to begin with.

"It looks to me like the underwriters should have had a better indication of the appetite for this stock than they did," said Donald Straszheim, president of Straszheim Global Advisors.

Investors were eager to own a stake in a company that many say could grow as dramatically as Google and is based in a country itself undergoing explosive growth.

But other analysts are not so sure the underwriters made a mistake, given that the company's shares were priced at a relatively high multiple of revenues.

"It wasn't priced out of line with the rest of the market. In a situation like this, you're dealing with the unpredictability of the after market," said Tom Taulli, of Instream Partners in Newport Beach, California.

At issue is the underwriting process. Banks selling shares to the public - in this case Credit Suisse First Boston, Goldman Sachs, and Piper Jaffray - are paid to use quantitative models to determine a fair price for shares, but also to gauge investor demand.

Underwriting has both subjective and objective elements, making definitive evaluation of a bank's performance difficult. In this case, demand for the IPO was evidently outsized, but so were the unknowns for the company.

"We don't know the potential impact of censorship in China, or how quickly the internet will grow there," said David Menlow, president of IPOfinancial.com. Had the IPO been priced higher and then fallen in the first day of trading, investors could have sued.

Baidu.com chairman and chief executive Robin Li, speaking on CNBC, said he was not upset by the potential lost proceeds of the IPO because the company had only sold a small portion of itself, and had significantly more growth ahead.

But University of Florida Professor Jay Ritter, an IPO expert, said Baidu.com left money on the table by introducing the shares at a level well below where they ended hours later.


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