Over ten years ago we, in IT, talked about convergence. Back then, convergence often referred to the merging of data and telephone infrastructures, and when first introduced, this idea was taboo (this always struck me as odd, there is very little difference between the data and telephone worlds). The telecom folks didn’t feel comfortable with data and the data folks didn’t feel comfortable in the telecom world.
Here we are again, only now we are talking about who owns the data and how information flows; about how the information stewards relate to the structure of a law firm. In an interesting dialog with Greg and Toby, I suggested that the CIO is the obvious point of information convergence. Greg was convinced the point of information convergence belonged within Library Services. Toby purchased another round of beers and encouraged us to dig a little deeper. In the end, we agreed to disagree on reporting structure. We did agree that IT and LS are complimentary departments, IT being more interested in system design/maintenance and LS being more interested in information research/consumption. Without good system design, it is difficult to get the information you need and without an understanding of the information needed, it is difficult to design efficient systems.
Information convergence is going to happen whether we like it or not. It must happen, the lack of convergence creates inefficiencies.
We have these issues now. Contract negotiation – in many firms IT and Library Services negotiate contracts independently. The vendors love this, but it is inefficient and costly for the firm. Information sources – often times each group uses different data sources to obtain the same or similar information. Again, the vendors love this, but it is expensive and lacks efficiency. Without communication between departments, vendors are selected for the wrong reasons and projects often started but never finished. Lack of agreement about direction and duplicated efforts between departments has a big impact on finances as well as resources. Worst of all, we continue to send a mixed message to our clients.
The solution probably varies as much as a law firm’s culture, but at the heart of the solution must be leaders who are more interested in change and less interested in puffery.
Can we just get along?
We need to:
- Trust the intention of others.
- Spend more time learning about the other discipline and less time talking about why it makes no sense to have them manage information.
- Stop giving the vendors the advantage.
- Do what is right for the client.
I’m reaching across the aisle hoping to see a similar response from the other side.