What is Kennedys?

We are a medium-sized UK-headquartered law firm with a staff of 650 people globally. We provide legal services, such as commercial litigation and dispute resolution, to the international insurance industry and we have about 80 partners in UK. I work as IT director here.

How long have you been with the company?

I’ve been in this role since July 2005, when I originally came in as an interim IT director to handle restructuring and fill a number of gaps. But I stayed on and now have overall responsibility for IT in the group. In fact, I have specialised in this area, legal IT, throughout my career.

There are a few very niche finance and billing products that a lot of legal firms use but probably the biggest technology is word processing. Because it is an information-based industry, document management and workflow are crucial applications. We are obviously a very regulated sector too and have to meet, quite rightly, some very stringent regulations: after all it’s client money that we mainly deal with.

Do IT and business work together well at Kennedys?

One of the first things I did when I came in was make communication a priority. I turfed all the IT guys out of the ivory tower and put them in the business – I sit opposite the MD and next to the FD. Communication is so much better if know what the business goals are.

How has technology helped your company?

A good example of this is our use of virtualisation. A big move for us recently was the opening of a new Sydney office. As a company we only have 25 people globally that work in IT, so supporting and servicing a remote office is not easy for us.

Normally we would have spent time and money physically configuring servers, shipping them over there and flying people over to put them in situ. But we decided to try out the VMware virtualised operating system approach and found it really useful.

We set up the branch with 50 per cent less cost than previously and from the summer of 2006, it took only six months to get all the technology there up and running. Now we’ve seen what that can do we’re going to use virtualised techniques back here too – we are migrating all our datacentres to just one and cutting the total number of physical servers we run too.

There are lots of benefits here, especially around using less space, more efficient use of power and less cooling. Some people say there are lots of problems getting started with virtualisation but I think the benefits clearly outweigh these.