Richard Hodkins

“I want IT to be a difference when we do business and I want it to be deal maker,” says Richard Hodkinson, CTO with law firm DWF LLP. Hodkinson is enjoying the challenge of working with a law firm that is growing at a rate of knots and wants the IT team to be bold an ambitious in how it delivers outcomes.

DWF is not shy in its ambition it plans to be a top 20 law firm in the near future and has been romping up the industry leader board like the Lions on tour. Its growth has, in part, been due to active mergers and acquisition strategy, three in 2012 that has kept the CTO busy.

“Our customers are getting much more tech savvy and I want to offer end-to-end solutions,” Hodkinson says of how the legal world is being transformed by increasingly digital consumption by customers.

“We can get to the point where some transactions can be done without having actual physical meetings.

“We have lawyers that are young and have a very Apple Facetime or YouTube style of working, so I’m building an innovative team and we are taking ideas to clients (partners of DWF),” he says. “But there is a challenge, as the traditionalists of the legal world are still a strong community.

“We have users who want flexibility, some are very technology literate and others are illiterate. So we have got to cater for all levels of engagement, which means I look for a Fisher Price computing, as I describe it.” One such success has been the integration and rapid adoption of Yammer, which Hodkinson wrote about in CIO UK recently.

“Launched in the summer of 2012, the adoption of Yammer was epic particularly as IT planted the seeds but the highest level of business user led the charge. User sign up was more than 1,400 in 14 days.

“Without a doubt there was an initial buzz, which has not been sustained and there’s more work to do in embedding it into the ‘way we do things’ as old email habits die hard. Some facts:

  • There are 199 groups being used for both internal communities aligned, functionally, by sector, projects or other, the largest with 211 members;
  • 7,000 posts, threads and;
  • Nine external groups;
  • 11,000 messages have been posted;
  • and 1,527 members have subscribed

“Adoption was viral in nature with people connecting without the need to plan and undertake an expensive implementation programme.

“Yammer meant that new business being merged with had instant access to the DWF social scene without the need for complex networking to log on to an on-premise domain to get involved,” Hodkinson explains.

“Any product DWF gets has to have the Fisher Price usability of Yammer otherwise you lose the ROI,” he says.

“The whole game has changed and the users now tell us what they want to do. So I have to say 'can do' and provide a safe environment. And if they are efficient on a handheld in the middle of the countryside, that is fine. There are so many types of work we handle, so it’s not about a big SAP answer.”

Mobility is a major pillar to Hodkinson’s strategy at DWF LLP and the CTO is a great believer in its ability to improve the organisation and the lives of its workers.

“We are bundling up apps that are an adjunct to the main application stack of the business as it makes people more productive. So apps for expenses, CRM and billing can all be used on a mobile device.

“We have all our business plans and the annual report on a single app. The point being you can show it easily to a client and users always have access to the business plan, so that way everyone knows the business plan and it is in their back pocket. So we are getting everyone on the same page, technologically it was very easy,” he says.

Whereas some market sectors are struggling with this new generation of empowered worker, Hodkinson suggests the legal world is already well prepared.

“Law firms are unlike a PLC, the control and command structure is very very different. The partner structure means you are getting into social engineering and it is fascinating,” he says.

That is not to say that the rate of change is any easier for law firms and DWF, but Hodkinson is an affable adopter of the change sweeping through his organisation.

“The rate of change here is like being a youngster that has grown out of its clothes very quickly,” he says. His strategy for redressing the IT plan is be personally agile.

“It is anything but text book, you have to think quick and be pragmatic and you cannot put enough hours into the relationships.

“There is no time for a strategy, it’s about being tactical, but you do get the after party feeling from that,” he jokes.