The IT director of Charles Russell Speechlys has royally pissed off his own IT team after penning an article about the industry which criticised IT workers and warned of redundancies.
Published in the December issue of Legal IT Today, even the piece's title appeared geared to upset staff working under Duncan Eadie. "Is technology making the IT department redundant?" he asked. Instead of answering 'no, and here's why', Eadie set about lambasting the "IT function" (it was not identified as his own) for failing to get with the programme:
“As technologists we take pride in being the instigators of change in an organisation, and become frustrated when we meet resistance. ‘I’m too busy for that,’ ‘Why do we have to change?’ and ‘We’re fine as we are’ are phrases we often hear. But are these same change resistant comments now emanating from the IT function itself?"
Eadie continued, “is the IT department the driver for change or the inhibitor? Is technology going to make the IT department redundant?" Leaving his staff hanging, his discouraging answer was that "Change is coming from all angles" and "will only accelerate. About time too.”
Sources said it looked rather like Eadie was taking a swipe at his own underlings for their intransigence. Describing how the explosion of "innovation directors" and "change leaders" was "a reaction to frustration with an IT function buried in legacy systems and approaches", Eadie predicted that "If IT isn’t going to do it, then someone else will".
He also warned that the typical law firm IT team "of the near future is likely to change its shape", which will affect "probably about 20 per cent of your team’s headcount". Which didn't exactly comfort staff. "Subtle warning to team to look for new jobs", asked one insider, "or incredible insensitivity?"
Sources said that, in a tone-deaf move, the firm even sent the piece to IT staff. "CRS just circulated IT head's article to us", said one employee. "WTF - Happy Xmas to you too!" The timing was "not great for crimbo" said another. It resulted in “mutiny”, claimed another source, which in IT terms means CRS lawyers may have had to turn their own computers off and then on again.
A spokeswoman for CRS said, “The article was about widely-accepted challenges across the legal market which every legal IT director has to be aware of, it is not specifically about our IT department. Like every firm we are planning for the future and in fact our long-term plan is to increase headcount".
See you in the pub tonight(/at lunch time), chaps.
From the extracts published above, what he states does not seem to be out of line with general thinking about the impact of digital transformation on the workplace.
What this matter does show is the need for leadership, sensitivity and change management to help the transition. Doesn't sound like he's even bothered to mention these strategic challenges to his own team.
(Although any IT bod who responds with "Why do we need to change?" probably deserves an early pub lunch - its not that difficult to see what's coming down the line for all of us!)
No real shock for me. In one of his first presentations to us he showed a vid of the helpdesk being replaced by robots - guess how good our service is now.....
I think it is genius - subtly encouraging the team to find new jobs is a quick and simple way to clean house without going through the redundancy grief
Looking forward to receiving your CVs :)
Some job roles may go but they will be replaced with others. Someone has to fix the robots.
IT team members should not worry but simply keep their skills up to date. Most of these skills will be in security and with services hosted elsewhere outside of your firm. For example if I was a server guy. I would look as AWS and Azure or move into security.
What he is saying may be based on industry common thinking. As Frank Carson said 'It's the way I tell 'em'
He is only mirroring what the firm is doing with its secretaries although IT Managers doing HR's job never ends well - seem to remember similar shenanigans at Olswang and Ince - look what happened to them!
When mergers go wrong
Sounds like a terribly Speechlys thing to say.
I know Duncan from a previous role and have to say that: (a) he's one of the more genuinely forward-thinking people in professional services technology - and what he's saying isn't wrong (just maybe unpopular - and he has enough integrity not to be scared of that); and (b) he always struck me as a nice guy, so he's probably mortified at how this has been construed (whether that's his own fault or a bit of an editorial stitch-up job).
Either way, cold comfort though it may be to his existing IT team, the march of progress will probably prove him right. Maybe their righteous indignation is easier than confronting uncomfortable truths?
Whatever his intentions, he either didn't think it through when penning the article or doesn't care what his department think of him. Yes there will be some longer term changes in IT, this has and always will be the case, but you do not want to alienate and annoy your staff. Business as usual is critical and no technology coming in the next 5 years is going to change the core way that most lawyers work or the IT systems that they use. Automation and machine learning will alter processes in some areas of law but there are too many people bleating on about blockchain, AI etc who clearly have no idea about how lawyers work or the technology they are talking about. My experience of giving teams control over tech is not great. You end up with disconnected systems, poor support and worst of all is the overlap that can mean huge waste.
This is not about the IT Director or the article he wrote. their is clearly a major morale issue and this is yet another example of a law firm them and us culture. The real villains are HR who focus on fee-earners and somehow always remain unaccountable when it comes to support teams
There is perhaps too much focus on technology, the title says it all - we get fixated on what tech can do in relation to people's jobs and teams are often forgotten. One needs to focus on preparing its workforce for technologies that are about to hit the industry or already are and the redesign and restructuring of work in order to engage its workforce rather than alienating them. Regardless of how one is planning to move with the times with tech -engaging people and getting the right change culture within the team and the firm first should surely be the first step. People will easily make themselves redundant if they are not prepared to change, but at the same time it will take a great leader and the all important management buy-in to make it work whatever the future of the IT workforce will be.
I also know Duncan from a previous role and he might appear to be forward thinking but his approach is prehistoric. It’s important to be mindful of the future, but you also need a clear strategy not just on where to go, but how to get there.
Many moons ago I remember his presentations, felt like being in primary school again, weirdly enjoyed them because it made feel young. Many were happy to see the back of him.