The American Lawyer released its annual law firm technology survey last week, which revealed that (can it really be true?) “consumer-friendly technology is in; enterprise-centric gear is out.” In a big break from the past, firms are acknowledging that smartphones and tablets now have a place at the table alongside laptops and BlackBerries. In one of the survey’s most surprising results, nearly 90% of the firms surveyed expect fewer BlackBerry users in the next 12 months at the expense of Android- and Apple-based devices, the use of which is expected to grow.
“The marketplace has spoken,” says Dana Isaacoff, chief information officer at Williams Mullen, which had approximately 500 BlackBerry users a few years ago and now has about 40. “Consumers have learned that smartphones are more attuned to their needs, and it would be irresponsible for us to stand in the way of that. To the contrary, we want to usher in an era of user-friendly, flexible devices.”
Another big change from just a year ago is the sudden proliferation of tablet computers. Last year, when firms were asked if they supplied their lawyers with tablets, a resounding 93% said no. This year, when firms were queried about their plans for new hardware, 37% of respondents plan to include a tablet into the mix, either in combination with a desktop (25%) or a laptop (12%).
The survey, which gathered responses from 83 AmLaw 200 CIOs and technology heads, indicates that security continues to be a concern for firms, especially as they grapple with the proliferation of mobile devices, both personal as well as those issued by the firm. For firms that allow users to bring their own devices to work, 82% said that data security was their chief concern. Even so, in a seeming contradiction, only 19% of firms restrict application downloads to mobile devices.
The same confidence is not exhibited, however, in cloud-based storage services used on mobile devices. Sixty-five percent of firms prohibit the use of cloud-based storage and file synchronization services such as Dropbox and iCloud.
But firms themselves are making more use of cloud computing, with 74% of firms responding in the affirmative this year, up from 65% in last year’s survey. The biggest uses have been for e-discovery and litigation support (63%); email management (38%) and human resources (37%), with cloud-based storage (13%) and document management (8%) taking a back seat, in results that were startlingly similar to the findings of last year’s survey. For firms that have embraced the cloud, security is a top challenge (68%) as well as for those firms that have not adopted any cloud technology, 91% of which cite security as a concern.
And the deployment of Windows 8, Microsoft’s new attempt to straddle both the PC and tablet environments, can wait. A stunning 93% of firms are not planning to migrate to Microsoft’s new operating system in the next 12 months. One reason cited is the touchscreen-centric design, which “A lot of people won’t go to it until they actually have a [Windows 8] notebook with a touchscreen,” notes Ken Kroeger, CIO at Kutak Rock. In addition, many firms have recently migrated to Windows 7 and are not ready to upgrade to the new version of Windows so soon.
In keeping up with the ever-changing technology employed by firms, firms were surveyed for the first time about a relatively new type of application known as Mobile Device Management (MDM). This type of software from providers such as AirWatch, MobileIron and Zenprise, enables firms to manage the large-scale deployment of a diverse fleet of mobile devices. The software gives firms the ability to configure and update device settings, enforce security policies, and enable secure mobile access to firm resources. Sixty-eight percent of firms use MDM software, and of those users, only 27% report a positive experience and another 27% report a “somewhat” positive experience, possibly reflecting a few kinks in the new applications that still need to be smoothed out.
For more survey results, including responses to questions on CIO compensation, technology budgets, and social media click here.
Posted by Marianne Purzycki