As our colleague Kate Jasaitis noted earlier, discussing how the law firm of the future will be built around collaboration, the pandemic ushered in a hybrid/remote work model for law firms and, with it, the challenge to balance having that model while meeting client demand. Lawyers and staff now desire greater control over how they work, assuming firm systems are available and easily accessible wherever and however they choose to work.
Technology teams initially made rapid changes to build-out and support that flexible work model. Many have permanently shifted systems into new hybrid structures spanning local, back-end, and cloud-based resources. The services and data provided to users rely on complex distributed systems with increased complexity. A couple years in, these same teams have now returned to strategic initiatives delayed by the pandemic, are planning efforts around emergent demands created under the current environment, and positioning for the lifecycle upgrades to sustain the changes from these recent years.
User expectations have changed, compute and consumption are more distributed, and IT is catching up to the aftermath. Those shifts create the possibility that legacy recovery capabilities and processes for technology systems are no longer valid and potentially mismatched to the current business need. This is a moment for firms to revisit and refresh their business recovery objectives and evaluate whether their technology is positioned to effectively and efficiently respond to any disruption based on those revised objectives.
Firms can address this by conducting a Business Impact Analysis (BIA), which evaluates the impact of not being able to perform various business processes or workflows over time, due to an unplanned system outage or external event. Firms have all had some sort of experience with a disruption to technology system availability adversely affecting client service and internal business processes. In the event of a major disruption/outage, the critical priorities for most firms are typically:
- Re-establish communications
- Enable client document production & workflows
- Mitigate risk – uphold docket and filing requirements
- Maintain business processes around time keeping, billing, and receivables
The BIA identifies the time- and data-loss sensitivities for a given business process and when that process becomes critical to the firm, leading to establishment of target requirements for availability of technology resources that support those processes. Firm management can be assured they have provided and communicated clear objectives while IT teams are able to prioritize and sequence recovery efforts appropriately.
Implementing a BIA involves a series of workshops with firm departments and administrative groups, focused on identifying business processes they own and deliver to firm users, the associated IT applications & services involved in their delivery, and the availability requirements in the event of an information technology disruption or disaster. A comprehensive Service Matrix is then compiled, listing formal recovery time (RTO) and recovery point (RPO) objectives organized and rationalized into defined tiers specific to the firm:
Having (re)established these requirements, IT can then analyze current disaster recovery plans and the technology state to ensure alignment with results of the BIA. Gaps are identified and plans developed to remediate. Balancing capital investment and operational complexity, the goal is to reduce the risk of ever having unplanned downtime (with high availability) and minimize the impact on the firm if there is (through disaster recovery). A BIA will also be a foundational step to refreshing a firm’s overall Business Continuity Plan. Individual business leaders can more effectively own, manage, and implement their broader continuity plans & workflows knowing the IT disaster recovery components were accounted for and would be recovered according to the requirements defined by the BIA.
The pandemic was a trial-by-fire for many firms around issues of recovery and business continuity, exposing strengths and gaps in their capabilities, while also demonstrating the ability to creatively develop and quickly implement alternatives to prior plans. With a Business Impact Analysis, firms can be confident business needs and expectations can be fully supported and recovered under the new landscape they find themselves. To learn more, please contact me or Josh Nardo.