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The Evolution of End User Computing Models in Law Firms

Josh Nardo | August 05, 2022

The pandemic sped digital transformation in the legal industry out of necessity, but what might have been deemed temporary is now here to stay. The American Lawyer reported in May 2022 that 79% of Am Law 200 HR departments expect “all or most” of their workforce to be eligible for a hybrid work arrangement this year.
This increasingly mobile, dispersed workforce has new service delivery requirements and expectations that are fundamentally challenging the dynamics of integration and consumption of IT resources. Traditional on-premise solutions using virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) with tightly controlled end points simply cannot meet the new demands.

 

Shifting User Expectations

The ability to easily access to firm IT systems, regardless of device or location, is now a user expectation. Increasing information governance requirements and complexity are forcing IT departments to look to new technologies to address the challenges of compliance, security, and to bring workflow efficiencies via standardization.

While Work from Anywhere (WFA) is pushing distributed consumption, cloud technology (SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, DaaS, etc.) is enabling controlled distributed compute. Centralization of all compute functions in a traditional data center or co-lo facility is quickly morphing into a decentralized, distributed model. Hybrid architectures are becoming more common as firms search to leverage cloud capabilities and benefits intertwined with their hosted application requirements.

In short, the ability for firms to fully control a centralized on-premise compute model and meet remote user and client collaboration needs no longer exists. The future of a seamless user experience and productivity is now based on end user compute (EUC) portability, stability, and integration.

 

How Leading Firms Have Reacted

Leading law firm IT departments recognize the limitations of a centralized EUC model and are leveraging the cloud for solutions (such as DaaS) merged with traditional solutions to meet user needs. Cloud service providers can supply desktop virtualization, centralized desktop infrastructure, and SaaS to quickly fill service gaps while creating a common user experience. Hybrid solutions leveraging applications, systems, and tools can drive end user compute functions for dispersed workforces.

The technical constraints of on-premise desktops and VDI solutions came to the forefront during the pandemic as users demanded the same user experience remotely that they once had in the office. Distributed EUC required functionality defined by the potential delivery methods, exposed deficiencies in legacy architecture, and increased security and IG compliance efforts as information was consumed remotely.

  • Distributed workforce challenges affecting end user compute models and associated end user experience include the following:
  • Network routing inefficiency accessing gateways and servers (hair pinning, increased hops);
  • Increased bandwidth needs due to download traffic and collaboration applications;
  • Poor endpoint connectivity;
  • Data placement and governance;
  • Remote PC updates and patching;
  • Monitoring to the endpoint;
  • User experience benchmarking and scoring;
  • Video and voice quality;
  • Performance and stability;
  • Remote and BYOD technical support and troubleshooting;
  • Endpoint and network security monitoring and enforcement; and
  • Profile management and desktop personalization.

To meet these new challenges, leading firms looked to available technologies and mixed EUC models, utilizing the best methodologies to employ PC, VDI and DaaS EUC models as needed to select the right tool for the job. Specifics of users, applications, and IG requirements were gathered to architect an EUC hybrid solution that leveraged the strengths of technology model options.


Hybrid EUC increased the complexity of operating by having more technologies in use, licensing, and administrative requirements. The increased effort was evaluated against the need to deliver a common, high-performing user experience. To address this, many firms have issued laptops to staff members in order to standardize endpoints and enable WFA.

Standardization eases support and administrative costs. As an exception, firms are also maintaining a reduced VDI footprint to support BYOD for users that do not have access to firm issued equipment. These endpoints and user experience are benchmarked and monitored to proactively identify issues and aid troubleshooting efforts. Multiple cloud solutions, tools, and providers are integrated to help mitigate risks and complexity of service delivery by aiding management of software licensing, security, compliance, high availability, DR, and backup requirements.

 

What Do I Do Next and How Do I Get There?

Identifying and developing the EUC solution criteria is key to selecting the correct hybrid ECU mix and vendors. Defining ECU needs requires a user-centric approach to maximize application availability and workforce productivity. Efficiency requires defining best practices with role-based focus. Working with trusted third parties that are aware of industry trends can speed end user computing evolution while balancing choice, risk, and cost.

Here is a three-phase approach that we have found works well for most law firms striving to adapt their EUC models for today’s evolving workforce requirements:

  • Assess current state
    • Identify technology and operations capabilities for EUC
      • Evaluate current staffing knowledge and processes (includes IT)
      • Conduct current EUC environment and cloud usage assessment
    • Identify firm and user needs
      • Understand user expectations and workflow requirements
      • Required devices, models, and OS’s
      • IT support required for devices and services
      • Policies and governance requirements and strategy
  • Develop strategy
    • Design EUC architecture
      • Develop data placement strategy
      • Align end user compute, cloud, and firm strategy
      • Align solutions, vendors, and SLAs
    • Identify milestones and key action dates (e.g., license and agreement terminations)
    • Cost estimates and cost optimization for EUC devices and cloud services
    • Build the roadmap for transformation
  • Execute the roadmap
    • Training and efficiency through role-based best practices
    • Develop execution plan to accomplish EUC goals
  •  

 

Conclusion

The pandemic-fueled digital transformation of law firms into mobile workforces is here to stay. This seismic shift has placed enormous pressure on law firm IT leaders to move away from the traditional on-premise end user computing model that worked for years, in favor of new distributed models that provide the necessary user-centric support while also meeting data security, compliance and information governance requirements.

For more information about managing a law firm end user computing evolution while balancing risks and costs, please contact Josh Nardo.