IT Portfolio Management – Move it to the Top of Your List

One of my favorite legal technology topics is portfolio management – how a firm can create and manage an IT strategy by using the notion of “portfolio management,” a Nobel prize winning concept as applied to investments.
I have seen in the last few days several solid articles on IT portfolio management, each of which I would recommend to anyone involved in setting IT strategy and to anyone trying to make sense out of what their IT departments are now doing.
Portfolio Management: Dos and Donts” in CIO Magazine gives six best practices for getting started on IT portfolio management.
Which Projects are Worth Your Time? from Baseline magazine draws on some real world examples and tries to share some lessons learned from experience.
Finally, “Project management is not the center of the IT universe” critiques a narrow, project-centered approach to IT and advocates practices more attuned to business goals.
The combination of these three articles will give you a good introduction to the idea of IT portfolio management. It’s a fascinating topic that I’ve thought about over the years (I wrote my first article on the subject in 1998) and I’ve had the chance to speak about it from time to time.

ABA TechShow 2004 Update

As many of you know, I’m on the board for the American Bar Association’s TechShow 2004, one of the premier annual technology conferences for the legal industry. One of my goals as a board member is to help remove the qualifier “one of” from that description.
One piece to that puzzle is putting together a great slate of speakers and programs. We are well on the way to doing that and the final grid should be made public in another week or two.
Our speakers and attendees include some of the most tech-savvy lawyers in the world, many decision-makers and decision-influencers, and a large number of the leading writers, speakers and opinion leaders on legal technology.
If that appeals to you, you should consider attending. The registration info is at http://www.abanet.org/techshow/register.html. Check out the available discounts.
A second piece to the puzzle is to be sure that we have the exhibitors and sponsors necessary to give attendees access to both (1) the vendors they expect and want to see and (2) the vendors who are doing cool things that should be seen by our audience.
If your company wants to reach that kind of audience, you should consider being an exhibitor or sponsor. Detailed exhibitor/sponsor information is available at http://www.abanet.org/techshow/sponsorsexhibitors.html.
If I can answer questions, help with follow-up or help with suggestions for sponsorship or exhibitor ideas, please contact me.

A Few Reactions to Office 2003 Launch Event

I attended the Microsoft Office System Launch Event in St. Louis with my eyes open for the potential value to lawyers. I had read a number of articles suggesting that Office 2003 was an “unnecessary” upgrade and I wanted to see for myself.
I drew the opposite conclusion. There are aspects of Office 2003 that should be considered carefully by lawyers and law firms who either (1) wish to take advantage of some cool innovations or (2) want to improve productivity and business results. Those firms not interested in either category can go back to sleep now.
I’ll probably write an article with more detail at a later point, but I will note that the combination of Small Business Server and Office 2003 could be a dynamite package for a new small firm, and here are five observations I’ll share:
1. Microsoft has developed a standard edition of Small Business Server that provides most of the server software a small business needs (print and file sharing, remote access, et al) and some nice bonuses for $600 for 5 users (used to be $1,500). In addition, some hardware companies (I can’t remember which) are bundling a simple server plus SBS for not much more than $1,000. Additional users are added by 5-pack licenses. SBS can also be supported remotely, alleviating the need for a full-time IS person or on-site consultant.
2. Office 2003 (Small Business and Pro) has two programs built in that will have great utility for small law firms – a business contact manger in Outlook 2003 and Small Business Manager, an accounting and financial package. Both packages probably give you a solid 90% of the best stuff of what you’d expect from standalone programs (Act!, QuickBooks) and might (emphasize might) be alternatives to dedicated case management and legal accounting software in certain circumstances. Small Business Manager will allow you to create useful business analysis reports very easily.
3. Office 2003 (Small Business and Pro) once again contains Publisher, which can be used to create a variety of marketing materials and standard print items.
4. I continue to believe that the newest versions of Office have more features that are geared to the working lawyer. As other articles have indicated, Outlook 2003 is clearly the star of the new version. The integration between the office programs is pretty amazing.
5. OneNote – Very, very interesting application for lawyers. You’ll be hearing more from me about it.
Final Thought: I came out of the day-long session energized and seeing a lot of possibilities in the new versions. I think that’s a good sign. I’ll be curious to see what other legal tech experts think.

Presenting to Win – A Must Read

I’ve just finished the highly-praised Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story, by presentation guru Jerry Weissman. Add me to the list of fans.
As a frequenter presenter, I am constantly looking for ways to improve my presentations. If you forced me right now to pick just one book to have, this book would be it.
I recently (but before I read this book) completely revamped a presentation I had done because, although it was good, it did not seem to be effective enough. I thought that the revamped presentation, when I gave it, was 100% better than the first version. Reading Weissman’s book, I realized that I had improved the presentation by paying attention to and actually choosing one of the approaches he lists under the category of “Flow.”
If you want to be a great presenter, study Weissman’s book – he’s been advising speakers for years and there are a lot of tips and techniques that I fully agree with based on my own experiences. Even if you only get what he is saying about “Point B” and include one, you’ll stand out from the crowd of run of the mill speakers.
Finally, and this may be most important, Weissman’s book is also the best resource on using PowerPoint that I’ve found. If you read what he has to say about the distinct roles of presenters and presentations, you’ll have a solid understand about how to use PowerPoint.
There have been many articles about the “evils” of PowerPoint and the terrible effects that it has had on society. I don’t agree with any of that. PowerPoint is a tool. What’s the point of blaming a tool? I don’t get it. The problems I see with the use of PowerPoint in presentations arise out of the way the tool is used, not because of the tool itself. As Weissman says, “The presenter is the focus of the presentation.” Keep that in mind and you will do well with PowerPoint.