Turcan Connell PMS project management

Find out how Lights-On Consulting helped Turcan Connell with its practice management system project

Scottish law firm Turcan Connell is on a ‘Business of Change’ journey which encompasses changes to infrastructure and working practices. Turcan Connell had used the same PMS for over 20 years, however, it was scheduled for end-of-life by the vendor. The senior leadership team retained Lights-On to assist with the PMS selection process and to assist with the Project Management of the PMS installation. This article focuses on the Project Management of the PMS project.

Project management

The vendor had its own project manager but, in our experience, the priorities of a vendor’s project manager are very direct – install the product on time (within budget) and leave.  There was so much more to this project than installing a new PMS and Turcan Connell wanted to make sure that the solution being installed correlated with the requirements of its IT Strategy Group.

To maintain the continuity of using Lights-On for the selection and procurement process, Turcan Connell engaged Lights-On to provide experienced Project Management to oversee the success of the project.  Our Project Management service facilitated seamless channels of communication between all individuals involved within the project.  Lights-On has been through the process many times, we know the pitfalls, and we know the order in which to do things. We are also able to ask the awkward questions and keep the pressure on regarding deadlines.

“The Lights-On Consulting framework for managing the selection process highlighted the scale and complexity of the PMS project compared to anything we had tackled previously.  Whilst there is obviously a heavy focus on finance and accounting processes, there are numerous other work streams and the value of having a specialised Lights-On project manager leading the project team was a critical part of the overall project implementation and delivery.”

Linda Thomson, Business Change Manager at Turcan Connell

Business as usual

Delivering change whilst conducting ‘Business as Usual’ duties is a significant challenge.  In our experience, many firms underestimate the amount of involvement a PMS project takes and, to ensure a timely completion, a focus on the PMS project is essential.  A PMS project is all-encompassing, it can typically take a minimum of 18 months from selection to implementation.  There is a danger these projects don’t receive the right level of attention within law firms and have to compete alongside other projects, potentially jeopardising the PMS project, costing time and money.

Linda Thomson added:

“We had previous experience of implementing projects, including document management and time recording, utilising in house project management skill sets however, it was clear coming out of these projects that vendor management is a skill in itself and for a project the scale of the PMS a specialist dedicated PM would be a strategic project cost – someone who understood and “spoke the language” of the vendor, as well as an understanding of the process and timeline from the vendor perspective.  This key role helped our project team be adequately prepared for vendor engagement sessions and any last-minute requests for information or design decisions were kept to a minimum.”

Balancing new projects with the Business as Usual workload found in any firm is precarious.  We kept the project moving whilst internal members of staff could dedicate some time to other important matters such as financial year end, month end, appraisals, holidays and so forth.  We were able to delegate and establish time scales and the business understood that we had the interests of the success of the project at the forefront of our minds.

As part of the duties, the Project Manager also acted as a Solutions Consultant to challenge the vendor, support Turcan Connell with customisations and ensure Turcan Connell received the very best version of the product.  The remit of the Solutions Consultant was to provide guidance and consultancy on the new product and not compare it to the previous product.  Turcan Connell once again benefited from Lights-On’s knowledge of the capabilities of the product and understanding where solutions can deliver change and facilitate relationships.

Linda Thomson:

“PMS projects are notoriously challenging and maintaining the focus and the drive over multiple work streams, for such a sustained period, was one of the key deliverables of the PM role. The cultural fit was really important to us and the PM from Lights-On understood our governance structure, project resource versus Business as Usual challenges and how to get individuals onside.”

Value and culture

This project, like many mammoth infrastructure projects takes hard work, working long hours as often some tasks must be completed out of business hours.  We know how long these projects take so we fully supported the team by immersing ourselves into the culture.  We were known to treat the project team to pizzas and doughnuts during late evening working to keep morale up!  We managed expectations in terms of the effort and skills involved so there were no surprises.  There are some tense times during a PMS implementation and making sure people can understand the impact of certain phases is a delicate process.  Roles and comfort zones changed with the arrival of the new PMS but there were many opportunities to reassure Turcan Connell that the system was the best fit.

What’s next?

In using Lights-On Consulting, Turcan Connell could leave any difficult conversations with the new vendor to us, ensuring their relationship with the vendor remained on a positive footing and supported a good ongoing business relationship.  We have the benefit of project managing hundreds of implementations; indeed, we estimate we have close to 70 combined years of experience within the team.  We know and are aware of the solutions in the market and we know the customisations that exist within the vendor toolkit that can make the difference to our clients.  The fact is we have knowledge of both sides of the fence having worked in-house in law firms and also in supplier organisations.

PMS projects are long arduous rollercoasters, and ups and downs are to be expected but having a trusted adviser project manage the implementation gives you reassurance you’re on the right track.

Since engaging with Lights-On for our PMS project we have continued to work with them on a number of matters, including smaller stand-alone projects, one-off pieces of advisory work, helping us develop our IT strategy and most recently making use of their ‘IT Leadership service‘ offering.  I have been consistently impressed with their cheerful, positive and pro-active approach to all that has been asked of them.  In what have, at times, been quite challenging circumstances their candid assessment and expert advice have been reassuring and reliable throughout, giving me a great deal of confidence, and allowing me to make informed decisions for the business going forward.  I find them knowledgeable, helpful and direct – which is exactly as I would want.

I am happy to recommend the services of Lights-On to anyone looking for this type of advice or input and to speak to anyone looking for further details.

Gillian Crandles, Managing Partner at Turcan Connell