We Need to Band Together – Reflections from ILTACON 2018
I’m on my way back from the International Legal Technology Association Conference (ILTACON 2018) which brings together technology professionals from law firms across the world, along with vendors providing all facets of solutions, applications and technologies to support law firms. From CIOs and Directors of Technology, to Business Analysts or Application Managers, over 1600 members attend the 5-day event with 2400 individuals on the vendor side, to discuss the latest trends, best practices, valuable ware, and important changes.
We have had the opportunity to sponsor ILTACON and have been attending the show for 11 years running. I always enjoy hosting our customers at a social event to celebrate our partnership, and to meet new prospective firms and IT leaders looking for ways and tools to better manage their IT spend and the lifecycle of their IT assets. At this year’s lunch, I sat with my good friend John Sroka who leads IT for Duane Morris, a top 100 law firm that’s been a customer and partner for 14 years. Among the things we discussed was an idea that was reviewed in the Global 100 meeting, a session where the top 100 CIOs from leading firms discuss trends, risks and opportunities. The idea centered around the importance of “banding together” as law firms to affect change by large software providers.
On my way to the airport from ILTACON, I reflected on why I have enjoyed attending for so many years. I came up with three reasons that echo what John heard:
- Band to Learn: When the IT professionals and vendor partners come together at an event like ILTACON, although many of them represent competing firms, the discussions that ensue are not about who does better or has a better mouse trap. There is an unspoken agreement that these five days are all about sharing experiences of success and lessons learned, and how to tackle big areas like security, risk, productivity, and an improved user experience. It’s about how to solve global technology problems that we all encounter, and could benefit from hearing each other’s perspectives, experiences, pitfalls and blind spots. I often take back best practices that my own company should deploy, based on discussions and sessions with other firms, and I hope others take some ideas and nuggets from talking to us, leveraging our experience in managing technology across hundreds of firms.
- Band to Improve: When we meet with our customers, whether it’s at conferences like ILTACON, at our annual Customer Summit (typically held in the fall, this year in mid-October), or even at quarterly strategic business reviews, we are putting our heads together, “banding” our knowledge and expertise together to help solve real-world business problems. I love the creativity that comes out of those solution design sessions, whether we collaborate to come up with a new way to automate an arduous manual process using our software platform, or identify an innovative technology like SD-WAN to help the firm manage IT costs more effectively. Our Customer Summit is a venue for people to be with their peers to learn from them, in addition to hearing about new technologies, learning about our software and managed services roadmap, and to give us feedback about how to enhance our software platform to help them better manage their IT environment. We find that feedback invaluable and it has driven many improvements in our offering over the years. We even bring people together from different companies during our software user group and certification sessions to share with each other how they’re leveraging our platform to solve some of their day-to-day problems.
- Band for Buying Power: When we put together the aggregate buying power of all of vCom’s enterprise customers to negotiate better terms, or help persuade a large service provider to change a policy or implement a better SLA, we are “banding together” to affect a change that will positively impact all our customers, large and small. As we have seen the quality of service generally deteriorate with service providers and witnessed the importance of leverage in influencing change, we have seen that leverage come into play more and more to advance our customers’ cause; whether it’s during a critical outage to get the right executive resources on a problem, or to obtain better discounts during an RFP negotiation. Let’s face it: money talks, and when you’re talking with a provider with whom you spend $10M, it’s a better negotiating position than when you only have $1M on the line with that same provider. That zero counts when you need it most and our model lends itself to doing that on behalf of our customers. Take for example something like circuit portability: when a typical customer closes an office, they are often burdened with an early termination fee. By virtue of the ongoing business we have with service providers, we often either negotiate portability with a carrier, allowing revenue from another customer to offset the early termination fee, or we try to negotiate a lower fee with that provider based on the promise of new business down the road.
At the end of the day, with technology proliferation, competitive market conditions, security threats, or regulatory hurdles like GDPR, we need more opportunities to band together, lean on each other, and learn from each other’s mistakes and successes. I’m glad to have this opportunity to witness this type of collaboration at ILTACON for our legal vertical, and I see it when we attend the Signature conference for our banking vertical and the Midsize Enterprise Summit we attend in the spring. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to band with our customers and, on behalf of them, to constantly build better solutions for them and to give the collective a better fighting chance with the big providers!
And let’s face it: you may be the best soloist, but you’ll sound a lot better with a “band” behind you!!
Author: Sameer Hilal
Chief Operating Officer
Sameer Hilal is the Chief Operating Officer and co-founder of vCom Solutions. He effectively leads vCom to be a market leader in the implementation and support of advanced telecommunication solutions. In 2005, vCom was ranked as the # 1 Fastest Growing Private Company in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2006, vCom was ranked as the #51 Fastest Growing Company in the United States (Entrepreneur). LinkedIn