Delayed Reaction: The 2016 LTN Tech Survey

December 15, 2016 —

Here are some observations on the 2016 LTN Tech Survey that came out in November.

Ratio of IT Staff to Users

About 84% of the 43 surveyed firms (36 firms) have one IT staffer for every 15–30 users.

The ratio of IT staff to users varies widely across businesses (Doron Gordon, CEO of Samanage, describes 1 to 70 as pretty standard), and it would be interesting to see how ratios at law firms compare to ratios at other professional service providers (accounting firms, consulting firms, investment banks, and so on). But one eye-opening point of comparison is IBM. According to an October 2016 presentation by Fletcher Previn, VP of Workplace as a Service, IBM has deployed about 90,000 Mac computers as of October, with 10,000 more projected to be deployed by December. These Mac computers are supported by five administrators. If we assume one Mac per user, this is an IT staff to user ratio of 1 to 20,000. (Between the small number of support staff and a number of other factors, IBM estimates that it’s saving $273–$543 per Mac over a four-year lifespan compared to a PC.)

Desktop vs Laptop

Twelve of the surveyed firms are planning to buy desktop computers during their next hardware refresh, and 31 are planning to buy laptop computers. All signs point to laptops being preferred over desktops for the last 10 years, so more law firms buying laptops instead of desktops is good news.

Limited Use of Cloud-Based Apps

Law firms seem to be using cloud-based apps mostly for “back-office” functions: data storage, HR, email, and accounting.

¹ Includes “Document management”, “Storage”, and the following items listed in “Other”: “Archiving”, “Disaster Recovery”, “DR”. ² Includes “Billing” and the following items listed in “Other”: “Accounts Payable”, “expense”, “Expense Reimbursement Processing”, “Time and Attendance; Expense Management”.

Only three apps were mentioned that seem like they’d be day-to-day performance enhancers for lawyers (all collaboration tools): Asana, ShareFile, and SmartSheet.

Reason for Limited Use of Cloud-Based Apps

Law firm system administrators seem to be really focused on data security (the first three items in this chart are arguably the same thing):

Wait… what?

The number of firms that (1) said they use cloud computing for “Storage” and (2) answered “No” to the only two specific questions about cloud storage (“Does the firm maintain its own back-up of business data that is stored in the cloud?” and “Do you use cloud-based storage and file-synchronization services like Dropbox and iCloud?”): 2.