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In order for Weightmans to become a true technology-focused firm, a new phone system was necessary. The firm’s previous phone system used legacy equipment with a mix of analogue and digital handsets, and purchasing obsolete equipment proved to be both difficult and expensive.

“The challenge of deploying IP was in persuading the board to approve it," said Stuart Whittle, IS and Operations Director. "At a fundamental level, we had a phone system that worked, and I wanted to replace it with a phone system that works. Put in those sort of terms, it is not a particularly attractive sell. I had wanted to install IP for about three or four years and I couldn’t get the figures to stack up in such a way that I would even be prepared to go to the board."

  • Deploy a future-proof communications platform 
  • Reduce costs 
  • Discover new ways of enhancing business processes 
  • Improve client services 
  • A single communications platform to add on applications when required
  • Reduced costs by using the Mitel Total Solutions finance program
  • Discovered new ways of working with hot desking and home working
  • Improved client service and first call resolution rates

My name is Stuart Whittle. My remit in Weightmans is that I am Head of Information Services. I have been with Weightmans for a long time. I've been there for almost 17 years. The last five or six I have been purely involved in running and delivering information systems for Weightmans.

Weightmans is a national law practice. It's been in existence for over 100 years now. We've undergone some fairly rapid expansion the last three to four years. We now have over 920 people of which 100 are partners. We're based in five offices in the UK, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Lester, and London. We have a sort of wide range in client base where we are trying to position ourselves is to a dominant adviser to the insurance industry, providing advice to the healthcare industry, providing advice to local authorities, and big commercial players as well. As a consequence of that, we have a rich heritage of clients. 
We have people like the northwest foresters' consortium. We have insurers' bureau cooperative group, including the bank of the insurance company. We have people like waste management. And so we have quite an extensive client base. Our focus really is on quality. We are one of the largest private practice firms to have Lexcell accreditation, and we drive our quality procedures through technology. We are and have been over the last three to four years becoming a very technology led business. We also are very big on teamwork. We try and stretch ourselves around our teams. And the intention behind all of that in terms of being technology led, in terms of the quality standards that we have, in terms of the team marketing is to be ultimately deliver the services that the clients want. We´re very client focused in terms of What we do for all our client base. 


The challenges we had with our own phone system were around the essentially, it was legacy kit. We had a mix of analog and digital cards, we were buying new digital cards, we were buying digital phones, you cannot get new digital phones anymore so we were buying what was, to me, quite expensive second hand kits. One of my frustrations really, with that, is that we were essentially buying kits that was obsolete. There was clearly going to come a point where it was going to get increasingly difficult to buy that second hand kit and we needed to do something about it. We also were starting to get demands from the business that was going to involve me buying more hardware on top of legacy kits. So for example, things like telephone call recording and yes, this is something you would buy, you would be able to reconfigure, but there would be work involved getting it to work with our existing kit. There were things around a top integration that we were looking with. That was essentially not economic with the kit that we had. And also we were part, there were areas of our business that were starting to, need, or get into, and starting to think about sort of more call center type operations which, historically, we hadn't really looked at. The challenges in terms of actually putting IP in, for me, really were around trying to persuade the board that it was worth the investment. At a very sort of fundamental level, what I would be saying to the board is,we've got a phone system that works, I would like to spend an awful lot of money replacing it with a phone system that works, and put in those sorts of terms it´s not a particularly attractive sell. And for although I've wanted to do it for three or four years I just couldn't make the figures stack up in such a way that I would even be prepared to go to the board to say look this is the sort of thing we need to do in order to move with our kit.

There were a number of reasons really, I mean for me I'm not entirely sure who says it, but business is about relationships. And it really is about that, and I had an existing relationship with an account manager. I've been fairly upfront and honest with him in terms of saying things like how are you going to be able to sell me this? Help me sell to the board. I know we have to do it, but help me sell it to the board. Replacing telephone kit with a telephone kit that works. And over a period of three or four years, we met, we talked, we discussed it. And every time my frustration came up. And it was really was a chance meeting where came to me and said same sort of thing, same sort of conversation that we have, when are you thinking about putting IP. And I have the same sort of conversation about, well, it's something I wanted to do, but the figures simply don't stack up. And to be honest, I said, almost jokingly, here's what we pay now in terms of support and maintenance and additional hardware, looking at our growth. The only way I'm ever going to put voice over IP with it, the only way I'm ever going to be able to sell it to the board is if you can give it to me for less than I'm currently paying in terms of cash out of the business. Genuinely at the time, I didn't expect anything to come of it. Much to my surprise, the account manager came back with a deal that wasn't quite less than what we were currently paying but when we took telephony into account as a product as whole including line rental and telephone call charges and those sorts of things we were doing and that. I was able to say to the board, look if you treat this thing as one product, treat telephony as one thing, take all these three things into consideration, and the Mitel leasing. And the deal that we done, the deal that the account manager proposed. Then actually we could do this. We could replace the infrastructure and in terms of cash out of the business, now I'm not an accountant so I don't know how the accountant's deal with the various leasing, but in terms of actually cash out of the business it was going to cost us less than we were currently paying. And that was one of the reasons we went for Mitel. Plus the legal industry is quite close knit certainly in terms of IT. People talk, and I know a lot of my peers have the Mitel kit. They like it, it works, and that's kind of what you want from your systems. They work.

There are quite a number of benefits that Mitel communications director has brought to Weightmans. Some of the things I'm going to talk about are seemingly trivial, but actually they were quite important to the people to whom I'm delivering a service in information systems and Weightmans. The feeands and the secretaries and the people who were using the telephones, and I'll come on to them in a bit. But the fundamental thing for me was the ability to have a platform in place where I could simply meet the demands of the business by simply saying yes, it's just another license. How much do you want to pay, how many licenses do you need, and you can do whatever it happens to be. That was where I really wanted to get to. That was the benefits of the business. Now immediately those aren't things that the business sees but it sounds quite trivial, but one of the things I've learned in the last five or six years of working in information systems and Weightmans is that sometimes it's the trivial things hat are quite important to people. If the trivial thing is something that happens to you every day, three or four or five or six times a day, then it becomes a big deal. One of the issues we had is because we had this mix of analog and digital cards, we had a mix of analog and digital phones, so some people had caller line identification, some people didn't. Some people had the light on the phone that told them they had a voice mail, some people didn't, and so there was quite a lot of agitation about people wanting the same functionality. Our user base was not very happy with the existing voicemail system, they found it quite cumbersome to use. They found it quite difficult to get into and out of. And so, at a very sort of simple level, some of the benefits were actually to be able to provide everyone with the same level of service. So they all got caller line identification, they all got the light on the phone telling them they've got a voicemail message. And actually, once I stay that's truthful, it's not because if that voicemail is from a client who's expecting an urgent response, the fact that you get back to your desk from whatever you'd been doing, you can see that there is a voicemail message is actually quite important. The other benefits to us is we're around hotdesking. We have hotdesking in place, so actually we have, I don't know, I've never done scientific analysis, but I reckon there's about 25% of our user base that is very mobile. And there are, you know, maybe 10% who never sit in the same office more than a couple of days a week. And the ability for that is simply just a login and nobody necessarily needs to know where they are to actually find them. I think it's been useful. And again, it perhaps seems quite trivial, but for whatever reason, we at Weightmans seem to move around a lot. We move offices. I have moved an office every year for the last four years. And we also do a lot of internal moves. The barrier to doing that, the thing that has always taken the time on the day of the move or over the weekend has been re-patching all the phones. Patching all the phones for an office move, even for some of our smaller offices, 90, 100 people, can take two or three people a day, day and a half to get it right, test it, play with it. When we have big groups of people moving around because, for whatever reason. We've changed the way the teams are structured. Again, it can take eight or nine hours sometimes, particularly in Liverpool where I had offices. Where we have sort of 450, 500 people, it can take a significant amount of time to actually have to repatch everything. We've saved a lot of time, essentially people become self sufficient and moves as long as there is a desk and a PC and a phone there, we don't have to do anything. It doesn't need to be scheduled. It doesn't, so people can, it'll save a lot of time in terms, and time and aggro and difficulty, in terms of moves. But fundamentally, as I said at the start, the important thing for me looking at it at the strategic level is to have that platform in place so I can meet the demands of the business very quickly.

There are quite a few things that I really want to have a look at, at some point. One of the things that I think is quite interesting is the mobile twinning. So, you only have one phone number, and you can pick it up on your mobile, you can pick it up on your landline, whatever it happens to be. That may be a bit of a change for Weightmans, because, historically, we've considered geography quite important, our local clients. Giving everyone an 0844 number. Not sure that's gonna go down. But actually, I think, overall, the benefits outweigh the change in the fact that the people don't get a local number anymore. We have two specific
areas of the business. One's relatively new over the last year or so, where it's a new product in particular. They're relatively small at the moment, so they're handling the volumes of calls that they're having to deal with in a sort of traditional manner. But there is clearly going to come a time where they are going to have
to look at far more call center type of operations. And again, as I was looking at putting a platform in place for the future. It became important to be able to have something where I could buy, 20, 25, 80, whatever it happened to be, licenses and deliver that bit of the functionality to that bit of the business and keeping everything else the same. And everyone else not having to buy a new kit, not having to buy Invest a lot of money in infrastructure to deliver that bit of functionality for that area of the business. We don't really have a formal home working policy but we do have an infrastructure in place which allows people to work from home. There are bits missing in it. In terms of what we can provide, and one of those things is being the telephone. Again, what I'd like to look at in the future is being able to provide people with a handset which they simply plug into their home broadband router, and there they are. They've logged in as if they're from home. So we can actually again, comes back to the sort of platform, having a platform in place allows me to deliver easily the sorts of things that the business wants to do. So It now enables us to more effectively deliver home working, should we want to go down that route.

I will absolutely recommend Mitel products. For me, what I've done is replace a phone system that worked with a phone system that worked. Yeah, it just worked. And that's really what you want from that sort of kit. You wanna be able to switch it on and have it work. The other thing that is important to me is the relationship, and my telegroup people to work with, and they are people with who I have a lot of trust and confidence in. So yes, absolutely I would recommend Mitel.

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