Law firm to send more work to Manila

Law firm Baker and McKenzie plans to shift more services to its offshore technology base in the Philippines as it increases staff during the next financial year.While many companies debate the merits of offshored technology operations, Baker and McKenzie plans to alleviate its Sydney and Melbourne offices of their workload by sending more work to Manila.

Law firm Baker and McKenzie plans to shift more services to its offshore technology base in the Philippines as it increases staff during the next financial year.

While many companies debate the merits of offshored technology operations, Baker and McKenzie plans to alleviate its Sydney and Melbourne offices of their workload by sending more work to Manila.

Martin Telfer, Asia Pacific regional IT director, Baker and McKenzie, told ZDNet Australia the firm's Global Services Manila centre could add around 50 workers next financial year, 10 of which would be technology workers, to continue reaping the savings benefits of offshored work.

"For every dollar we spend in Manila, we're saving two dollars across the firm. And the more we use it actually, the more savings we get," said Telfer, who estimates that since the Manila centre opened in 2000, the company has saved over US$4 million.

The services centre is owned by Baker and McKenzie and started as a regional technology initiative in 2000. Since then, it has expanded to cater for all regions and business functions with around 200 staff. About 50 technology workers provide services to the firm's regional offices, including those in Australia.

"Our regional IT structure is taking more and more responsibility out of each local office and putting it under the auspices of the regional team. And where we can do that globally, we'll do it globally to save money," said Telfer.

The Manila facility includes a document services centre, a network operations centre, and a development centre. All serve the company's 70 offices around the globe, and are available on a 24x7 basis.

"There's always some lawyer, somewhere in Baker and McKenzie awake needing typing, when he can't get local resources," said Telfer who pointed out that the document centre provides a turn-around time of two hours for digital dictation or copy typing.

"Once you aggregate that demand, you then say where can we provide that service from the most cost effective way?"

The network operation centre monitors 11,000 IP devices, and manages key application servers like billing systems, and monitors system backup. The development centre employs 20 programmers.

However, Telfer said the offshored services did not threaten any of the 600 technology staff that are based in Sydney and Melbourne: "We're not actively moving jobs there to save money, we're seeing a business need and we're feeding that out of Manila rather than feeding it locally at greater cost."

"So it's not taking jobs out of local offices and moving them there, we've solved new business requirements by hiring people in Manila," said Telfer.

One example is messaging management.

Aware that it couldn't employ a full-time messaging expert for Australia, Baker and McKenzie opted to use a global position in Manila.

"The IT manager here, despite the fact that this a big office, is not allowed to touch his Exchange servers. They're managed by the regional team.... So I have one regional messaging expert who looks after the 14 offices in this region.

"That guy's obviously quite busy, but generally you'll find a firm with one or two big offices, they've got a messaging expert, but you can't keep him fully employed. And over time I might suspect we'll find more of those roles being based in Manila," said Telfer.

There was a similar story with the network operations centre.

"The network operations centre monitors all the devices here, and checks the backups have completed properly every morning. So I don't have a guy needing to come in at 6:00 in the morning to check the backups have finished and raise the alarm," said Telfer.

He highlighted patch management as an area that will be offshored from Australia to the Philippines next year, which Telfer expects to save "ridiculous" amounts of time.

"Someone's still got to check that those updates have been properly applied, they've got to tell the central managed system which patches to apply ... and we've got a comprehensive testing program that tests each patch against an application set," he said.

VoIP to stay local
The firm is currently rolling out a Cisco voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) network for its Sydney and Melbourne offices, which is being looked after by Optus and Alphawest, who will be responsible for providing new network infrastructure, switches, core routers and handsets.

Also included will be a new 10Mbps link between the two offices.

The VoIP rollout was only necessitated by the Melbourne PABX reaching its end of life. The system needed new extension cards and another cabinet if it was to be renewed, said Telfer.

"The VoIP thing is one of those things for me that will only be precipitated by some other change: "There's not a compelling enough argument for me to say 'let's chuck away our PBX and go and buy it', because it just doesn't deliver".

"It's still a phone at the end of the day, you talk to people on it, and the current phone system does that," he added.

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