The virtual office expands

Summary:With unified messaging, attorneys at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP spend the bulk of their time accessing and sending e-mail, voice mail, and faxes, but that's only the tip of the iceberg, says CIO Mary Odson. The goal, says Odson, is to provide attorneys with access to a variety of enterprise applications on laptops and handheld BlackBerry devices.

With unified messaging, attorneys at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP spend the bulk of their time accessing and sending e-mail, voice mail, and faxes, but that's only the tip of the iceberg, says CIO Mary Odson.

The goal, says Odson, is to provide attorneys with access to a variety of enterprise applications on laptops and handheld BlackBerry devices. Over time, Odson hopes to make many more of the firm's enterprise applications available--not only the standard Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents, but many of the firm's 20 other legal-specific SQL Server-based applications.

So far, only a handful are accessible via the handheld devices, such as Carpe Diem, SQL-based time-tracking software from Sage U.S. Holdings, and legal-specific billing and accounting software MobileTimeBilling by Wireless Verticals.

In the case of MobileTimeBilling, attorneys can enter time spent on a specific client's case into the BlackBerry. The BlackBerry transmits this data to Exchange, which passes it off to the Carpe Diem SQL Server database running on a Dell PowerEdge 6350 server running Windows NT 4.0.

Next, the firm probably will offer access to a customer relationship management (CRM) query application called InterAction from InterFace Software. The software, which runs on a Dell PowerEdge 6450 server running Windows NT 4.0 and SQL Server 7.0, will allow attorneys to query which of the firm's attorneys have expertise on a specific subject. The objective, Odson says, is that even if a client's question is outside an attorney's area of expertise, the attorney could still provide an answer immediately. The capability currently is in prototype, Odson says.

If it is going to grow in corporate America, unified messaging must extend its capabilities beyond e-mail, voice mail, and fax, says Robert Mahowald, senior analyst for the collaborative computing program at International Data Corp.

"We're just beginning to see the capability to get a window into enterprise applications with [unified messaging]," he notes. "If you just got a call from Joe Smith of XYZ Corp., it's great to be able to go into your Siebel CRM application and look at the customer file to determine when the renewal is due. It's that feature that will make unified messaging take off."

Topics: Collaboration, Enterprise Software, Hardware, Mobility, Networking, Servers, Software, Telcos, Unified Comms

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