As the woman in charge of IT, facilities and knowledge management at law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP), Janet Day has an eye on pretty much anything that relies on technology to operate.
Having become involved in IT “by accident” after finishing her biochemistry degree, Day has worked her way up the IT management ladder via a number of positions, ranging from project management to consulting (see below).
And this year, in recognition of her achievements, she has made it onto the shortlist for IT Leader of the Year in the Computing Awards for Excellence.
Since Day joined BLP full-time in 1996, email and document management systems have been implemented and the law firm has adopted virtualisation, which supports a number of areas including remote management and data storage for the firm’s international offices.
Blade server technology provided by IBM has been in use at BLP for three years and the firm has reduced the number of physical servers by more than a third, which were then redeployed in areas such as disaster recovery.
The recession has not affected her IT budget, but there has been a reprioritisation exercise and the most important upcoming project is a desktop refresh, which will begin at the end of October. “We are very aware that the price of catching up is often greater than the price of keeping pace, so we keep a sensible approach to IT spending,” she said.
“But in the current climate, if I had some ‘nice to have’ projects I would have canned them automatically this year. We are not moving anything that is a direct line of business but anything that is peripheral to it will be considered when markets are more robust.”
Delivering value for the business was the main driver behind the change in
Day’s role, when she took on responsibility for facilities and knowledge
“Technology is the oil that keeps wheels turning. If I had less control over the systems that are attached to my network then I may need to pedal harder to keep them functioning,” she said.
“Increasingly, businesses are realising that it is best to have the people running the technology taking part in strategic decisions and contributing to them, having board-level positions and a voice that is heard at a senior level, because that is what will maximise investment in IT.”
Keeping pace with changes in technology is one of Day’s major challenges, as well as adapting to the rise of consumer IT and monitoring budgets.
“Bringing the business to the forefront of technology without being the bleeding-edge area will be the next big challenge you will need to be timely and update your set-up without being ludicrous,” she said.
But her 35 years of experience will not let Day get carried away. “I am acknowledged in my firm and within the legal technology practice as someone who thinks about business support, services and dynamics instead of just straightforward IT,” she said.
“I guess that’s what I am proudest of professionally - being a rounded human being, not just a technocrat.”
CV: Janet Day
Janet Day’s career started in 1970, when she moved from being a personal assistant at legal firm Allen & Overy (A&O) to finding herself responsible for the facilities and personnel departments and setting up the firm’s technology from scratch.
“At that time, those things [IT equipment] were really expensive and there was a lot of opposition to investment in IT because of the lack of systems for the legal sector at the time, so you had to do a ‘minds and hearts’ exercise to convince managers of the return on investment, ” she says.
The demands for systems supporting the running of the law practice piled up and Day started working as a project manager for delivery of the firm’s accounting system developed in Cobol and even learned to write code.
In 1990, Day set up a consultancy practice in partnership with A&O’s finance director. She was introduced to BLP in 1996 to support the group on its five-year technology strategy, which started with a complete IT refresh.
She was invited to join the practice on a permanent basis as the IT director a year later.
“I had fun consulting, but it had its limitations because you rarely get to see the end of the projects you work on. You are there for the definition of the project and perhaps the purchasing but when it comes to implementing, organisations tend to do it themselves as the cost of having a consultant only to do that is often prohibitive,” says Day.