Digital Dictation Infrastructure

Naturally, digital dictation by its very nature will be running on the firm’s network infrastructure, so an understanding of that infrastructure and the various internal and external access points to it will be needed to ensure the contemplated digital dictation business process will run efficiently.

Is the infrastructure, including its support, outsourced to a 3rd party?
Working with a 3rd party infrastructure provider may introduce both complexities and opportunities. Seek to understand their position on, and perhaps experience elsewhere with digital dictation.

Do the lawyers carry Notebook PCs?
If so, the remote access options are greater in number.

If they use laptops, how do they connect – VPN / Citrix / WTS?
A thick client connection will afford more options, whilst thin client architectures will restrict the number of options.

If a thin-client architecture is in use, what exact “flavour” is it?
Some “flavours” are supported, some are not.

Do lawyers carry PDAs / Smart Phones / Blackberries only?
If so, this will restrict the number of options.

Is there a full-time Wide Area Network connection between the offices? Or is it dial-up network only? Or is it dial-up internet access only?
Both speed and connection type between the offices will have an effect on the way a digital dictation system can be deployed, and the vendors differ in their approach to this aspect of the installation.

What operating system is in use?
Windows Vista is not yet supported by all digital dictation developers. Windows NT or 98SE will cause limitations – in 2006, the author called upon a law firm that was still running 98SE…

What eMail system is in use?
Microsoft Outlook will provide more vendor options.

Is Microsoft Active Directory directory service (or Novell) in use?
This can present both opportunity and issues.

Is document management in use, and if so, is it integrated with any digital dictation system?
By its very nature integration is bespoken. Seek to understand the exact nature of the integration both from a functional point of view and costs when either system is upgraded.

Is Microsoft SharePoint in use?
If so, it can provide some interesting workflow possibilities.

What Microsoft SQL licencing implications will there be?
A potentially expensive trap to fall into… Get each vendors position in this aspect of the installation.

Is VoIP in use?
Some vendors have integrations for this, but check the details carefully.

In our next post, we will be looking at the digital dictation needs of the Lawyers and how the way they work has an enormous impact on the design of a digital dictation solution… especially in the larger firm where there can be many different working styles dictated as much by the practice group in which they work as their personal preference.

October 23, 2007 at 1:00 pm Leave a comment

Current Dictation Environment

Before you can form an educated opinion of where you want to go with digital dictation, you need to form an understanding of where you are with the current tape-based business process.

In fact, it is not unknown that existing digital dictation systems, even quite extensive ones, end up getting replaced because of an unclear picture of both the current situation and what was needed moving forward.

Following is a set of questions whose answers will serve to clarify you current situation with respect to working practices and the real cost of the current process.

Does your current tape vendor have the ability to deliver a digital solution?
You may be able to leverage the current support & maintenance arrangement.

What specific challenges are you facing with the tape-based system?
e.g. end-of-life tape fleet, costly repairs, new office, increasingly mobile lawyer, work-at-home typists, long turnaround times.

What is the impact of these challenges?
This will help you quantify the real cost – not just in currency, but also in lost jobs on damaged tape, adversely affected client service because conference recordings were not clear enough to transcribe, excessive overtime, dissatisfied clients…

What do you think needs to happen to make things better?
Look beyond the obvious benefits of simply replacing tape. This is your opportunity to re-engineer a business process and really apply some leverage.

How many tape recorders do you have?
This will assist you when it comes to licencing discussions with the vendors who differ markedly in the approach – per seat vs per PC vs per lawyer vs per typist vs per concurrent typist vs enterprise licence

How many tape transcribers do you have?
See above

How much internal desk-moving is there?
Point-to-point systems can have significant licencing control issues with respect to changing the type of user on a PC. Significant movements require uninstalling of software and reinstalling, and this can significantly increase ongoing internal support costs. Active Directory services, roaming profiles etc all come into this question.

Would the firm consider setting up a centralised Word Processing Centre?
Many firms gain significant benefit from centralising WP, or at least in larger countries, establishing 2 centres to offer follow-the-sun transcription support. It will also perhaps provide an insight into the labour costs that could be saved.

What would happen if you do not adopt digital dictation?
This helps you understand true costs, both direct and indirect.

If you have seen some digital dictation systems, what did you like and dislike about them?
Build a feature / benefit list and don’t be afraid to ask the vendors to prove their capabilities listed in their marketing material.

What would digital dictation need to do to compel you to invest in it?
This really cuts to the heart of the matter.

In an ideal world where everything is possible, what would you like to achieve with digital dictation?
Sometimes, the unexpected is possible

Does the firm prefer to purchase, rent or lease IT needs?
This may influence the way the proposals are put to you.

What path would a pilot proposal take?
Be clear on the path for a digital dictation project – must it go to the Board?

Have any lawyers / secretaries used digital dictation anywhere else?
Their opinions of the reality can be illuminating.

Does the secretarial department have any statistics on numbers of dictations, by whom, how long etc?
This will assist enormously with scoping the project – no sense in having too many licences and wasting your money. Equally there is no sense in having too few and having to go cap-in-hand to the partners for an extension to the system.

Does the HR Manager have a report of WP operator overtime and secretarial / PA overtime?
Digital dictation can reduce these costs if implemented correctly.

How do you record and transcribe multi-attendee conferences?
Poor quality recordings always result in poor quality transcripts and that wastes everybody’s time – lawyer, typist and client. Ensure the system integrates with a specifically designed meeting software application.

Although not exhaustive, these questions will help you understand where you sit currently with the dictation / transcription business process before embarking on the next set of questions around your digital dictation infrastructure.

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October 5, 2007 at 12:36 pm Leave a comment

Selecting Digital Dictation

Let’s face it, when it comes to digital dictation, there are a plethora of options.
How can you make sense of what is on offer when you have never purchased a digital dictation system before?

First, you get a good grounding in the questions to ask yourself, your potential vendor partners and your peers.
Then you build a business case (or not!).
Then you pilot.
Then you buy (or not!).

In this 7 part series, I will get you off to a solid start by providing you with the benefit of my experience of selling (or selling against) 6 different digital dictation systems. I will tend to focus on the legal industry because therein lies the majority of my experience.

The most important aspects to understand about the process of deciding on a digital dictation system are:

  • What is your current business need for this tool?
  • What is your current technical / operational situation that causes you to consider this tool?
  • What will your current infrastructure allow you to do?
  • What are the lawyers’ needs?
  • What are the secretaries’ / typists’ needs?
  • What are the capabilities of the various digital dictation systems?
  • What are the costs of staying as you are?
  • What are the costs of adopting digital dictation?

A clear understanding of these points will ensure you are able to both build a good business case for digital dictation, and leverage as much value out of it as possible moving into the future. Although not an exhaustive analysis of either your situation, or indeed all the vendors, the next 6 posts will hopefully result in you building a strong foundation on which to conduct your own investigation.

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September 29, 2007 at 12:35 pm Leave a comment

Successful Audio Transcription

There are 2 main operational difficulties with the transcription of audio recordings of conferences and meetings – poor sound quality and no idea of who is speaking.
 
Poor sound quality comes from the use of voice audio recorders (that are primarily designed for close-to-mouth dictation) being set to RECORD and then being positioned in the middle of the table. The tiny microphone in these devices was never designed to deliver good quality audio under those conditions. Of course, sound quality degrades exponentially with the distance from device to speakers, environmental noise, table banging, paper shuffling etc
 
Not to mention the very difficult task of assigning a name to each and every conversational comment. So why not add speaker identity so that the typist does not have to continually REWIND in order to try and figure out who is speaking?
 
For these very reasons, many transcription companies work by the rule that it takes 6 hours to transcribe 1 hour of meeting audio of average quality – more if they want the transcript time-coded.
 
This of course results in 2 further economic problems:
 
– wasting the client’s time confirming who said what; and

– perhaps even wasting a lawyer’s time if they are the intermediary – and lawyers are expensive people to interrupt!
 
So, surely it would make sense to improve the capture of the original audio and provide a mechanism for speaker identity?
 
This would result in a win-win-win situation for transcriptionist,  lawyer and client.
 
The typist would be able to transcribe more quickly and more comfortably resulting in less fatigue – a common complaint with conference transcription work.
 
The lawyer would get a more complete transcript more quickly.
 
The client would get a faster, more complete service.
 
Everybody wins…

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September 22, 2007 at 1:52 pm 1 comment

Google creates economic value out of dreaming

Did you know that Google expects its people to spend 20% of their time focused on innovation?
 
If you work in a company of 100 employees, that means 20 of them work exclusively on coming up with innovative ideas.
 
How much time is spent on innovation at your company?

September 13, 2007 at 12:14 pm Leave a comment

Hello World!

Welcome to our first blog post. We hope you find our musings interesting enough to pass on, share and otherwise ruminate over to your heart’s content. Primarily, we will be writing about innovation, but not in a general sense. Rather, we will be discussing innovation from the point of view of creating competitive advantage within the corporate environment, especially professional services firms.

Paradoxically, those corporations you would think have the greatest financial capacity to innovate, the large ones, seem to be the least innovative. They are frequently weighed down by beurocracy, with the majority of their employees encumbered by administrative processes, barely leaving them time to breathe and wonder.

How often do you get home and realise that the day was end-to-end admin – no time for creating anything of value to either your employer or indeed yourself.

In The Age newspaper today, Joshua Frydenberg makes comment that there needs to be “three bold shifts”, one of which was “a revolution in business’ approach to innovation. Companies need to exercise the apparent paradox of less caution but more discipline in the creation and development of next-generation business models.”

And therein lies the difficulty.

Larger companies seem determined to categorise us (both functionally and via un-usurpable pay grades), pop us into cubicles like battery chickens and numb our creative sides with tedious repetition and then wonder why smaller companies “steal their cheese”. Of course, their common response is to buy smaller innovative companies, and mergers/acquisitions have been shown to fail most of the time.

Would it not make more sense to free up the minds of existing employees who know the clients intimately (or at least should) and set them along a structured path of innovation?

We are not talking about letting people run wild, but rather give them the freedom to soar within a well-articulated space. Even Chinese authorities, in a nation run from the top down “are pouring money and political will into becoming an innovation economy” says Peter Ford of The Christian Science Monitor. Apparently, they are finding it tough to make the transition from agrarian to innovative society. But when they do, there will be 1.2 billion people devoted to finding new ways to compete and win.

Even Accenture, an acomplished consultancy firm recently bought another firm devoted to innovation. To win, we must beat an opponent and to do so requires both skills and a plan to deploy those skills.

In a mature economy especially, where services and products are increasingly commoditised, those skills had better be inclusive of an innovative mindset and practice.

September 6, 2007 at 1:27 pm Leave a comment

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