Posts tagged ‘Digital Dictation’

Digital Dictation Costs

As with all considered purchases, there are costs of purchasing and opportunity costs of NOT purchasing. Building a business case will require an understanding of both.

What does the tape system support & maintenance cost?
It is no doubt increasing each year as spare parts become obsolete.

What is the cost of floating typists?
A well designed and implemented digital dictation system can replace the majority of this cost.

What is the cost of temporary typists?
This is a tough one – partners are loathe to relinquish typist support. Do you need to replace a secretary who is on holiday?

What is the cost of the late return of transcripts?
An unhappy client is a poor chance of repeat business.

What is the cost of the lawyers having to redo dictations because of poor quality audio on tapes?
Doubling up on a lost or inaudible dictation is expensive. You have the direct cost of redoing the dictation as well as the indirect costs of time that should be spent on something else, as well as the delay to client service.

What is the cost of interruptions to the lawyer when they are asked to clarify what was said and who said it on multi-attendee conference recordings?
Digital dictation systems were designed for close-to-mouth audio recording. They were not designed to be set in the middle of the table to record a conference of people. They are 2 very different things. It takes 5-8 hours to transcribe 1 hour of conference audio, and it is a difficult task for the typist resulting in fatigue, incomplete transcripts and frequent interruptions of the lawyer to seek clarification as to what was said and by whom. Using a specifically designed conference audio recorder will lower the amount of time required to transcribe conferences, decrease the number of interruptions of lawyers, as well as provide a more acceptable situation for the typist from an occupational health point of view.

Does every lawyer dictate?
This is an important licencing consideration… no sense in buying dictation licences for lawyers who do not dictate!

Does every secretary type?
Again, this is an important licencing consideration.

What is the cost of support & maintenance for the digital dictation system?
Ensure performance is measured as well.

What does the S&M charge include?
Version releases, Point release, bug fixes, email support, telephone help desk, 24×7, follow-the-sun… Get the vendor to document the S&M protocol, including response times.

How does the vendor licence its solution?
Is it by fee earner or by secretary or by both or by PC or by concurrent fee earner or by concurrent typist or an enterprise licence? Is there licence control built into the system to prevent inadvertent surpassing of the licenced number?

That brings us to the end of our 7 part series on Selecting a Digital Dictation Solution. We appreciate all the email communications to date and welcome further questions as they arise.


January 21, 2008 at 10:24 am 1 comment

Secretaries’ Transcription Needs

As much as possible it is desirable that the impact on the secretaries and typists of digital transcription is minimal. In fact, a well designed and deployed solution will be met with enthusiasm when the previously impossible has become possible, such as working from home or highly efficient work sharing to avoid being required to stay back late.

The needs of secretaries and typists fall into 2 categories – what they have always been able to do with tape systems, and what they could do with digital dictation.

How many Secretaries are there in total?
In preparation for the licencing discussion, an understanding will be necessary with respect to the total number of secretaries versus the Full Time Equivalent (FTE) number of secretaries and the greatest number of secretaries at one time, and the distribution over the three 8 hour shifts of the day.

How do the Secretaries view the current tape-based system?
This is an often under-analysed area. Poor productivity due to poor quality recordings costs real money. Also, their opinions may give an insight into any possible resistance to change, or indeed hidden resentment of tapes. Many secretaries immediately believe that their jobs are under threat. This fear will need to be assuaged.

How do Secretaries cope with a bunch of tapes dropped in their in basket?
This helps clarify their level of advocacy for change.

How do Secretaries share the work within and between the practice groups?
This will demonstrate whether they have a teamwork mentality or a solo mentality. Digital dictation opens up a world of opportunities in both flattening the peaks of workload, as well as providing skills-based routing, e.g. some typists like to transcribe multi-attendee conferences.

How do the Secretaries cope with the jobs not completed during the day?
Left for tomorrow lowers client service levels, completed on overtime reduces profitability, transferred to another shift…

Have the Secretaries been asked their opinion of the tape sound quality?
Sometimes this is a very strong driver because poor sound quality impacts their ability to get their job done and it leads to dissatisfaction. It can also result in frequent interruptions of the lawyers as clarifications are sought, especially with multi-attendee conference audio recordings.

Is there a senior Secretary willing to champion the system?
Secretaries are not in a position to approve the system, but they are certainly in a position to provide valuable advice on more efficient ways of working.

Are there Secretaries who could take on revenue generating work, or easily up-skill to do so?
This will uncover hidden value in digital dictation from the redeployment of secretaries to para-legal type work.

In our next post, we will be looking at the Capabilities of the Digital Dictation Systems. They ARE NOT all the same, and I will show you how you can determine which is the right one for you.

November 20, 2007 at 12:07 pm Leave a comment

Lawyers’ Dictation Needs

As much as possible it is desirable that the impact on the lawyers of digital dictation is minimal. In fact, a well designed and deployed solution will be met with enthusiasm when the previously impossible has become possible, such as transcription support after hours and from outside the firm.

The needs of lawyers fall into 2 categories – what they have always been able to do with tape systems, and what they could do with digital dictation.
Are the lawyers aware of the challenges prompting the investigation of digital dictation?
This will help drive the process to completion. Try not to go this one alone – it will be a tough internal sell when they are asked to pay for a replacement to a system they believe is functional.

How many lawyers are there in total?
Not every lawyer uses transcription services, so there is no sense in buying digital dictation for them.

For those lawyers using transcription services, what is their preferred audio recorder interface – slide-switch or push button?
Warning – Do not assume… It has happened that the project team emulated the incumbent interface only to discover that the other was more widely preferred.

How do the lawyers view the current tape-based system?
If the majority feel there is no problem, then you will need to illuminate for them their unrealised needs and a truly compelling business case will need to be built.

Do the lawyers travel?
The level of mobility of the legal practitioners will be part of the consideration for what method of remote access to the digital dictation system will need to be provided.

Do the lawyers second to client sites?
How they are setup on site will influence the remote access options required.

How do the lawyers get transcription support after hours?
This can be a key part of the business case.

Is there a senior partner willing to champion the pilot system?
This will dramatically improve the likelihood of success of the project.

In our next post, we will be looking the transcription needs of the secretaries.

November 13, 2007 at 11:11 am 1 comment

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