Dickinson Dees

Company: Lynx TechnologyCustomer: Dickinson DeesSubmitted by: Lynx TechnologyBased in the north of England, Dickinson Dees offers a wide range of legal services. The company is expanding rapidly, following the opening of a second office, and wanted to make sure that it had the resources in place to manage its IT systems. Microsoft Systems Management Server, implemented by Lynx Technology, now enables Dickinson Dees’ IT team to remotely deploy software, answer helpdesk queries and manage a hardware and software inventory.

Company background

Dickinson Dees is the north of England’s leading law firm with 51 partners and 412 staff. Based in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, the company offers a wide range of legal services to a full range of corporate, public sector and individual clients. Dickinson Dees is especially proud of the service that it provides to the north of England and is committed to the continued development and success of the region. It has opened a second permanent office in the Tees ValleyOpening up a new office raised a number of challenges for Dickinson Dees’ IT team. Ewan Porter, IT Manager, Dickinson Dees, explains: “We wanted to manage the new office remotely. At the same time, the growth of our existing office in Newcastle, combined with plans to open a second office in the city in the near future, led us to look at ways of managing our IT resources more effectively.

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Effective resource management

The obvious solution was Microsoft® System Management Server (SMS), which the company already owned as part of the Microsoft Back Office suite. Says Porter: “We always knew that at some stage we would take full advantage of SMS Server, and the need to install software remotely across about 400 PCs in an expanding network of offices drove us to get the resources and skills to implement the software at the start of 2000.”

Looking for the right partner

Dickinson Dees turned to its long-term IT partner Lynx Technology for assistance. Says Porter: “Over the past four years, Lynx Technology has provided us with a wide range of quality IT services including break/fix maintenance, hardware and software sourcing and installation, as well as the consultancy services required for a project like this one.”Lynx Technology had already completed an SMS 2.0 installation for similar sized organizations Combined with a detailed Lynx Technology proposal which gave a full account of the benefits of SMS, this experience enabled Porter to get budget approval from the Dickinson Dees.

The SMS solution

Says Karen Dallyn, Sales Manager at Lynx Technology Ltd: “The ability to roll out applications from one machine, rather than having to go to every single desk obviously saves time. But in Dickinson Dees case it was vital. Not only does its Newcastle office spread out in many sections, it has just opened a new office in Stockton-on-Tees. Without its own IT team, it is vital that employees at this location have the highest levels of day-to-day technology support.”

Remote management

All Dickinson Dees employees will also be able to take advantage of remote helpdesk support. In other words, if an end-user needs guiding through an application, SMS enables the IT support team to take remote control of their machine, and talk the end-user through the process, whether it’s formatting a document or a spreadsheet, or selecting a new printer on the network.

Above all, SMS’s ability to install software on clients from a central location and provide remote helpdesk support enables Dickinson Dees’ IT team to provide a faster, more efficient service to employees while saving time and money. Says Porter: “We really wanted to avoid the expense of setting up an IT support team at the Stockton office or even the need for someone in Newcastle to get in a car and drive to the new office and help them out, when their time is better spent here.”But SMS also plays a vital role in the Newcastle office itself. “The company is spread over several floors and departments,” says Porter. “Instead of having to hire more people to walk around desks and solve problems or install software at every single desktop, we can now do all this remotely. Downtime is also reduced.

It might take a good ten minutes to walk to a desk – multiply this by the number of helpdesk calls every week and you have a significant amount of downtime which is now dramatically reduced.”Remote PC management has also changed employees’ attitudes to the helpdesk. Says Porter: “As well as providing a better service by solving more problems first time, we’ve noticed a change in the approach of staff. Instead of calling up and saying ‘help, it doesn’t work’, they tend to ask, ‘I need to do something with this application – can you guide me through it.”

Understanding your technology

Another valuable feature of SMS is its ability to build a full network software and hardware inventory. This is vital for a number of reasons.

To begin with, too many organizations don’t have a detailed breakdown of their IT assets. Apart from the headache that this gives to accountants, it also puts an organization at risk because it is legally required to prove it owns the necessary software licenses.Every time that a user logs on to the network SMS automatically updates a single record detailing the type of machine, its specifications, even its serial number. It also interrogates the hard drive to identify the software running on this particular device. Having a complete understanding of your IT resources is also essential if you plan company wide upgrading of applications or operating systems.

With a central inventory it’s easy to find out whether your PCs and servers meet the requirements of any new software. Without, it is a question of manually auditing your hardware – a time consuming and potentially expensive process.

Maximum value from investment

Installing SMS cost Dickinson Dees £20,000 – an extremely valuable investment when you consider what it is saving the company. Says Porter: “SMS has more than paid for itself in the first few months of use. The alternative would have been to hire at least one new person and pay for that person to drive between our two main locations. It’s already an excellent investment, and as the organisation expands, SMS’s value will increase even further.

“Taking full advantage of the Microsoft Back Office suite delivered other important benefits. Says Porter: “Microsoft platforms and applications allow us to capitalise on our hardware and software investment – we are getting maximum value from our technology.”But he raises another interesting point. “Retaining and recruiting IT staff is a challenge these days. Employees are obviously looking for a good financial package, but they also want an environment which is stimulating and challenging. Typically with Microsoft we are dealing with leading edge technology which keeps people stimulated and interested in their work.

“Dickinson Dees will continue the roll out of applications using SMS – Internet Explorer 5.0 has already been successfully delivered to desktops. The challenge will be to exploit all of SMS’s features as the company continues to expand. “SMS, like all Microsoft applications, is highly scalable and will enable us to manage the growth of Dickinson Dees and its IT resources now, and in the future,” says Porter.