01 May 2019

3 Lessons AI Initiatives Should Take from the Cloud

In the legal sector, 2018 saw artificial intelligence (AI) climb to the top of many law firms’ agenda, driven by the lure of the business benefits this new technology potentially offers alongside organisations’ perceived need to “innovate.”

By Tom Dent-Spargo

Africa Studio / Shutterstock.com


In 2019, AI is approaching a tipping point – and as it does, it’s useful to look at another technology that reached its own tipping point not that long ago: the cloud. Initially, companies approached the cloud in a cautious manner, seeking out specific use cases where it could be applied to their operations. Today, the benefits of the cloud are well understood, and it’s a widely implemented technology. It’s simply part of “business as usual.”

AI is heading in the same direction as the cloud in the coming year, and as it approaches the tipping point, there are a few lessons the cloud can teach us about how firms can best approach AI and ensure its success.

Take a Strategic Platform Approach

Here’s how AI typically gets introduced to a law firm: one specific department or practice group purchases a point solution that will do one very specific task for them – the same way that companies initially sought cloud for one specific function or workload, like DevOps. 

That’s all fine and well – but what happens when four or five other groups purchase their own specific point solutions? Soon, you have a huge mishmash of products and multiple vendor relationships to manage.

In the same way that companies realised they needed an overarching cloud strategy rather than a series of one-off cloud implementations, firms that are serious about exploiting AI need to take a more holistic, strategic approach. This means looking towards platforms – provided by a single – or a small number of strategic vendors – that can solve problems for not just one particular department or use case, but for multiple groups and applications. 

A tactical, ad hoc approach to AI – while capable of driving internal gains around efficiency and cost savings – is a barrier to achieving organisation-wide innovation-led goals. Rather than purchasing AI point solutions, firms should aim to select a platform that they can extend across their organisation. Only then will firms realise the strategic potential of AI for genuine business advantage such as creating new services or developing new ways of working on behalf of their clients.

Create an “Invisible” Enterprise Technology

Most of the time, end users don’t notice if they’re using the cloud or an on-premises resource when they’re accessing a file, launching an application, or performing a task. The cloud is, for all intents and purposes, “invisible” to the users. They don’t see it or think about it.

AI needs a similar degree of ubiquity and invisibility within a firm’s processes and activities. This requires creating a business environment that is conducive to AI, and digitalisation of information is a core aspect of this undertaking. IT directors should revisit their long-term, strategic roadmap to embed AI into the broader enterprise, including the technology stack and existing legal processes. This is especially important as commoditisation of legal services rapidly moves up the value chain – for two prime examples, look no further than insurance claims handling and conveyancing. 

The bottom line? The more ubiquitous and invisible AI is – the more it’s seamlessly embedded into existing processes, rather than a special tool that users need to seek out when a specific task needs to happen – the more firms can use AI to deliver value to users.

Leverage Your Existing Assets

The cloud is flexible enough to accommodate existing investments in IT infrastructure and allow firms to continue leveraging these assets via a hybrid model, so that they can “make use of what they’ve already got.” AI should follow a similar path with the less tangible – but arguably more valuable – assets that a firm has in its possession. We’re talking here about data.

Every law firm has a wealth of hard-earned knowledge that has been acquired over the decades of their existence. This knowledge and experience are what separates a well-established firm from a new upstart – which is why firms should make sure that any AI platform they choose is able to exploit this valuable asset.

AI is very data-hungry, and the ability of a firm to train its AI models using its own data and knowledge rather than public data is a powerful advantage. Firms can cement their position as experts by enhancing their models with the data that they’ve already accumulated. Making it easy to transform raw data into actionable models only increases the benefits that AI can deliver.

Ready to Go?

Not that long ago, firms that embraced the cloud were considered outliers. These days, any companies not making use of the cloud in some capacity would be considered outliers – and in a year’s time, we may well be saying the same thing about companies and their use of AI.

Much the same way the cloud did, AI is rapidly making inroads into organisations, transforming the way they do business. By employing some of the best practices from cloud adoption – taking a platform approach, making the technology invisible, and leveraging existing assets – innovative firms can smooth the path for AI as it continues its inevitable march forward, allowing them to better reap the benefits.



By Peter Wallqvist, Vice President of Strategy at iManage RAVN.

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