G+T kicks off Exchange Online migration, shifts to cloud CRM

Law firm takes next step in cloud journey

Gilbert + Tobin has kicked off a project to migrate to Exchange Online — the latest step in the prominent law firm’s migration to the cloud.

The migration began late last month is being conducted in batches, said G+T chief technology officer Mitch Owens.

“That will run through until about March next year and it will coincide with a device refresh that we’re doing internally — so as a user gets a new device, we’re going to migrate them to Exchange Online and give them Outlook 2016,” he said.

G+T is also shifting from an on-premises CRM to OnePlace: A Salesforce.com-based CRM designed for professional services firms.

The law firm’s cloud journey kicked off around four years ago, beginning with Office 365 — largely thanks to OneNote.

“The reason we were looking at that was to try to get our users, being lawyers, into the digital age and off spiral-bound notebooks,” Owens said.

The CTO said that his emphasis on user experience and easing the transition to new services led G+T to roll out Okta for identity management, and it underpins the identity aspect of all the cloud services used at the firm. “User identity is core to most of our cloud journey,” Owens said.

Since an initial rollout of OneNote and OneDrive, the firm has also migrated to a cloud-based document management system — NetDocuments, which is delivered from an Australian data centre — and a cloud-based email archiving system.

In addition to addressing end user experience, Okta’s small data centre footprint was a key factor in the decision to roll out the platform, Owens said.

With a background in banking and financial services, the CTO said that he saw the use of an identity management platform as an important way of managing risk.

“Realistically, if you’re going to give users that many platforms that they need to remember user names and passwords [for] — all they’re going to do is write it down in the back of their diary; it’s going to be available on their desks,” he said. “Someone can take off with that and then one weekend just do whatever they want and then harvest all our information.”

The CTO said that he uses Okta to enforce multifactor authentication when people seek to log-in to a service from outside the gtlaw.com.au domain.

Okta also plays another, somewhat unusual role at G+T the CTO said, with the platform being used to manage authentication for SharePoint-based client portals that the law firm builds for some of its customers.

“Because of the content that they will contain, we don’t have them in SharePoint Online; they’re all behind our firewall,” he said. Okta is used to provide external user accounts for clients while all the data is stored behind G+T’s firewall.

“It gives users a limited access view into our world for what we want to show to them,” the CTO said.

Prior to using Okta, “it was a very messy, messy authentication piece both from an operational manager’s perspective and [in terms of] user experience,” Owens said: The firm manually managed users in a separate client tree within Active Directory

“We were managing and maintaining user names and password all hours of the day – someone needs something done, we had had to do it,” he said.

Okta is also providing authentication for a number of products that the law firm built internally and is now getting ready to commercialise focused on document verification and due diligence searches.

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