\u201cLaw is traditionally a conservative business that is slow to change,\u201d says Craig Columbus, CIO at Russell McVeagh.\nBut over the past 20 months, he says, the relatively traditional law firm has transformed its physical and technical environment, without interrupting its ability to provide excellent service to clients. \n\u201cA transformation of this scale cannot be accomplished without a great deal of communication, collaboration and determination.\u201d \n\u201cWe had many challenges along the way, but we overcame them as a team and I could not have delivered without having excellent and capable people around me.\u201d\nAs CIO, there is no formula for leading a transformation of this scope, says Columbus.\n\u201cI worked hard, but I led from the front, never asking my team to work harder than I was willing to work myself and I communicated as much as I could, doing my best to ensure the team understood the vision of what we are trying to accomplish.\u201d\nHe says the greatest satisfaction he had over the project was being told by one of those who who had doubted the IT team\u2019s ability to pull it off that the business technology transformation was a success and \u201cthey would never go back to the old way of working.\u201d\nCraig traces the seeds of the programme to 2015, when the senior leadership team recognised that they needed to be more nimble to better position the firm for the future.\n\u201cWe came up with a plan and began a full corporate transformation project that ran from mid-2016 through to the present. The CEO asked me to lead a good portion of this business transformation project.\u201d\nOne component of the transformation was a building project to transform the firm\u2019s offices physical premises from cellular office, to fully open plan. \nThe refit required that the company completely gut two floors in its high rise and create a large atrium featuring a bespoke spiral stair connecting the space. \nThey also installed 10 \u201csmart\u201d videoconferencing rooms across the firm. The new smart videoconferencing rooms have proven so popular that they are investing expanding this capability, says Columbus.\n\u201cAnother component of the transformation project was a complete revamp of our technical infrastructure,\u201d Columbus says. \nWith the mandate for mobility, the technology team removed desktops and physical phones and gave every employee a high-end 2-in- 1 laptop running Windows 10, Office 2016, Skype for Business, and new versions of their proprietary core business applications.\n\u201cSecurity was a key concern, so we deployed a number of state of the art security controls to ensure the confidentiality of our systems and associated data,\u201d says Columbus.\n\u201cThe construction project and the technical infrastructure projects were completed on time and under budget and the payoff was immediate,\u201d he says. \u201cWithin hours of launch, we had people using all aspects of the new facility, working in new ways and using the technology to the fullest.\nOne last major phase of the transformation was to provide Russell McVeagh lawyers with better insights into clients and their needs. To accomplish this, the firm needed a change in technology and a change in the way the lawyers worked with data. \n\u201cMy team replaced our old CRM system with a modern system that allows us to have better insights into our data stores at the click of a mouse and we worked closely with our head of business development to ensure our lawyers were fully trained to take advantage of the new technology. \n\u201cWe have already seen significant business benefit, as the technology allows us to better understand our strengths and weaknesses and tune our approach to ensure a better outcome for our clients,\u201d Columbus says.\nAs for lessons learned, he says the biggest challenge to date with IT is striking a balance between the need to change along with a rapidly changing world and ensuring that the firm doesn't get sucked into the hype of solutions that aren't yet ready for commercial use. \n\u201cWe must choose our path thoughtfully and strategically to ensure the best outcome for our clients and for the firm. \n\u201cOne of the best ways to help non-technical people see past the hype is to bring them to technical reviews and demonstrations, highlighting the often non-trivial shortcomings of some cutting edge offerings and pointing out the areas of true differentiation in others.\u201d \nWhile overseeing the traditional projects, Columbus also spends a great deal of time working with the company\u2019s cross disciplinary Innovation Committee, looking into new and exciting technologies, including AI and machine learning.\n\u201cSometimes, however, the benefit gained isn\u2019t in what technology you deploy, but in the time spent learning about some areas in sufficient depth to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff,\u201d he notes.\nHe says this especially applies to artificial intelligence.\n\u201cNot all that glitters is gold,\u201d he says. \u201cIt has taken a fair amount of work to narrow down potential solutions that work as advertised and will provide meaningful and differential results to our clients. Anyone with a credit card can buy \u2018AI\u2019 from a cloud provider, but without careful due diligence and a well-crafted, strategic approach, the investment won\u2019t provide meaningful benefit.\u201d\nThus, he says, \u201cwe have decided to take a careful, thoughtful approach to AI investment,\u201d and is able to bring this year \u201csome true innovations\u201d through this technology to their clients.