Chris Noakes

Business Analysis Manager,
Linklaters LLP
24 April 2017

Can you tell our readers a bit more about your career history and your current responsibilities within Linklaters LLP?

My career in IT started about 19 years ago, and I broke into Business Analysis in 2006, which has since seen me take up leadership positions at Tesco Underwriting, RSA and now Linklaters. Working for various company sizes across different delivery methodologies, has enabled me to gain a huge amount of experience and exposure to support me in my move into the Legal sector, which offers similar challenges to other organisations I have had the pleasure of working for.

Within the firm, I manage a team of Business Analysts that operate across multiple environments, supporting the delivery of anything from bespoke development to enhancing ‘off-the-shelf’ products. I am responsible for creating and maturing a BA team that supports the business and our clients in a consistent and transparent approach that doesn’t compromise on quality, so that the expected business/project outcome is right first time. This also includes the review of how we manage our requirements and what metrics we can provide to demonstrate the value we bring to the firm.

How have your organisational needs and expectations towards BAs changed over the years?

Since joining the firm, I have marketed the service internally to raise the profile and benefit the team brings to a project, and I am seeing a greater demand for BAs, as well as a requirement to have them involved earlier on in the process, rather than when the last dance is about to come on at the party, which is extremely positive. In terms of expectation, this is more transparent as we have a dedicated intranet site, amongst other things, to articulate what we do and why, along with clear accountabilities, which helps manage the expectation from the start. This is having a positive response and creates a foundation for which we can discuss our role on a particular assignment. With an accumulation of PR, transparency, as well as consistency of deliverables and approach, the shift to ‘want’ a BA is happening; therefore, the hard work is paying off!

What are the most challenging aspects of BAs in the Agile business environment?

In the world of Business Analysis, the most challenging aspect is the speed at which the business wants solutions implemented. Although the skills and experience in the team enable us to adapt, this can restrict the ability to ensure quality and understanding of the requirements in the way we would like. To enable us to articulate the approach we want to use, to ensure the right outcome, an analyst will produce a requirements work plan. This plan outlines the actions, along with an outcome in a timeline view, so that collaboratively the BA can explain the risks of watering down or not doing certain steps. To produce something visually supports us in what we aim to deliver, as well as gives transparency in the risks. The feedback so far has been positive, as stakeholders can better understand the risks involved and can make an informed decision to accept or avoid them.

As with most roles in technology, it is never safe to rely on the skills you already have, but what is the skillset needed by BAs for the future?

In my view, the basics will still be key, with stakeholder management being at the very top. However, with technology moving so fast and demands on solutions being production-ready much sooner, I think experience in different delivery methodologies will be a benefit and help put a different perspective on things, so that we still deliver safely and efficiently.

Legal IT is going through a big digital transformation. Can you tell our members more about Linklaters' newest developments in that area?

At Linklaters, we are always exploring how we can be more efficient and add greater value to the practice, as well as our clients. One of our latest achievements has been the global refresh of our desktops, with lawyers now being offered the choice of a desktop, laptop or Windows Surface, which includes Windows 10 and Office 2016. With 98% of our fee-earner population opting for a mobile device, they now have the flexibility to operate on the move, using some of the newest tools available and making better use of their time as well as the clients’.

Collaboration is one of the firms’ biggest drivers and with the new software comes the opportunity to use tools such as OneNote, which has had an immediate impact on the reduction of paper, as lawyers are able to take notes electronically, mark up documents without the need to print them off and share them instantly.

The use of Convene, another collaboration tool, has also influenced our ExCom team, as they are now using it to digitise meetings and board packs, which again has seen a reduction in the need to print off some fairly paper-heavy material.

Finally, from a practice perspective, we have implemented ‘Workshare Transact’, which helps lawyers organise and manage complex legal transactions. These transactions can include hundreds of files and emails being exchanged, and often these can be disorganised. This application enables lawyers to create bespoke workspaces based on the documents checklist for the transaction, providing a familiar and intuitive structure for the organisation and exchange of deal files.

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