Isn’t it frustrating when technology doesn’t work? Imagine a time when you had a tight deadline and technology failed you. Maybe you couldn’t retrieve documents, or your email failed.
Now imagine this happening firm-wide, with attorneys and staff enduring unpredictable technologies and manual or duplicative processes just to get their work done. When this is multiplied across an entire firm, its systems and its personnel, the impact on efficiency and profitability can be considerable.
In the first two articles of this series, we discussed how firms can assess their current technology and implement a new vision for IT. It’s now time to consider how to ensure your technology planning and vision are actually sustainable.
MEASURE THE FIRM’S PERFORMANCE AND TECHNOLOGY INVESTMENT
Once the firm has created and deployed its five-year IT plan, it’s time to define performance through predetermined metrics. This will also help identify future challenges. The reporting aspect should involve tracking time, then mining that data so it reveals important information that can affect your technology plan.
Consider one law firm, where a report showed that the back office was spending 67 percent of its time scanning documents. By instituting automation, the firm could see that amount of time plummet and the surplus reinvested back into productive tasks.
Useful reports can also shed light on the firm’s performance and technology investment. These reports include:
Trust (client fund) account reports
Profitability (billings and cash receipts by timekeeper and practice area)
Disbursement (costs) analysis
Profit and loss
Employee retention is another consideration, particularly when the firm is growing. Often, a law firm will spend thousands or even millions on new technology but overlook the importance of onboarding, off-boarding and training employees.
When hiring new employees, many firms adopt a strategy that basically boils down to: “Here’s your desk. Here’s your stuff. Start working. Ask the person at the next desk if you have a question.” This leads to frustrated employees who don’t know how to use the technology available or the procedures and policies around it. Down the road, they find themselves reprimanded for not following a process they weren’t even trained on. To avoid this, make sure employees are trained and informed of procedures, workflow, and business requirements.
You should also listen to staff and attorneys. They are the users accessing your technology every day and will provide the best feedback about its performance.
AVOID THE “BREAK-FIX” MODE
The “break-fix” mode describes when a law firm becomes complacent in its technology choices. The same technology stays in place, but there’s no continual assessment of its effectiveness or ability to support the firm into the future. The firm becomes reactive and simply fixes problems as they occur. Technology is constantly advancing. A firm must ensure that its technology is competitive and enables an edge or at least a level playing field with competitors.
In today’s competitive environment, many law firms are focused on growing. Those who succeed at growing are in an enviable position. But growth can bring its own challenges. By understanding your firm’s IT needs now and into the future, you can prepare your firm to manage growth and continue to thrive.
Joe Kelly is the founder and CEO of Legal Workspace, a service that offers law firms virtual computing workspaces in the cloud.