Whether firms like it or not, technology has become inextricably integrated into the practice of law. In a time when there seem to be new applications and software released every day, the question is not whether to adopt technology, it’s how to stay on top of the ever-changing technology landscape and implement solutions that make your firm more efficient and profitable.
Much of the pressure on firms to innovate is coming from clients, who are increasingly demanding technology that truly enhances the legal work product and process. All too often, though, clients are enamored with the latest buzzwords and trends and may ask for solutions that would add very little value, but plenty of time and expense to implement. In a constantly expanding sea of technology options, how can firms hope to stay ahead of the curve? The answer lies in running your IT department leanly and prioritizing solutions that get results, rather than simply jumping on the next big thing.
Balancing Client Satisfaction with Good Business Sense
Lawyers are trained to put client needs first, and for good reason. At the end of the day, law firms are also businesses. If clients aren’t satisfied, they’ll quickly look to your competitors, and your bottom line will suffer. Continuing to provide top-notch legal services can feel like an uphill battle when clients seem more interested in the latest and greatest tech object than the actual legal work.
Keeping clients happy requires firms to emphasize quality personal service in a way that puts a real strain on law firm resources. Today’s IT departments are being asked to manage their own internal operations while simultaneously overseeing the technology infrastructure of the entire firm, all while satisfying demands for the hottest new apps and solutions, many of which find their way into attorneys’ and staff’s hands directly from vendor marketing. It’s a juggling act that’s nearly impossible for IT professionals to manage and can cause delays in delivering high-quality, responsive legal services.
Rather than simply jumping on the most current tech trend, firms need to focus on maintaining a strategic edge by determining whether the available solutions fit into the firm’s unique practice and culture. This requires a commitment to extensive learning and planning, while taking into account the strategic needs of clients and practice groups. Firms must maximize the resources they have, turn to outside vendors to juggle the competing demands and implement a strategic IT plan that works in today’s digital age.
Transforming Your IT Department to Maximize Resources and Focus on Innovation
When it comes to innovation, the goal is to manage the firm’s technology in a way that improves the customer experience and optimizes budgets, while affording time to focus on high-value work and strategic objectives. The best way to accomplish all of this is by outsourcing traditional IT and infrastructure functions to third-party vendors to free up your internal resources to concentrate on innovation, a practice known as smart-sourcing.
The traditional day-to-day operations of the law firm IT department can easily take up your staff’s entire day. That leaves no time for innovation or client service. If you analyze your entire universe of IT support functions, you’ll quickly see that they fall into one of two categories: commodity work and high-value work. Commodity work would be something such as routine software updates or system patching, whereas high-value work would be implementing client-focused technology solutions or migrating to cloud-based systems. While certainly necessary, the commodity functions tend to overwhelm IT staff and leave them unable to adequately handle the high-value work that leads to client development and revenue generation.
Through outsourcing just those administrative and operational tasks, law firms can free up IT staff to concentrate on the more important work that brings value to both the firm and clients. Now, when clients come to demand the latest app, your IT professionals can take the time to make an informed decision about whether it adds value to the services you provide and whether it fits within the specific workflows that make up your firm’s unique culture. That same commitment to learning can also be used to develop applications internally and offer a level of innovation to your clients that will differentiate you from your competition.
When you take the commodity work that’s overburdening your staff and smart-source it to an external platform to be delegated to third-party providers, you not only enhance your staff’s ability to focus on high-value work, you also ultimately create a better experience for your clients. Client satisfaction is no longer a burden, but rather a central priority for your staff as they strive to innovate and improve the overall user experience. When you’re constantly innovating to either create solutions or find the available technologies that provide the most value to your clients, they’ll be less likely to be distracted by the latest app trend that will already be obsolete next week.
Once you’ve implemented your solutions, managing them and your third-party arrangements doesn’t have to be a time-consuming task. By using a platform to oversee all of your software service providers in one place, you can get a clearer sense of the big picture and gain a better understanding of the overall impact on the user experience. Law firms aren’t in the business of managing tools, they’re in the business of practicing law. However, in today’s digital age, it doesn’t always feel that way since law firms cannot exist without technology. Having a single platform where you can automatically monitor all your software services gives lawyers the time they need to practice law while doing the same for IT professionals who are there to innovate, rather than simply maintain existing software platforms.
Successfully navigating the sea of IT opportunities requires strategic planning and an informed utilization of resources. Freeing up IT staff to focus on innovation allows them to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to the endless barrage of new apps and software on the market. Armed with a strategic innovation plan that takes into account the unique needs and culture of your firm and clients, you won’t just manage to stay afloat; you’ll sail past your competitors and lead the fleet.
Author: Arup Das is CEO of Alphaserve Technologies. He is an expert in institutional level technology governance and operational risk management standards that are prevalent in hedge funds, private equity funds, venture capital funds and global law firms.